mercredi 23 juin 2010

All about the French exam test TEF (Test d'Evaluation de Français)

As I mentioned in my post on 21 May I took the French TEF test (Test d'Evaluation du Français) at my local Alliance Française.

I'm writing this long post because I couldn't find anything online when I was looking for in depth information about this particular test so I hope this helps someone.

I did this over the DELF for a number of reasons:

* If I wanted to take the DELF I'd have to wait until November and I'm not willing to wait that long
* I don't actually know what level I'm at so I prefer to find out beforehand so that I can take the DELF later, in the near future
* The TCF or TEF exams are somewhat easier and you don't need to study for them as much as the DELF/DALF and I didn't have a lot of time to study

I found as much information as I could about it online and also used the two books below:

The first one by Hachette (which I'll call the Blue one) features tips and tricks to help you understand the questions better. In doing the exercises I was led to believe that the actual exam required you to write answers, but in fact the whole test is just multiple choice A B C D or just A B.

I worked through the entire book and did the test at the end and scored 654/900 which is B2 level. However, the score is a little misleading as I attempted every single question and those I got wrong I didn't take points off. If I took 1 point off for every question I got wrong I would've scored 613/900 which is still B2 but... more about that later*.

In the second book by CLE International (the Yellow one), there are many more examples. Far too many for me to even get through. I almost get sick of reading all the long passages after a while. However, unlike the Blue one, there are no tips to understanding and answering the questions so in a way I was glad I went through the Blue one first.

The book basically features hundreds of examples of the types of questions you can expect to get with also a test at the end.

The interesting thing about this book is that the questions are grouped according to difficulty level from 0+ and 1 (A1) to 6 (C2). I guess the idea is that if you can comfortably correctly answer questions from a certain level you know that you're at that level or higher. However, for me this 'level guide' wasn't accurate (or maybe I'm just weird). I got some supposedly easy level 0+ and 1 questions wrong, yet I got many level 4-5 questions right, which really surprised me.

Anyway, for the Yellow book test I scored 672/900 which is easily B2 and almost C1 (699+)! but once again I didn't deduct points for the ones I got incorrectly. If I did I would've scored just 596.

Registering for the Test

About a month before the test, I registered for it at the Alliance Française de Sydney a place I'm very familiar with since I've been having classes there for 4 months. The receptionists are always lovely and I feel that they appreciate when I try to speak French in my own crappy and not so confident way. It was very quick and straightforward. I filled in a simple form and the only question I had difficulty with was how many hours I had been learning French. I had no idea but made an educated guess at 300 hours. She colour-photocopied my driver's licence and stapled it to the application. I paid my fee and was told I would be given more information closer to the date.

Before the Test

A few days before, I was emailed my student/exam number and told to get there at 10am on the morning of the test. The other students' names were also in that email.

The Test

There are 3 compulsory parts to the test (3 épreuves obligatoires) :

Compréhension Écrite
50 questions to complete in 60 minutes

Compréhension Orale
60 questions to complete in 40 minutes (your timing is dictated by the speed of the tape)

Lexique et Structure
40 questions to complete in 30 minutes

There are also 2 other optional parts (2 épreuves facultatives) :

Expression Écrite
60 minutes

• Expression Orale
35 minutes

I didn't do the optional parts because it would've cost more money (and this test is expensive!) and more time, and I'm not immigrating to Canada or anything.

For both the Blue book and Yellow book tests I managed to finish in the time allocated, but then in reality I could not finish the entire test in the time allocated. I don't know why?

The Day of the Test

I woke up and I wanted to die. I had been sick for weeks, I had been coughing non-stop and hadn't gotten to sleep till well after 3:30am, I had had a headache from about 4pm the day before and all my tossing and turning from trying to get to sleep led me to somehow injure my back, which felt a bit like a cramp or really bad muscle pain in one spot. So when I woke up only 3 hours later I felt like hell and wanted to die. I couldn't fall back asleep.

Anyway, I told myself to get it together. I have to get myself into the city to do the test or else forfeit my $180 that I paid for it. I gave myself lots of food, liquids, and drugs and made my way into town on the very crowded train. In the end it wasn't the coughing nor the headache nor the back pain that was hard to deal with but the simple fact that I just did not have enough sleep...

I assumed there would be no break in the middle as I recall during my high school exams we couldn't go to the toilet without being supervised (for fear of cheating). I actually wondered how I would last through the 2.5 hours without being able to go to the toilet but luckily it was very very relaxed, and we were able to go before the start of the test and in between the 3 parts of the test. Not that I even needed to go, I think I was simply nervous which gave me a sensation of needing to go. Anyway...

