All You Need To Know To Prepare For Your B1 DELF Exams! - Olliechinny
Swiss Expat Life

All You Need To Know To Prepare For Your B1 DELF Exams!

B1 DELF Exams

Today’s post will be a dedicated guide on how to prepare for the French B1 DELF Exams!

What’s DELF?

The DELF (Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française) and DALF (Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française) are the two language diplomas issued by the French Ministry of Education. It certifies the French language proficiency of foreign students.



Why Should I Take the B1 DELF Exams?

There are many reasons why you should consider taking the B1 DELF exams, especially if you plan to reside or work in a French-speaking country.

Firstly, a B1 DELF certification is based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Having a DELF B1 certification thus serves as an invaluable international recognition of French proficiency which can qualify you for study, work or other opportunities.

Secondly, for those looking to obtain a permanent nationality in France or Switzerland, take note that a minimum level of DELF B1 is required.

Here were my own personal motivations:

  • My colleagues in my startup were predominantly French-speaking. Back then, obtaining a B1 DELF proficiency was my way to better understand and communicate at the workplace.
  • Thinking ahead for my long-term career prospects, I felt that gaining proficiency in a third language could potentially open up more doors for my professional advancement should I return to Singapore and ever take up jobs related to French/ European markets.
  • I had Vince as my fellow “classmate”, and it added in an element of fun and motivation to support my husband!
  • I’d always been fond of learning languages, and felt that mastering French would be a lifelong skill that would stay with me even after the end of my expat stint in Switzerland. It’s the best personal gift for myself.

What Can I Do at the B1 DELF Level?

According to Learn French with Alexa, at the B1 DELF level:

  • Listening: You can understand and take part in simple conversations about everyday situations (at work, school, leisure, etc.)
  • Reading: Your reading is more fluent and you can understand texts about more complex topics but not quite current affairs yet.
  • Speaking: You can travel with confidence and make yourself understood using a wide range of descriptive vocabulary, adjectives and various tenses. You can also talk about events, dreams or ambitions and give opinions on various everyday topics.

How Much Does The B1 DELF Exams Cost?

The registration fees for the DELF exams vary depending on the level, type of diploma and exam centre chosen. We paid 285 CHF for our B1 DELF exams.

TIP: In fact, you can actually significantly reduce the cost of your examination fees by crossing the border to say, France or Italy. For example, the last time we checked, the same B1 DELF exams costs 140 € in Annecy, while we paid 285 francs for the equivalent in Geneva! I know of some people who did just that, and it’s a smart move actually.

However, we didn’t have that choice, since we just wanted to be over and done with our exams by September 2020, and there weren’t a lot of examination centres within our vicinity offering the exams in that month except in Geneva.

Plus, it would be a transport hassle to travel all the way into Annecy (without a car) for the exams. Given the worsening Covid-19 situation in France, we decided it wasn’t worth saving that extra hundred over euros. So we went ahead with the option of taking our DELF in Switzerland, despite the hefty (!!!) fees.

However, just so to give an idea, here are the 2019 prices and durations for DELF and DALF exams in Geneva where we took our exams. For the fees in other examination centres within Switzerland, you can check the Swiss’s DELF website.

LevelFee (CHF)
A1205
A2235
B1285
B2375
C1415
C2435

Note: If you are worried if the exam format would vary across different countries, fret not. I called up the exam centre, and they reassured that the DELF content, format, and assessment is standardized across all countries.

When Are The B1 DELF Exams Held?

IFAGE (Foundation For Adult Education), our examination centre in Geneva, Switzerland

There are 5 sessions of the DELF/DALF exams (for all levels) held throughout the year in Switzerland: March, May, June, September and November.

For the 2021 schedule, click here.

Our DELF exam was split into two dates: 19 September for the listening and written segment, and 26 September for the oral segment. It was admittedly quite troublesome having to report to the examination centre in Geneva twice, but at least we had a lag-time of one week to prepare more extensively for the oral, which we were more nervous about!

