As some of you may know, and if you’ve already read my first article How to Apply for French Nationality – Part One, I am currently in the process of applying to become a French citizen through naturalisation.
After you’ve followed the steps in my first post, you’ll know what documents you need to be able to apply. Some of you will need to take a French test to prove what level of French you have attained. This was my case, but there’s a possibility that you could be exempt.
Here are examples of how you can be exempt from taking the test:
- are over 60 years old
- already have a diploma certifying that your level of French is B1 or above
- completed higher education in a French University
- have a disability
If you aren’t exempt and need to take the test you’ll need to take the TEF. I was a little confused at first about which test to take! But after doing some research I discovered that several tests exist and are valid. You just have to take a “Test de connaissance du francais pour l’accès à la nationalité française”. And make sure the test is recognised by the Home Secretary – le ministère de l’intérieur. He’s the old guy standing to our sexy President’s right.
So how do I book my test?
I booked my test through the CCI PARIS ILE-DE-FRANCE. Not to be confused with my place of work which is the Centre de Commerce Internationale. The CCI website to book your test on is the following:
Through this link you’ll book your TEF exam which is specifically for people applying for nationality through naturalisation. I recommend booking in advance as the sessions fill up quickly and you may find there are no availabilities for almost a month. It’s also important to keep in mind that the test centres are not open on a weekend so you will have to take a day off, or at least half a day, to take the exam. I recommend taking the whole day off work because you are given the time of your oral exam when you arrive and things can run late. My oral test started about 45 minutes later than expected.
With the CCI you can take the test in any of the following locations:
Cergy, Bobigny, Creteil or Paris (in the 17th arrondissement) and the test costs 95 euros
What happens during the listening test?
Of course, nobody enjoys sitting an exam, but don’t worry the test is not that bad!
First, you will sit a listening exam that lasts for 40 minutes and that is made up of 60 questions. It’s a multiple choice exam that can be taken on paper or on the computer, depending on the centre. The questions start off easy and progressively get harder, with the questions at the end becoming very difficult. However, there was only one question at the end that I found impossibly hard and I honestly think it was the C2 question (i.e., if you get this you are as fluent in French as an actual French person). Everything else is fine and you can practice beforehand so that there are no surprises in the exam. I recommend checking out the tutorials on CCI France and downloading the application français 3.0.
And what should I expect from the oral exam?
Your oral exam lasts only 15 minutes and contains 2 exercises. The first exercise is simple, you’ll be given an advertisement and you have to make a call regarding the ad. For example, I had to call and inquire about computer courses. You have to ask as many questions as possible in the time given and the goal is to show that you can make a call using formal French (vous). You can find examples of these exercises online and on the CCI website here.
I recommend practicing beforehand because it’s actually surprisingly hard to ask questions continuously for 5 minutes. Of course the examiner replies to you so that helps you form new questions to ask but prepare as much as you can before the test. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I pretended to be an old woman so it was easy to ask a lot of basic questions about the computer courses!
The second exercise is more difficult. You are speaking to a friend this time so you have to show you can use informal French (tu). You have to persuade a friend to do something. Depending on your level your examiner will make it more and more difficult to convince her/him, but don’t worry they do it on purpose! They even tell you before you start that they will keep disagreeing with you, it’s the whole point. You have to show them that you can be persuasive in French. I had to convince a friend to go and work on a farm picking vegetables for the whole summer, it was hard but you just have to keep coming up with reasons why they should do it!
What happens if I fail?
If you fail, tant pis, you can try again as many times as you need! You just have to wait 30 days before you take the test again. Try listening to the radio and watching as much French TV as possible to make sure you are as comfortable as possible before the exam.
And remember you only need a B1 level to be able to apply for nationality, this translates as lower intermediate in English terms. If you have been living in France for 5 years I’m sure your level is at least B1, if not higher, so don’t worry. And remember that there is no written test so you get to skip the hardest part.
And if you Pass…
If you pass you will get a certificate which is valid for the next two years, and you have just taken a big step towards securing your French nationality! Félicitations!
Full disclosure, I passed 🙂