Ready for the 3rd installment of our Swiss Naturalization series?  Hang on to your chapeaux, it’s time to discuss passing the language exam!  If you’ve missed the 1st and 2nd installment of the series, click here and here.

Like the previous exam ( the test de validation des connaissances), passing the French language requirement (B1 oral, A2 written), can seem intimidating and stressful.

What if you work only in English or another language, and haven’t picked up much (if any French) over the past 10 years?  Or maybe you’ve stayed too comfortable in Geneva’s ex-pat/Anglophone bubble to go through the pain of becoming fluent (or even proficient) in French?

As before, let me put your mind at ease.  With a little preparation, you can pass this exam with flying colors and continue on the path towards Swiss citizenship.  Keep your eye on the prize!

At our initial OCP appointment, we were advised to make an appointment with iFage to take the DELF B1 exam.  The DELF/DALF exam is offered about 4X/year.  For more general information about the DELF/DALF exam in Switzerland, click here.  The test format and scoring is below.  The cost of the exam is 285 Fr.

​​Description of DELF B1 examination

​​Type of tests: DELF B1
​​Mark out of
Comprehension questionnaires dealing with three recordings (played twice).
Maximum duration of recordings: 6 mins
25 minutes
​​/ 25
Comprehension questionnaires dealing with two written documents:
– extract useful information concerning a particular task
– analyze the contents of a document of general interest.
​​35 minutes ​​/ 25
Express personal opinions on a general topic (essay, letter, article, etc).
​​45 minutes ​​/ 25
Test in three parts:
– guided conversation (2 at 3 minutes)
– interactive exercise (3 at 4 minutes)
– expressing an opinion on a document designed to elicit a reaction (5 at 7 minutes).
​​​15 minutes maximum
preparation: 10 minutes
(only for the 3rd part)
​​/ 25
​Total length of group tests: 1 hour 45 minutes
* Total mark out of 100
* Overall pass mark of the DELF B1: 50 / 100
* Minimum mark required per test: 5 / 25

How did we prepare?  I went to Ecole Club Migros for a few months and retook (it had been 12 years), some semi-intensive (2X/week) A2 and B1 French classes.  My husband, who works full-time and couldn’t devote hours/week to French class, studied at home using some A2/B1 study guides.  We also watched French videos on Youtube, specifically lots of Français avec Pierre.  I highly recommend watching B1 DELF prep videos.  You will find plenty that go over the format of the exam, provide mock interviews, and more.  Here is one below, related to the listening comprehension portion of the exam:

1st Saturday: Oral Production: Prior to entering the exam room, you will be provided a news article to read beforehand for about 10 minutes (my topic was zero-waste grocery shopping).  You need to be prepared to take a position on this article, for or against, or at least provide some perspective and analysis.  You can take notes, and I was furiously writing down my argument before entering the room.

After reading the article, you will be interviewed by two examiners in a small classroom, who will ask you to 1) Introduce yourself; 2) Role-play a customer service dispute/scenario (mine was related to a vacation where my hotel had been cancelled and replaced by a campsite); and 3) Offer your argument regarding the article (I was in favor) and defend it against a few of their questions.  15 minutes, boom, done.  I tried to get them to tell me whether I’d passed, but no, you have to wait several weeks until the scores are mailed to you.

2nd Saturday: 1) Written; 2) Listening comprehension; and 3) Reading comprehension: A week later, I returned for the other three sections of the DELF.  This part takes place in a large classroom with many other people, about 40 on the day that I sat the exam. Before arriving, I sat at the Plainpalais Starbucks and crammed how to conjugate faire and être in subjonctif.  

I staggered out two hours later, truly having no idea how it went.  But if you look carefully at the grid above, you can see that the scoring of this exam is very generous.  To pass the entire exam, you only need a 50/100.  Let me repeat: Just 50/100!  And no less than 5/25 per section.  In my opinion, if you can barely make yourself understood while speaking, and can understand about 30% of what you read/hear, you will be in good shape to pass this exam.  Here is another writer’s experience of the DELF B1.  

Our scores arrived several weeks later, and we both passed with nearly 90/100.  Let that score give you reassurance, we were genuinely shocked and that is not false modesty.  Long story short, the exam seems challenging but the scoring is generous.  You will be fine!  And if you fail, well, you have a few months to prepare for the next round.  Good luck and stay tuned for the next installment:  The in-person interview at the OCP!