There was myself and 6-7 other students, and the teacher/supervisor in the room. I had a quick glance at the names sheet and noticed that we were all around the same age (late 20s or early 30s) judging by the birthdates.

On our desk was a sticker with our full name, birthdate, and exam reference number and we were asked to verify this with some sort of ID.

Also on our desk was an A4 booklet with a yellow cover explaining the test and examples of questions and correct answers. As I noted from reading a forum, someone mentioned that you don't have enough time to read this booklet. I certainly didn't have any time at all and just flipped through it.  Luckily for me, I had downloaded the exact same thing from somewhere. I can't remember from which site but probably from the official CCIP TEF website.

I am so glad I already read this document beforehand as I knew everything that was expected of me and how to fill in the multiple choice answer sheet, which looks like this:

We were first asked to fill in the top left hand corner with our exam number, and then sign in the big white box in the bottom right hand corner, before the start of the test.

Then once we were given the green-covered question booklet for the first part of the test (Compréhension Écrite) we could begin answering on the answer sheet.

For each question there are the choices: A, B, C or D and two rows. The first row is white (where you fill in your answer) and the second row is pink (where you fill in your answer if you want to change it). Due to my being a perfectionist and stickler for details I didn't make a single mistake filling in this form (2 people did) and I didn't need to change any of my answers. I made many notes on the question booklets (which you are allowed to do) and made sure of my answer before I filled in the tiny rectangular boxes on the answer sheet. I was meticulous because I didn't want to stuff up and make the computer (who would mark it) angry!

I found the first part extremely difficult. There were lots and lots of long passages to read and questions to accompany them. The thing is, even if the passages and questions were in English I would still have a hard time answering. Why? They almost always ask something like, "What is the aim of this article?" or "What topic is the interviewer talking about?" and usually, I find that 2 of the 4 answers are just totally wrong and then I'm left with 2 which are sort of similar and yet totally different and it's almost subjective which one you choose... It's a bit like that tv show Who wants to be a Millionaire?... You feel like every possible answer is out to trick you!

The main difficulty with this part is that there just wasn't enough time. I'm a fast reader so there was enough time for me to read the passages and all of the possible answers but not enough time to answer because I had to read some of the passages 3-4 times before I even began to understand what the heck it was going on about! So I only managed to answer 38 of the 50 questions which I felt pretty crap about until one of the other students told me they only had time to answer half.

Funnily, there was a very difficult passage (I'm guessing level 5-6 here) which talked about a marée noire and luckily for me, I have been reading and listening to Le Journal en Français facile almost every day so I have come across this word a LOT. Marée by itself means tide, but a marée noire is an oil spill. In a way I wonder if it's a test for us to see if we pay attention to news and current affairs (in French)!

So here's a tip for you: Make sure you read the news regularly in French! :)

Second part (Compréhension Orale)

After a quick toilet break we started the oral section, which I am sure many think is the hardest part. I didn't think it was that hard as I've always been good at listening, but for me, once again, the problem was the time or lack thereof. In fact, I actually missed listening to 4 questions because my brain was still focused on the question before it, trying to remember what was said and trying to choose the correct answer!

Even though the people were speaking quickly on the recording it was still OK for me, my main problem was that there wasn't enough time in between each question for you to think over your answer, and that I found really frustrating.

I really like the picture questions as I'm a visual person and pictures convey more information to me than words. There were 2 picture questions. One involving houses where 4 people described what kind of house they would like to live in. There were 5 pictures (as you will see with the TEF's oral section, there are always 5 pictures but only 4 questions just to make it that much harder) of houses:
1. big castle
2. house in the countryside
3. house in the mountains
4. house by the sea
5. tall apartment block in the city

They tried to trick you by getting the 4 people to talk about what kind of house they currently live in as well as what kind of house they wished they lived in. However, I didn't find this question difficult but a few months ago I think I would have thought they talked very quickly.

The second picture question was much harder. There were 5 pictures of women's hairstyles. Before they started talking I tried to guess what kind of words I was to listen for such as long(s), court(s) etc. Thanks to LiveMocha and some other website  I did know the words for straight and curly too (raides and bouclés or frisés). There was one word I didn't know and it sounded like undulate which of course made me think of waves (undulating waves) so I guessed it meant wavy hair. After a search on wordreference I now realise the word was ondulé(e). The hardest part was understanding the pictures. They talked about a fringe but all the hairstyles had fringes. It was almost like a method of deduction which picture they were talking about, but still, even though it was a hard question I am confident that I got all the answers right.

