Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The TEF is Tough

Yesterday, I took the initiative and enrolled for the Test d'Evaluation de Français (TEF for short).

Right about now, you may examine the lengthy title and decipher a certain meaning based on the similarities to the words in English. "Okay," you may ask, "is it a test that evaulates your level of French?"

You are correct, my friend!

(Johnny says you've won the satisfaction that you were right.)

This exam places its takers through a series of rigorous listening, writing, and oral comprehension sections to determine just how badly they can communicate in French. Each candidate can be classified into six categories:

A1 and A2 (your French ranges from beginner to just above basic)

B1 and B2 (your French doesn't make native speakers cringe too much)

C1 and C2 (Uh, you are remarkably fluent. Are you sure you're not French???)

Based on your result, you are awarded a certificate that proclaims the level you've achieved. Technically, there is no way to fail this test because it is not a question of being right or wrong; it's about being able to express your thoughts and opinions in French.

So, why I am I taking this test? Why is my knowing what my classification is so important to me? Is it for the sheer pleasure to gloat that I speak French well?


I am taking the TEF because I have a slightly more ambitious goal in mind: to continue my studies to become an English teacher in France. I've looked at various French university websites and very often one of the requirements for foreigners is that they possess a TEF certificate that states they have at minimum a B2 level of working French (but they recommend that we have C1).

I'm not gonna lie: this petrifies me. I have not taken an exam since the summer of 2009 when I completed the last course for my B.A. On top of that, I have noticed with much alarm that my French has indeed digressed. I'd like to blame the 4 months I spent alternating between speaking Spanish with my family and watching The Office in English in Miami.

Let's bring back the handy-dandy Conne cone ...

However, there is no turning back for me. I've already paid the fees. 80 euros for the standard test and 35 euros for the "optional" written exam (some universities require this as well). I am now short 115 euros...but I sincerely hope that this becomes one of those expensive investments that will later pay off in the end. I at least have given myself a monetary incentive to study for it, mainly because I do not wish to feel like I've wasted my time and money!

Yes, the TEF claims that there is no way I could possibly fail the exam, but if I do not at least acquire a B2 (or even a C1), then I can see only view it as a failure. Such is the American mindset of winning and losing... I only have until November 18th to brush up on such wonderful grammar gems like the plus-que-parfait de l'indicatif and the subjonctif après certaines conjonctions.

Barb the French Bean


  1. I'm sure you can do it! Aim for C1!

    I kind of know how you feel because Japanese has a similar test. I wanted to take the level 2 this year (second highest of 5 levels), but I haven't had any practice in so long it wouldn't be worth the test fee, let alone air fare to Atlanta. I am determined to take it next year, though. :) In the meantime, I study whenever I can.

  2. You can do it!! Go, Beanie, go!!

  3. tomorrow my tef exam, im sure it will be hard barely i can pass any pre-tests im preparing my self to quit my canada application , they waited too long for this tef exam& simply i cannt do it, running between being a mum, master student full time, preparing for my part 1 in november, came home at 6 pm if im early today. wisted my time & money
    waiting for a miracle. wait for me 2morrow to tell wt happened


Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb