In order to do most masters programs in France (for there are a few taught in only English), one needs to have passed either the TEFL or the DELF/DALF at a B2 level. I decided to take the DELF/DALF because it is a life long diploma, whereas the TEFL is a certificate only valid for two years.
Although the programs only required B2, I wanted to push myself and be sure I was taking the highest level I could possibly achieve. After much internal struggle I decided to take the C1. It is possible to take both of them, but the tests do not come cheap and I was unemployed.
The book I bought as my study guide for the DALF.
Free study resources are also available on the CIEP website.
Something I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with is the fact that the French don’t ever think you should get 100% on a test. To pass the DALF one needs to get 50/100 points total, and score at least 5/25 in each section (there are 4 areas). This would be failing a test in America.
I’ve always been an honors student and over achiever. It took me a while, but I finally did accept the fact that there were questions on the test that even FBF wouldn’t be able to answer and it was okay that I didn’t know everything.
The other part of the exam I had to come to terms with is that the first part of the exam (listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and written comprehension) lasts three hours. Three hours during which one is not allowed to leave the room (i.e. no potty breaks).
On the day of the test, stressed out but with an empty bladder, I got to the Alliance Française office ten minutes early. I met my fellow testees, two middle-aged people taking the test purely for pleasure. I couldn’t believe anybody would torture themselves in this way.
The test started. The listening comprehension boosted my confidence; I understood almost everything that came out of the speakers. The reading comprehension part proved more difficult, but that was to be expected. Overall I came out of the listening/reading/essay writing part of the exam feeling pretty good.
Then I had a two-hour break to eat lunch and become even more stressed out for the oral presentation part of the exam (which lasts 1.5 hours; one hour to prepare and 30 minutes of presenting).
Although I felt most confident about my speaking skills (thanks to FBF and speaking French every day for the past two years), speaking in front of people who are grading you is so much more difficult than simply talking to your boyfriend. Nevertheless, after making a joke about being really nervous, I was able to present almost everything I prepared, and even stayed after to chat with the graders (in French, of course).
Although I felt as if I had passed, I didn't want to simply pass. I wanted to excel. I also was worried that I might have misunderstood everything and would never be allowed to go to graduate school in France. My whole future plan was dependent upon passing this test.
For the first time in my dealings with France, however, the turn around time for finding out if you pass is super quick.
After a week I called the Alliance Française to ask if I passed. After getting my name, the lady on the phone said, “oh! You scored very high! You passed with 70/100!”
Relief and pride washed over me all at once. Not only did I pass and would be eligible for graduate school in France, but I scored very high. Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially, government recogonized-ly, fluent in French.