Then, there's a part at the end of section 2 where you are given a short written sentence and then you listen to a person speaking that sentence and you have to choose A for oui or B for non and answer if the two sentences are the same. This is really tricky if you are not careful. From the practice tests I did pretty well and for the ones I got wrong I listened to them again to figure where I went wrong and then of course it was so obvious listening the second time around but in the exam you only get to listen to it once (and it is fast).

One of the questions involved au-dessous and au-dessus and one that I had a bit of difficulty was ...qu'on m'aime. It sounded like quand même to me but I wasn't sure. I thought it over (in the few milliseconds that I had) and I was pretty sure that it was quand même and not the... qu'on m'aime that was written, because that sounds more nasally.

Definitely the best advice I can give to prepare for this section is to go to Phonétique listening exercises. The link is also in my right sidebar as I think that is the best site I have ever found if you want to improve your pronunciation/reading/listening skills all at the same time.

I think I did OK on this section but I only answered 51 out of 60 questions. Like I said, I missed hearing 4 questions and then there were some I wasn't too sure about so I didn't answer.

Third part (Lexique et Structure)

According to my trial tests, this is the section I was best at. I guess all the grammar I've been learning has finally paid off! ;)  There were only a few questions I found really hard and that was mostly because I didn't know the vocabulary. This section also tests vocab knowledge and spelling (orthographe).

The very first question involved the word voix (voice) and the options were le, la, something else and something else. I knew that voix was feminine yet I was totally second-guessing myself. I thought I was going nuts (once again, I blame lack of sleep here). I knew that it was La voix yet I couldn't trust myself to write it until the end when I decided that it was in fact La voix and not Le voix.

There was one question that I left till the very end as it had me a bit stumped and I was determined to answer it. It was something about car headlights and the options were:
1. clignatort (or something like that. All I could think about was the Porte de Clignancourt métro station in Paris!)
2. lumières
3. phares
4. lampes

1. I hadn't the faintest idea what this word was.
2. Sure it means 'lights' but it's far too obvious and I am pretty sure it's a trick and that it's not the answer. And I think it only refers to ceiling lights or lamppost lights.
3. I know that a 'phare' is a lighthouse but what's that go to do with a car?
4. Lamps. Could be this one, but still not 100% sure... If it's not lumières surely it's not lampes either?

Luckily, not that long ago when I was compiling a new blog post (which is still, ahem, in progress) about cars and driving and I was looking for French words for car parts... I very very vaguely recalled that headlights were phares, or maybe I just imagined it. I thought about it logically. A lighthouse beams out light, and the lights on the front of a car also beam out light. French is far more logical than English in that sense so I took a stab and straight after the exam was over I pulled out my dictionary to check and was so happy that I'd chosen the right answer! Ha.

* The Points System

This is where it gets tricky. This is where the French are NOT logical. The test is out of 150, but the final score is out of 900. For every question that you get correct, you get 3 points. For every question that you don't answer you get 0 points, and for every question you answer incorrectly (or somehow screw up on the answer sheet) you get -1 points.

So actually, the test of out of 450, then you double it to get your final score.

With the practice tests I answered all 150 questions, but with the actual test I didn't answer if I wasn't at least 70-80% sure of my answer. So all up I answered 121 questions (out of 150).

So, if I answered all 121 questions correctly I will have a score of 726 which puts me in C1, not B2. So if I get 4 or less wrong, I will be in C1, if I get 5 or more wrong I'll be in B2. So at the point of writing this (22 May) I am about 99% sure I am B2.  (is that even English? 'at the point of writing' this.. I think it should be 'at the time of writing this'. I think I am definitely thinking too much in French.. je suis sur le point de devinir folle...)

For reference, the CEFR Table below from Les études en ingénierie en France.

