How to take the TEF exam

Posted by Adam on 3rd Oct 2023 in the blog in the french test, learning french category

TEF stands for Test d’évaluation de français. In other words, it’s an exam designed to test how well you can speak, write, read and listen to French. Accordingly, it’s divided into four separate sections:

  • Compréhension écrite : 60 min – 60 questions
  • Compréhension orale : 40 min – 50 questions
  • Expression écrite : 60 min – 2 subjects
  • Expression orale : 20 min – 2 subjects

The TEF probably isn’t like other French tests you’ve taken in the past. It’s a rigorous assessment of your skills, with an aim to checking how well you could get by in a French-speaking country. It’s therefore used by immigration boards in French-speaking countries to check that applicants’ French is up to scratch.
The TEF is officially recognised by the following bodies:

  • the French Ministry of Education
  • the French Ministry of the Interior
  • the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation
  • the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration
  • the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada
  • the Quebec Ministry of Immigration, Francisation and Integration

Where can I take the TEF exam?

The TEF exam can only be taken in a registered TEF centre. There are hundreds of TEF centres worldwide. You can find your closest TEF centre using this interactive map.

Some countries have more TEF centres than others, while many don’t have any at all, meaning you might need to schedule a trip overseas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, France has the most with nearly 200, while Canada has 50.

The venues are often quite small, and you’ll usually be sitting the exam with a few other applicants, with the exception of the Expression orale, for which you’ll be alone with the examiner.

What should I know before I take the TEF exam?

Once you’ve taken the TEF exam, your results are valid for two years. You must be at least 16 years old to take the TEF exam. Beyond the age restriction, anyone is welcome to take the TEF exam, however it’s essential that you make the right preparations.

The exam is difficult – such that even native French speakers can struggle. The listening section moves at a rapid pace, for instance, and it’s not uncommon for examinees to run out of time on each of the modules. The exam will typically take place over a morning and afternoon, with a lunch break in between. The Expression Orale is conducted face to face with an examiner, while the other modules are undertaken on computers.

To make sure you’re fully prepared, we strongly recommend taking Alexa’s TEF course. You can take the course regardless of which level your French is at, although you will likely need to subscribe for a longer period if you are starting from scratch.

The course covers everything you need to know, offering hundreds of video lessons, quizzes and exercises, extensive support guides and access to Alexa’s backlog of hundreds of live lessons.

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