Frequently Asked Questions - TCF
The TCF is a standardised and calibrated test designed according to an extremely rigorous methodology, which makes it a very accurate measuring instrument. Almost three years were needed to develop this high-performing tool that provides consistent results, i.e. reliable and comparable results, regardless of the session that the candidate registers for. The TCF is a standardised and calibrated test. Each question asked during a session has been pre-tested and has been subjected to accurate psychometric analyses, guaranteeing the comparability of results, session after session, on the Council of Europe's scale of reference, which comprises six levels of competence.
The test's entire development process was followed up and approved by a top level scientific board, comprised of 25 linguists, grammarians and lexicologists, led by Mr Bernard Cerquiglini, Delegate General for the French language.
The results ensure that candidates are reliably positioned on the Council of Europe's six-level scale.
The TCF was developed on behalf of the National Ministry for Education, to provide France with an evaluation tool in line with the American TOEFL.
The TCF has been developed by the CIEP at the request of the French ministry of education. It is recognised by the French Higher Education authority, university authorities, university language centres in France and abroad, as well as administrative authorities and different institutions responsible for teaching French abroad.
The grid for levels and the key for notes are translated into 11 languages and enable users (from both the academic and professional world) to know precisely what a candidate, having passed the TCF, is capable of.
The compulsory examinations last 1 hour 25 minutes.
Optional examinations (Speaking and writing) last 1 hour 12 minutes.
As many times as you wish, as long as you observe the 30-day period between two sessions.
The compulsory examinations involve listening, proficiency in language structures and reading. For the optional examinations, speaking and writing.
You must have passed the compulsory examinations to be able to take the optional examinations.
You can take:
- only the compulsory examinations only;
- the compulsory examinations and only one optional examination;
- the compulsory examinations and both optional examinations.
The optional examinations can be taken on dates different to the compulsory examinations, on the condition that they are taken within the test's validity period.
The structures in the "proficiency of language structures" part are always linked to communication situations and contexts, from familiar to abstract, depending on your level.
Marking of compulsory examinations is computerised (by scanner) and thus is not subject to personal examination by a marker. Marking is objective, reliable and fast. Marking of the optional examinations is carried out by a team of qualified teachers formed by the CIEP. Each copy of the writing and recording of the speaking examination is subject to a double marking. The interview is recorded in mp3 format, so it can then be sent to the CIEP.
Some test centres offer computerised TCF testing (with the exception of the speaking examination, which remains an individual interview with an examiner). By taking the computerised examination, the candidates are able, in some cases, to receive provisional results at the end of the test.
The validity period for certification is two years from the date that the test is taken. The expiration date is indicated on the candidate's certificate.
The expiration date for additional examinations is identical to that of the test (compulsory examinations), regardless of the date on which they were taken.
The results are sent to the test centre within 15 days (excluding weekends and public holidays) of the examinations being received by the CIEP.
Those who have particular requirements for taking the test are advised to inform the test centre as soon as possible, so that the necessary arrangements can be made. Centres will do their best to meet the needs of candidates.
Each candidate is asked to show a proof of identity when signing the attendance sheet.
For higher education establishments, candidates can show their student card.
No documents, dictionaries, grammar books or any other type of book may be consulted during the test. All necessary materials will be provided for the candidates.
These two evaluation tools are recognised by the National Ministry for Education and must not be confused.
The DELF and DALF lead to diplomas awarded by the State. These diplomas today account for almost 500,000 registrations per year in 170 countries.
The TCF is of a different nature. It does not lead to a diploma, but to a certificate of grading. This involves a simple and immediate validation. This test works as a snapshot of an individual's linguistic skills at that moment in their life. As such, the TCF certification is only valid for two years, while the DELF and DALF are lifelong diplomas.
Those institutions wishing to open a TCF test centre must complete and return to the director of the CIEP an application for approval (available on request from the Département évaluation et certifications, CIEP - 1, avenue Léon Journault - 92318 - Sèvres Cedex - France or from firstname.lastname@example.org).
The DELF and DALF test centres, which are already entitled as such, may obtain priority approval from the CIEP to become TCF test centres, but must nevertheless request approval. The application for approval must be sent to the CIEP, to the Département évaluation et certifications, at least one month before a TCF session.