How Long Do I Need to Prepare for the B1 DELF Exams?

This really range from person to person, depending on your level to start with.

From my own experience, I started off with A2 Level when I first arrived in Switzerland in February 2019, and proceeded on to semi-intensive B1 class (2 times a week, 1.5 hours per session) sometime around September 2019.

Our real preparation for the B1 DELF Exams started in March 2020, and we took our exams in September 2020. I took online classes 3 times a week, 1 hour per session.

Thus, I’d say that a good timeframe to taking your B1 DELF Exams would be between 6 months to 1 year.

The B1 DELF Exams Format

The DELF exams test candidates on 4 key skill components:

  1. Listening
  2. Reading
  3. Writing
  4. Speaking

Each section has a maximum score of 25 points, making a total of 100 points for the whole exam. 

The pass mark is 50 points, and you must obtain a minimum of 5 points in each section to pass.

sample DELF B1 Exams rubric



Read on more below for information about what’s in each exam.

Listening Comprehension

There are 3 different audios for the listening comprehension, with MCQs and short answers. You are given a few minutes to read the questions before the audio commences (IMPORTANT. DO read the questions, the options given and understand it FULLY so you know what you have to keep a look out for when the audio plays!). Then there will be another repeat.

During the exam, I was able decipher the audio reasonably enough by the first time to fill in 80% of the questions. The second repeat was more listen more intently and correct my answer based on key points I initially disregarded or missed out completely.

The first 2 audios were actually fairly straight-forward. The first one was a conversation between 2 friends about vacation, and the second talked about work-induced stress and steps to alleviate it.

The third audio proved to be the longest and most difficult. It was a 3 minute long interview about an old age retirement facility designed for independent living for the elderly. The person spoke rather fast, and I could not understand specific words mentioned.

For such situations, I find that the trick is to write down as much key words as you can hear. Once the audio finishes, look through what you’d written down and try your best to piece together the information and make the most optimal guess.

Written Comprehension

There are 2 segments for the written comprehension. For the first part: there is a short scenario, usually with a set of criteria for decision-making.

This time, it was about about choosing the best accommodation according to specific requirements (no longer than 2 days, easy access to public transport, interaction with locals etc). There are 4 hotel advertisements, and on the next page, there is a table to check against the criteria matched by each hotel.

This section was considered a breeze for me and I pretty much expect myself to score full marks or at least 90% for it.

For the second segment, it is a long excerpt about the Eramus, an EU international student exchange programme, its benefits, long-term goals and challenges.

Honestly, the length of the passage may be quite intimidating at first. But really, you just need to stay calm. Read through the questions FIRST (again, I can’t emphasize this enough!!!), break down the whole passage by paragraph, and highlight key phrases.

And if there are still words that you don’t understand, try to read the entire sentence again to understand the gist of it and the context. I probably got about 2 questions incorrect for this part because the MCQ options were quite tricky, but it’s no biggie!

Written Essay

The final component is the written essay, where you have to write at least 160 words responding to a topic.

This time, Vince totally scored a bull’s eye. Just a week before the exam, he casually mentioned that telecommuting/ work from home might be a likely topic…and sure enough, it was!

Since we had already prepared in advance for this topic, I wrote fast with a clear mind, to the extent that I over-wrote and reached 240 words, oops! Well, at least writing too much is better than not writing enough!

Day 2: Oral

The B1 DELF oral component is split into 3 parts:

  •     Guided conversation (Introducing yourself, hobbies, family etc)
  •     Interactive exercise (Attempting to persuade/influence the other party on a subject:
  •     Expressing an opinion on a document designed to elicit a reaction.

The Oral exam takes about 30 minutes. We were given 10 minutes to prepare for the “Expressing an opinion” segment. You draw lots, then choose a topic out of two subjects on the paper.

