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French Language Proficiency Tests in Canada

Monday | April 20, 2020 | by Karolin Givergis

French Language Proficiency Test

If you are planning to immigrate to Canada through Express Entry, you will need to prove that you can communicate in at least one of the nation’s official languages: English or French.

The Canadian government has set a goal to increase its French-speaking immigrant population by 4.4 percent by 2023. Therefore, you might have an advantage if you take and pass one of Canada’s widely used French language proficiency tests.

This blog post discusses a few of your options, including:

As part of your immigration and citizenship process, the government of Canada will request proof of your linguistic knowledge of French. If you are entering the country via Express Entry, the only acceptable proficiency exam is the Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEF).

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Test d’Évaluation de Francais (TEF)

Also called the French Evaluation Test, TEF allows candidates to prove their French proficiency on immigration or citizenship applications.

In fact, it is mandatory in the following cases:

  • To immigrate to Canada and become a Canadian citizen
  • To certify one’s French language ability if it is required for employment
  • To enroll in certain programs, including study abroad (as an international student)

This test consists of three written sections: reading comprehension, written expression, and vocabulary and syntax. There are also two oral sections: listening comprehension and oral expression.

All five parts are compulsory if you are seeking to immigrate to Canada. If you are pursuing Canadian citizenship, only listening comprehension and oral expression are compulsory.

The Canadian immigration application consists of:

  • Listening comprehension: 40 minutes / 60 questions
  • Reading comprehension:60 minutes / 50 questions
  • Oral expression:15 minutes / 2 topics
  • Written expression: 60 minutes / 2 topics

If you are preparing to apply for Canadian citizenship, the test consists of:

  • Listening comprehension: 40 minutes / 60 questions
  • Oral expression: 15 minutes / 2 topics

All TEF sections must be completed on the same day for Canadian authorities to recognize your results (which are valid toward immigration for up to two years).

French Language Proficiency Tests for Immigrating to Quebec

Currently, most Francophones live in the province of Quebec. As the government boosts its overall numbers, it would also like to see speakers of French spread out across its provinces and territories.

To incentivize French-speaking immigrants to live outside of Quebec, the government is:

  • Promoting Francophone immigration opportunities, pathways, and settlement services
  • Encouraging employers to recruit and employ French-speaking immigrants
  • Increasing the availability and accessibility of French language learning services
  • Supporting inclusive Francophone communities across Canada

However, Quebec will always be a popular choice for French-speaking immigrants. These are the accepted tests if you are applying to immigrate to Quebec:

Whichever test you choose, it must be completed within one day for Canadian authorities to recognize your results during the immigration process.

Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF)

TCF is a French language proficiency test for international students. If you are planning to pursue a degree in any subject within a program that is taught entirely in French, then you would be required to prove your understanding of the language by passing the TCF.

The exam is divided into compulsory tests and optional tests. The compulsory tests have three subsections, which total 76 questions. It takes about an hour and a half to complete the compulsory portion of the exam.

You can take this test several times, as long as there are 60 days between each attempt. It is always advisable for you to make a first attempt well in advance of your immigration application deadline or the beginning of your degree program (whichever is required by the university). Then, you will be able to try again if you don’t pass on your first attempt.

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Test d’Evaluation du Français Adapté pour le Québec (TEFaQ)

TEFaQ is used to assess French comprehension and expression skills in people who are not native speakers of French. You can take this test if you intend to immigrate to Quebec. Additionally, it is the only French language exam accepted for the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

The reading comprehension and written expression sections are optional for applicants. Listening comprehension and oral expression are compulsory for the principal applicant, but optional for the applicant’s spouse or common-law partner.

Test de Français International (TFI)

The TFI is used by language learners of all levels, regardless of occupation or background. It assesses listening and reading comprehension skills by using everyday vocabulary, phrases, and key expressions in the context of real-world situations.

Businesses and government organizations use this test for:

  • Recruiting, hiring, and determining promotions (where French is relevant)
  • Selecting employees for training in French
  • Defining goals and language requirements
  • Developing training programs
  • Measuring employee progress and proficiency in French

The TFI assessment is divided into two sections:

  • Part I – Listening Comprehension: Test-takers listen to a variety of questions and answers, short dialogues, and talks recorded in French, and answer questions based on what they’ve heard. This section has three parts: questions, dialogues, and conversations.
  • Part II – Reading Comprehension: Test-takers read a variety of materials and answer questions based on what they’ve read. This section has three parts: error identification, incomplete sentences, and reading comprehension.

How to Take a French Language Proficiency Test in Canada

Have you determined which test is correct for your immigration or citizenship plans? Do you feel adequately prepared to pass your exam? Once you’re ready, it’s time to schedule and take your test. Then, you will send your results to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

If you are applying for Express Entry, follow these steps:

  1. First, make an appointment to have your skills assessed by an IRCC-approved organization, and pay the cost of the test.
  2. To obtain the maximum number of points, take both the oral comprehension and expression tests.
  3. Then, you will want to take the written tests if you write French on an advanced level.
  4. After you complete the exam and receive your results, enter them into your Express Entry profile (along with your personal identification number, when prompted by the system).
  5. Finally, attach the test results if you are invited to submit a request.

Do not send the results directly to IRCC unless you already have a file with them. When it is time to send your results, provide a copy, not the original. Keep the original version of your exam results in a safe place.

Note for International Students: If you are seeking admission to an undergraduate program in French, you must provide proof of proficiency at the level required by the degree program to which you are applying. You may be required to send a copy of your French language proficiency test results or a diploma from a previous language program.

In Conclusion

If you are hoping to immigrate to Canada, it’s essential for you to be proficient in either English or French. This will not only help you accrue points toward Express Entry, it will also help you succeed in your daily social interactions and during your job search.

French proficiency is more highly valued in some locations, like Quebec, and in certain jobs. As a second language, it will add some points to your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score for Express Entry. A higher score can increase your chances of receiving an invitation to apply for residency. It can also speed up the overall immigration process.

It is undoubtedly helpful to understand, read, write, and speak French. However, it is equally important that you prepare to pass the language proficiency exam itself. The more you know about the process, structure, and expectations of whichever exam applies to your situation, the more prepared you will be to get excellent results. Then you will be on your way to your next chapter in Canada.

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Karolin Givergis

Karolin Givergis is senior coordinator of client relations at World Education Services (WES).