Thanks to everyone who sponsored me in my personal Linguathon. As promised, I wrote the B2 level of the DELF French examination last week. I imagine that it will take some time before I receive my actual score, but I thought I could post a simple summary of the structure of the test and how I thought it went.
At the outset, I should note that the pass/fail line, or “Seuil de réussite pour obtenir le diplôme”, is 50%. Having said that, one must obtain a score of at least 20% in each of the areas listed below to receive the diploma. This is quite similar to most standard language tests that I’ve seen, including English ones. One notable exception is the highest level of the Japanese proficiency exam, which requires that you obtain a mark of 70% in order to pass(!)
With that cleared up, here is a summary of what the DELF B2 test takes you through over the space of a few hours (immediate reactions in green, more comments below):
Comprehension questionnaires dealing with three recordings:
- interview, news bulletin etc (played once)
- presentation, lecture, speech, documentary, radio or television programme (played twice).
Maximum duration of recordings: 8 mins
(30 minutes for this section—25 points)
|Honestly speaking, this section was HARD– I think I did poorly. [POOR]|
Comprehension questionnaires dealing with two written documents:
- text of an informational nature regarding France or the French-speaking world
- text of an argumentative nature
(1 hour for this section—25 points)
|The reading section was challenging. [AVERAGE]|
Taking a personal stand (contributing to a debate, formal letter, review of a film/book)
(1 hour for this section—25 points)
|I worry about losing points for grammar/conjugation errors (esp. accents) [AVERAGE]|
Stating and defending an opinion based on a short document
designed to elicit a reaction.
20 minutes of preparation time.
30 minutes of speaking/debating
|Discussing your point with two native speakers is challenging, but I think I stumbled through OK. [AVERAGE]|
Areas for improvement
Clearly, my biggest area for improvement will be the listening section. To imagine a real-life equivalent of this part of the test, imagine you have a colleague who is presenting a 3 minute update on a project in another language. If you count yourself as being able to speak that language in a professional context, you would be able to follow the presentation and make a few simple notes, n’est-ce pas? Afterwards, you’d be able to say where they went, who they talked to, and the gist of what they said, highlighting a few key points.
Simply put, this is what the DELF Listening section tests. There are two different exercises, and in both sections, you’re able to look at the questions before the selection is played. To go back to the real-life example I just made, isn’t it reasonable to imagine that you would have an idea of where your colleague went, and what you wanted to know before she started speaking? After you’ve gone over the questions, the first selection is played just once, and then you have a few minutes to answer the questions. For the second selection, you have two chances to listen to the recording (i.e. prepare, listen, answer, re-listen, check answers). On balance, I think it is an exceptionally fair and practical listening test.
In addition to sharp listening skills, a reasonably strong short-term memory is helpful. If you are strong in both of these areas, you’ll do well on both of the exercises in the listening section; if average, the second selection (played twice) will salvage your score. I think I was below average, and definitely need to hit the mats before the next test.
Conclusion— did I make the right choice in skipping B1?
As I mentioned in a previous posting, I took the A2 test last October because I wasn’t familiar with the DELF series at all, and didn’t know where to start. I did very well on the A2 and wondered if I should simply progress to B1, or go for the challenge of B2.
Without question, I am sure that I would have done better on the B1 test and that would have ‘felt’ great; having said that, I think the B2 offered me a clear contrast of areas that need improvement. I look forward to seeing the results, but there’s no reason I can’t get started with thinking about how to improve for next time (June 2010). (update: Passed DELF B2— “Merci” to my sponsors!)