The true star of the French language diplomas’ world, the DELF is the only French diploma delivered by the French National Education to foreigners, to certify their level in the French language.
But the fide test is also more and more popular, and rightfully so.
How to distinguish the 2 tests, and more importantly, how to know which one suits you best?
Follow me: I’ll give you all the details, differences, and advantages of the DELF and fide tests so you can make an informed choice.
Does your French level need to be internationally recognized?
As I said in my (very good) introduction, the DELF (for Diplôme d'Etudes en Langue Française) has existed for decades. It is recognized internationally.
On the contrary, the fide test is swiss, so it’s mainly recognized here in this beautiful country.
However, this explanation must be nuanced, since both tests are based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) of the European Council.
My advice to help you make your choice? Think about your situation: if you have to register to the test from another place than Switzerland and you need your language level to be globally recognized, then the DELF will be more appropriate, on condition that there is an upcoming session soon enough so you obtain your certificate as soon as you need it.
Ok, maybe 1 point for the DELF, null score for the fide test.
Let’s keep going!
Do you need to assess only your oral level or only your written level or both?
Another question to ask yourself to choose the right test to take is which part of French you need to have evaluated.
Do you want to take a test to assess your oral level of a language? Or only your written level?
If the answer is yes, then the fide might score a point, because with the fide test you can choose to take only the oral exam or only the written exam.
Here is a concrete example: to get your B permit, you only need a certificate of A1 level in oral. The fide test is perfect for this kind of situation.
In this same situation, if you chose to go with the DELF test, to obtain the A1 level, you’ll need to have the same points in oral as in written (5 out of 25 points minimum for all 4 exercises: written comprehension, written production, listening comprehension, and oral production).
With the DELF, you can’t choose to take only the oral part, which means you have to know how to write and speak in French to succeed.
Are you attracted to take the easiest test, or are you not afraid of the difficulty?
A lot of students feel like the fide test is easier than the DELF.
This is maybe due to the structure of the fide test: you can take it even if you’re not comfortable in writing, understanding, or speaking French.
Many students told me that they felt they were able to offset their weaknesses with the fide test because of the rating scale: here indeed you don’t need minimum points, you can directly compensate the writing with the written understanding for example, and you can also compensate the speaking part with the listening part. But this last point must be nuanced, if you don’t have the A2/B1 level in speaking, after the A2 speaking exercise the examiner will not propose to you to continue with A2/B1 level but with A1/A2 level even if your listening is B1 level, since you first do the speaking part.
Hence, the level tested (A1/A2 or A2/B1) for the listening part will totally depend on your speaking level.
In this sense, the DELF might seem a little bit more difficult (with the required minimum points for each part of the test), and so more stressful.
Do you have a level goal in the evaluation of your French?
Spoiler ahead: this difference between the 2 tests is major, so fasten your seat belts!
When registering to the DELF, you must choose in advance for what level you apply.
If you want a DELF certificate of B1 level, you need to register for the DELF B1 session.
If you pass the test, you obtain a B1 certificate.
If you fail, you have nothing.
In this way, the fide test can be considered as more flexible: when registering, you don’t have to choose, whether you’re A1, A2 or B1 level, it’s the same test, and it’s only the day of the exam that we find out your actual level (check out my article on the conduct of the test, I explain everything including how the examiner guides you to lead you to your best and more accurate level).
This also means that if you register, and then your level either improves or deteriorates, on the day of the exam, this one will reflect your current level.
Please note that if you wish to attest to a higher level than B1 (B2, C1, or C2), you have absolutely no other choice than take the DELF (as the fide test stops at the B1 level).
Are you in a rush to have your French level evaluated?
It can seem a bit shallow to take that into account but actually, it’s not: if you’re in a hurry to have some admin paperwork done, or you need a certificate to present to your potential employer, the timing can be quite essential.
For the DELF, there are only 2-3 sessions scheduled throughout the year (usually March, June, and November).
If that’s the test you want to take, please anticipate and register in advance to not miss your slot.
Note also that COVID largely slowed down the DELF planning, with many canceled sessions over the past year.
Once again the fide test offers flexibility, with sessions every day and many exam centers all over Switzerland. You’ll find here all the fide test centers, sorted by canton.
Which culture do you want to embrace more?
This is also an important difference between the 2 tests and what you answer will drive you to the right choice.
The DELF test is oriented to the French culture.
All documents, oral and written, will be based on the French system (National Education, Health and social security, and so on.)
The fide test, on the contrary, is focused on the Swiss culture and its specificity.
Let’s take my favorite example to illustrate my point:
In French from France, you’ll say “soixante-dix” for seventy (70), whereas in Swiss Romandie, you’ll have to know that locals say “septante” for seventy. Thankfully, there are some people like me to teach you all that!!
It can seem trivial, but there are some really big vocabulary differences to know.
So even if many questions will be similar, remember that the DELF is based on French culture, when the fide test concentrates on Swiss culture. It might also explains why a lot of students living in Switzerland feel like the fide test is easier than the DELF.
How much do the tests cost?
Last but not least, let’s talk about the price of both tests, which can be a decisive factor.
DELF prices :
DELF A1: CHF 205 ;
DELF A2: CHF 235 ;
DELF B1: CHF 285.
DELF B2: CHF 375 ;
DALF C1: CHF 415 ;
DALF C2: CHF 435.
Fide test prices:
For oral exam only: CHF 170 ;
For written exam only: CHF 120 ;
For the whole test (oral + written): CHF 250.
Some specificities are good to know:
If you need to only assess your oral level (for a B permit for example), the price will be cheaper with fide.
If you wish to take the oral and written test, there are some price spreads according to the level you aim: for B1, the DELF test will be more expensive, but for the A1 and A2, it’s cheaper.
When I first started this article, my goal was to enlighten you about the differences and advantages between the DELF and fide tests.
A quick (and easy) summary would be as follow:
In case you need a language certificate mainly for Switzerland (job, residence permit), the fide test is more than enough.
If your purpose is to certify a B2 level or more, and an internationally recognized one, the DELF will be more suitable.
I hope you found what you needed, but if that’s not the case (might happen!), feel free to contact me, I’d be happy to answer and help you decide according to your needs, your timeline, and your budget! Talk soon :)