French education system: what are the levels of French required for each level of study

License and master: B1 or B2 level

Pursuing higher education in a French or French-speaking university requires international students to have sufficient mastery of the French language. Indeed, proper oral and written comprehension is imperative when it comes to taking lectures, tutorials or any other type of teaching specific to the academic world. For registration in a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, a B1 or B2 level in French is desirable, according to the criteria set by the CEFR – common European framework of reference for languages.

The B1 level indicates a basic use of french language necessary to student daily life in France. Some universities such as the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble or the University of Rennes I require this level to admit international students. Let us underline the fact that human and social sciences often require a more advanced level of mastery of the French language; law schools and political sciences courses especially require complex vocabulary which make B2 level almost essential. For example, Claude Bernard-Lyon 1 University requires such a level from international students.

Level C1, a requirement for certain establishments

If most French universities only require a B1 or B2 level to admit international students, including in the field of human and social sciences, some establishments however require a C1 level – i.e. the level of an experienced user according to the criteria of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This is the case of the UFR of letters, art communication and language sciences at Aix-Marseille University, the École normale supérieure de Lyon or Law school at Cergy-Pontoise University.

Attesting to a C1 level in French guarantees a deep understanding of the language which allows you to follow courses effectively, participate actively in academic discussions, pass exams and fully integrate into French university and cultural life. Students who wish to justify a B1 or B2 level can choose to take the French language studies diploma (DELF), while the C1 level requires an advanced diploma in French language (DALF). Such exams can be taken within linguistic institutions such as the Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne (CCFS).

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