This time, I found the interactive exercise the most difficult out of the three. My test topic was to persuade my “friend” (the examiner”) to reconsider this decision of quitting his studies abruptly to pursue theatre. The stressful part was having to think on your feet and reply to whatever the examiner responds back at you, while keeping in mind the right conjugations and grammar structure!


My DELF B1 Exams Results

So what was my final score for the DELF B1 exams?

….

…….

83.50/100!

The competitive streak in me was actually aiming for a higher score (e.g. 90) …. But my teacher told me that this was already a really good result, considering I only started learning French a year and a half ago. And that only a handful of candidates would score more than 90 marks.

Overall I’m pretty proud of myself, and if I can do it, so can you!

What’s Next?

B1 DELF might be over, but Vince and I are not gonna rest on my laurels! In fact, we have already started with our B2 classes. Our next goal is to sit for the DELF B2 exams by June 2021 (in 8 months time!). We aim to be fully proficient in French before finally returning back to Singapore.


I hope this guide to taking the French B1 DELF Exams would motivate you to take the next step in your French language learning journey!

I’m not gonna lie, the whole process is TOUGH, and it’s no different from running a long marathon. There were frustrating, plateau days when I felt like I had studied and practiced so hard, but didn’t observe any significant improvements.

But once you start to experience the joy of seeing and understanding the world in different language, you would realize that all the time and effort you spent was completely worth it!

You would look back and discover that all along, you were creating magic. Because you were creating a new self, a second soul 🙂

BONUS!! I have prepared a PDF guide for my subscribed readers. It consists ALL my personal insider tips and tricks to preparing for the B1 DELF exams, based on my very own experience taking the exams in September and resources I’ve used.

I really hope this will give you a leg up in preparing for your coming B1 DELF Exams! If you would like a copy of the guide, SIGN UP AND DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE HERE (will be sent to your email upon subscription).

For advice on how to learn French, check out my other post on The 6 Most Important Tips for Learning French.

Signing off this post with this quote that sums it all up: Des arbres qui sont lents à produire les meilleurs fruits.

Good luck my fellow francophones! And remember, anything is possible to those with a determined, disciplined and hungry heart.

Love, Ollie

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9 Comments

  • Danga

    I followed your guidance as I sat for B1 exam in Nairobi, Kenya in February. I am glad it helped, although I have attended classes from A1, I had always sidestepped the exams, hence this was my first french exam. The good news I passed, with 66/100, the bad news I almost flopped listening section, somehow I panicked and lost composure as the document sonore was playing…but I recovered and managed to scrape through with a 5.50/25. I will be following you to get new tips for B2 and hopefully do better in listening

    • Olivia

      c’est vraiment une excellente nouvelle, félicitations de réussir à votre examen! 🙂

  • Adriano

    Hello,

    where did you study french in Lausanne. I am an expat just arrived in the city.

    Thanks and all best

    • Olivia

      Hi, welcome to Lausanne! I started first with A2 intensive classes at l’ecole club migros!

  • Pretty Sedra

    I have a B1 Delf exam tmw and im stressing really badly cause im already failing badly at studying :/

  • Annamigros is the worst school ever

    migros is the worst language school ever

    enrol at a university

    but make sure that the teachers are french native speakers, not foreigners eg Russians !!!!!

    • Olivia

      I’m sorry to hear you had a bad experience at l’ecole migros! But I took my A1 classes back there and my teacher Francine (who is a native Swiss) is one of the best instructors and all the other students agreed! we had alot of fun and engaging lessons, it made the difficulty of the language alot bearable.

  • Anil Narula

    Great blog post.Helpful and informative tips. I like it thanks for sharing this information with us

  • Geophrey Sikei

    Hey, thanks for piecing together your interesting journey to attaining proficiency in French. I’m on the same path currently and would appreciate reading the PDF guide you’ve put together for B1 exams preparations. Merci!

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