If you’re applying for a Canadian visa, you’ll need to show proof of proficiency in either English or French in order to qualify for permanent residency. While English-speakers have two exams to choose from — CELPIP or IELTS — French speakers only have one: the TEF. Let’s take a look at what’s on the TEF and how to prepare for your language proficiency examination.
What is the TEF Language Test?
First, what is the TEF? The TEF, or Test d’évaluation du français, is an exam administered by the Paris Chamber of Commerce that’s intended for non-native speakers. It measures skills in five fluency areas: listening comprehension, reading, writing, speaking, and grammar.
Two of the sections are optional for some test-takers, but all of them are required if you plan to use the results on your Canadian immigration application.
The entire test takes around three hours to complete. You’ll have to take it all on a single day, at one of the official test centers located in a city near you. There are currently two versions of TEF Canada: paper-based and computer-based. You’ll receive results within 6-8 weeks, and they’re typically valid for two years from the date of your exam.
Be sure to book your exam date well in advance, since it’s only offered on limited dates and at specific locations. If you aren’t happy with your results, you can take the test again, but you must wait at least 60 days after your last exam. You can update your exam results in the Express Entry system if you achieve a higher score on your second attempt.
TEF and Canadian Immigration
The TEF is the only French language exam accepted by Canadian immigration for the Federal Skilled Worker program. The minimum score required for that visa is NCLC Level 7, and slightly lower (4-5) for the Federal Skilled Trades Programs. If you’re applying for permanent residency in Quebec, you can choose to take the TEFaQ, which is the TEF adapted for Quebec.
You don’t need to take the TEF if you have submitted proof of English proficiency, such as an IELTS score, with your visa application. However, showing proof of language skills in more than one language can earn you extra points in the Express Entry system. So if you are even partly fluent in French, it may be worth considering taking the TEF to improve your prospects.
You might also have to take the test in order to prove your language ability to an employer or educational institution in Canada for a temporary student or work visa.
How To Prepare for a TEF
While there aren’t as many resources for the TEF as there are for other language exams, there are still plenty of options out there to help you prepare. In addition to the exam manual (available in French), you can download sample papers demonstrating each section of the exam. Let’s take a look at some of the other resources available to help you study for the TEF:
Online tutorials available from Le Francais des affaires
These online tutorials are primarily Powerpoint slides that walk you through each section of the test. Produced by the Paris Chamber of Commerce, these guides will help you get comfortable with the format of the test. This way, when you sit down at the computer, you’ll be ready to get started and won’t waste time figuring out how to use the interface.
Training courses available at PrepMyFuture
If you think you’ll need more help than a video tutorial, there are online training courses available at PrepMyFuture that have been made with the help of Le Francais des affaires. These courses use adaptive learning strategies to help you come up with a study plan based on the areas that are most in need of improvement. PrepMyFuture has courses available for other languages too, so if you’re taking the TEF and the IELTS, you can study for both tests in the same place.
The FRANÇAIS 3.0 app
This free app is available on Android and iPhone to help you prepare for the TEF. It has tests you can use to measure your current language comprehension skills, as well as practice lessons on different uses of the language, including French for business, health care, hospitality, and more.
Examples of TEF Exam Papers
The TEF has four main sections — reading, writing, speaking, and listening — and depending on which version of the test you take, there may be a fifth section on grammar. Each section has a combination of questions types, but the vast majority are multiple choice.
There are sample papers available online that show actual questions that were used on previous versions of the test, with an answer key included. You can use these resources to practice each section and familiarize yourself with the format of the exam.
The sample papers are written in French, so you’ll be able to measure your current language abilities and see how well-prepared you are for the test. You’ll also find sample papers in some of the study guides that are available for sale from test prep companies.
Let’s look at a sample paper from each section of the test to see what kinds of questions you can expect in each section:
Sample Paper 1: Reading Comprehension
The reading comprehension section has 50 questions in all, broken into four subsections. All of the sections include multiple choice questions that involve reading and understanding a phrase, a paragraph of text, or an advertisement. You’ll be tested to see how well you understand the meanings of words and phrases and process information that you read in French.
Example 2: Listening Comprehension
The listening comprehension section features 60 multiple choice questions in 4 sections. In this part of the test, you’ll listen to audio tracks that contain information related to the questions. For example, the speaker might describe a backpack, and you’ll be asked to pick which backpack they’re talking about based on several different drawings. Or, you might hear a message on an answering machine and be asked multiple choice questions about it.
In another section, you’ll hear multiple people responding to the same question, and be asked to make a guess about their feelings or personality based on their words and tone of voice. There’s also a section in which you’ll have to decide whether or not the phrase you hear is the same as the phrase written in the test. This requires you to pay close attention and use context clues to understanding what the speaker is trying to say.
For this section, you can download a zip file of the audio tracks that go along with this sample paper. Quiz yourself and check your answers at the end of the exam.
Example 3: Written Expression
The writing section lasts for 1 hour and has 2 sections. In the first part you’ll read an article and are required to finish it by adding several more paragraphs (at least 80 words) to the article. In the second part, you’ll read a phrase from a newspaper and be asked to write a letter to the editor responding to the topic and making 3 arguments in favor of your point of view.
You’ll be graded on your organization of ideas, clarity of information, and your ability to develop a coherent argument. The graders use a standardized framework based on the A1 – C2 language learning levels developed by the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).
Example 4: Oral Expression
The speaking section is 15 minutes long and includes 2 sections. An examiner will deliver this section of the test and analyze your speaking abilities. Section A is 5 minutes long and includes calling up the number on an advertisement and asking a dozen questions about a job offer or the service advertised. Section B is 10 minutes long and requires you to convince your examiner to take part in an activity or situation described in an advertisement.
Your answers will be graded based on your ability to take part in a conversation by presenting a situation, asking for information, and responding to ideas. You’ll also be graded on pronunciation and grammar according to the standard European framework (levels A1 – C2).
Example 5: Grammar
The grammar section includes 40 questions organized into four parts. Each part tests a different aspect of grammar, such as choosing the right verb conjugation to complete a phrase, or finding the grammatical error in a paragraph of text. You may also be asked to find synonyms and fill in the blank to demonstrate your understanding of French grammar and syntax.
We Can Help
Showing proof of your proficiency in French or English is an important part of your application for permanent residency in Canada. But should you take one language test or two? What score do you need to boost your chances of a successful application?
The Express Entry system uses a variety of factors to award “points” to your profile, including your TEF and IELTS scores. Your language skills are just one factor, and the minimum score that you need depends on which visa you’re applying for.
If you’re having trouble understanding how your language skills fit into the application process, we can help. Just reach out to our team and we’ll help you decide whether or not you should take the TEF exam as part of your Canadian visa application.