Cadre commun de référence



Ministère de l’Education Nationale

Nombre d’heures


Utilisateur élémentaire


Level 0+ : 0-68

1:  69-203






2:  204-360



Utilisateur autonome


3:  361-540

DELF 1 A3 - A4





4:  541-698

DELF 2 A5 - A6



Utilisateur expérimenté


5:  699-833

DALF B1 - B2


C2 Maîtrise


6:  834-900

DALF B3 - B4


The Results

I did the test on 21 May and exactly one month later, the results came back...
As I predicted, I got B2 (niveau 4)! (just, with 552 points). Interestingly, my best section was the Compréhension Orale and my worst was the Lexique et Structure. For someone who estimated they had spent just 300 hours learning French I am mighty proud of myself :D

If you decide to do this or any other French proficiency test, bon courage !

dimanche 20 juin 2010

Celebrate the every day

Two days ago I started reading my sister's old blogs which she hasn't updated for months. Over the past 9 years she has been back and forth between Europe and Australia many many times and she is a much better writer than I am, and made lots of interesting observations.

She also wrote about some every day things back in her 'normal' life in Australia but these posts are few and far between.

I have a friend who has a blog and she writes about every day things and events and thoughts but these types of blogs are generally rare. What I'm talking about is a blog that really reads like a journal, with that person's thoughts on random topics.

What I find is that most people use their blog (or Facebook) almost as a "show and tell" album and if they have nothing to show or tell, then nothing will get posted. That's why you see pictures of weddings, babies, birthdays, travel, new houses, housewarmings, nightclubbing and partying time and time again but not much of anything else.

What do I mean by this "else"? I mean anything that does not fit into the above categories. It is extremely rare to read posts or see photos about things people deem are not worthy. But why? Shouldn't life be celebrated for the good at the bad? And not just things which are deemed worthy enough to "show off"? Now I am not saying that people should be posting photos of funerals or car crashes or horrible, stupid things like that...

What I mean is... Why is it that travel brings out the kid in everyone? That innate inner curiosity about everything that makes everything seem new, and interesting, beautiful and wonderful. Now, why can't you take that side of you and transplant it into your real world? Just because you have to go to work or have to study, you still have enough spare time to "smell the roses" so to speak.

Why do people start up a blog for the soul purpose of documenting their travels so that when they are not travelling anymore there is nothing left to write about? Even that little weekend escape to the seaside town 2 hours away is not "worthy" because it's not overseas?

I found this blog 52 suburbs which is an amazing blog about 52 of the 600+ suburbs of Sydney. Despite all my years of living here I don't even know half the things this lady posts about. She really discovers the nitty gritty of this city and the people that live in it. She takes beautiful photos and writes about them in an interesting way that just makes it interesting.

Well, that's sort of what I do with my life. I document parts of it which may seem boring on the surface but I take pretty photos and I make interesting observations. Not really for anyone else, but just for me. I do often share my 'findings' too (and I don't care if others find it 'boring' as it's not for them, it's for me!)

And why do I do it?

Well, over the past 10 years of my life, some amazingly HORRIBLE things have happened to me and to people around me. I've had 4 people (3 I was very close to) I know die, aged between their 20s and 60s and all before their time, two of shocking circumstances that I can't even write about they are that shocking (put it this way, they were both stories in the city's main newspaper).

Over the last 3 years I've had more ups and downs in my life than in all the years of my life preceding that.

Also during that time I spent one year living abroad which was an amazingly wonderful experience but when I came back home, to Sydney, I became really depressed with what's known as "reverse culture shock." I was so sad all the time and hated my so-called home. When I first came back I couldn't see anything good about this place.

But over time I began to love it again and realised all the wonderful things about it that I doesn't exist in the other place. And as time goes on, in the past few months I've become more and more appreciative of my HOME. Sydney will always be my HOME so I'd better love it or else. As well as that, I've become so much more appreciative of the people around me, my family and my dear long-time friends.

When I have dinner with my family I cherish every single minute of my time with them. If it's the last time I ever see them I want to know that all I had was happy memories and none of fighting or disagreements. I take photos of every single event in my life because I want to remember and cherish all the wonderful and beautiful moments together with the people that I love and adore most in the world.

I don't see my friends as often as I'd like to given that we're all so busy (and everyone lives far from each other in this big city) but when I do I like to make the most of every minute with them too.

I think going into life with these thoughts makes me feel much more at peace, and much happier in general. I know that if some unforeseen circumstance would make myself or someone I know leave this earth, at least I will have had some happy memory of my last days, or my last days with that person.

I'm not even sure what the point of my post is, other than to get some thoughts out. My main point is that I feel that everything in life should be celebrated, not just the parties and whatnot. Take the time to appreciate the people around you but also the place around you. Also, you really can discover the beauty in your own "backyard" if you look hard enough. In fact there is probably even more beauty there than in all those other countries you want to travel to...

Image from lonelovaas via Weheartit

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