TEF & TCF: About the Exams and the Difference Between Them

Planning on immigrate to Canada? this guide explains all you need to know about French Tests and how to choose the right one for immigration to Canada.

24 Jan 2021, 2:41 pm


min read

New York, United States

Canada is a bilingual country, with English and French being the official languages. In order to immigrate to Canada, you need to be proficient in one or both of these languages.

It is not just an immigration requirement, but also an easy way for you to adjust to your new life, as good communication skills will help you get a good job, and familiarize yourself with the people and customs.

To prove your French language skills you may take two exams TEF & TCF. Both of those French language tests are used for immigration to Canada.

Read on about those exams and, hopefully, by the end of the article you’ll know for sure what could be your choice: TEF or TCF?

TEF vs TCF: What is the Difference and How to Choose the French Test for Canada Immigration? 

The main differences between TEF and TCF include:

  • the format of the tests
  • the time limit
  • the number of questions

However, in a lot of ways, TEF and TCF are similar to one another: both TEF and TCF Canada are international assessment tests to assess your French language proficiency, and both are IRCC approved language test.

<em><strong>So how to choose between the exams if they are so alike?</strong></em>
First, you may read on the article to learn the details about the exams’ formats. Then, it is suggested to take the sample papers for both tests to determine the one that’s best for you.
<em><strong>Did you know?</strong></em>
84,6% of the people who failed in TEF/TCF exams did not participate in any preparation course! Try lessons with one of these recommended teachers to ensure your success:

Recommended TEF & TCF Teachers

What is TEF Language Test?

Test d’Evaluation de Français (TEF) is one of the international benchmark tests that evaluate proficiency and knowledge of the French language.

TEF has been used as a French language test for immigration to Canada for a long time already. Some educational institutions in Canada accept TEF results from international students as proof of language skills.

TEF was created in the CCI Paris Ile-de- France’s French Language Centre in 1998. If you are a native French speaker or proficient in the language, TEF is will help you make your case strong for immigration to Canada.

Are you eligible for a Canadian Visa?

What is TEFaQ?

TEFaQ (Test d’évaluation du français adapté pour le Québec) is a test specifically adapted for Quebec and is recognized by the Immigration Department of Diversity and Inclusion (MIDI) of Quebec.

TEFaQ tests the skills and knowledge of French listening and reading, as well as writing and speaking. 

The structure of TEFaQ consists of compulsory tests of Listening, Comprehension, and Oral Expression, along with two optional tests including written expression and comprehension. These tests evaluate the mastery and skill of the candidate’s written French. The optional tests give you a chance to increase your points obtained in the compulsory section. 

Note: the TEF and TEFaQ results are valid for two years from the date you took the test.

TEF vs TEFaQ: Which One to Choose?
It is recommended to take TEF over TEaQ, as the latter is only accepted for Quebec immigration, while TEF is acceptable for both Quebec as well as federal immigration.  

Structure of TEF Test Canada

TEF Canada consists of the following tests: 

Mandatory tests to pass for an immigration application to Canada:

  • Oral Comprehension
    • Duration: 40 minutes
    • About the task: the task consists of 60 questions
  • Reading Comprehension
    • Duration: 60 minutes
      About the task: the task consists of 50 questions
  • Oral Expression
    • Duration: 15 minutes
      About the task: the task consists of 2 subjects to discuss
  • Written Expression
    • Duration: 60 minutes
      About the task: the task consists of 2 subjects to write about

Mandatory Language tests to pass to apply for Canadian Citizenship:

  • Oral Comprehension
    • Duration: 40 minutes
      About the task: the task consists of 60 questions
  • Oral Expression
    • Duration: 15 minutes
      About the task: the task consists of 2 subjects to discuss

All of these tests must be completed on the same day to make your certification recognized by the Canadian authorities. 

These tests are evaluated on criteria of 7 levels. Level 0 signifies the most basic competencies, whereas Level 6 signifies complete fluency in the language. This criterion represents 12 levels of the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB).  

TEF Test Scores

A girl preparing for TEF
courtesy of Vlada Karpovich

The standard used to assess, measure, recognize, and describe the written and spoken English skills by Canadian standards is the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB). By following this chart, you can evaluate how the TEF test score equates to CLB. 

TEF Score and CLB


As mentioned above, your test scores are converted to the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB). The score you need for immigration to Canada depends on the program and the minimum language requirements they have. They’re not all the same and most of them work on points systems.

In addition to your language proficiency, the points are also calculated for your work experience, education, and age. Depending on these factors, your TEF test scores can vary to meet the minimum requirements. You can try Free Online Canadian Immigration Assessment and convert your language scores to CLB online easily.  

The plus point in this scenario is that you have the option to retake the tests multiple times to improve your scores.

TEF Registration and Requirements

TEF test sessions are held around the year in various testing centers. These centers are responsible for the session dates as well as providing the candidates with registration period and fee structure. The registration deadlines are at least a week before the date of the test. It is best to apply and register early so that there’s enough time for all the paperwork to be processed within the given time. 

You don’t need any prior qualifications or degrees to appear in a TEF test. You must, however, be at least 16 years of age or above to apply. For registration, you’ll need to present the following documents:

  • Photocopy of your official ID card (including passport, driver’s license, and other such documents;
  • A recent photograph along with the signature;
  • In case that your testing center doesn’t take your photograph on the test date, you will also be required to present a form of photo identification;
  • Personal information form that you fill out at the time of registration. 

For test dates, prices, and other details regarding TEF test, please contact your local center directly. If you can’t find any authorized centers in your country of residence, you can contact directly at francais@cci-paris-idf.fr for more information.

What is TCF Language Test?

TCF – test de connaissance du français Canada is a French language proficiency test which is accepted by the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as one of the standard tests for immigration. 

Individuals who want to apply for economic immigration or for citizenship status in Canada can give this test. Individuals from any language of origin or nationality including French and people from French-speaking countries are eligible to give this French test for Canada immigration.  

The objective of TCF Canada is to assess the French skills of the applicant on a scale of six levels. This scale corresponds to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, and Assessment (CEFR). CEFR is coherent, transparent and comprehensive, assessing your proficiency in French. 

What is TCF Quebec?

TCF Quebec a TCF test version that is required for those who wish to immigrate to Quebec. 

The provincial government of Quebec requires official certification of a person’s French language proficiency to ensure that they meet the Ministry for Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion (MIDI) standards. This exam is also available in both paper and computer based versions. TCF Quebec is approved by Quebecoise authorities. Listening and writing components include 29 multiple choice questions, while the speaking and writing remain three, just like TCF Canada.

Structure of TCF Test Canada

There are four mandatory parts of TCF Canada: 

  • Listening test 
    • Duration: 35 minutes
    • About the task: consists of 39 items 
  • Speaking test 
    • Duration: 12 minutes
      About the task: consists of 3 tasks 
  • Reading test 
    • Duration: 60 minutes
      About the task: consists of 39 items 
  • Writing test 
    • Duration: 60 minutes
      About the task: consists of 3 tasks 

The listening and reading comprehension has multiple choice questions with only one possible correct answer. The speaking and writing tasks are organized with a progressively increasing level of difficulty. The levels relate to the benchmarks that are set by Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB), as well as the European Framework for Language Learning and Teaching and Evaluation. 

An applicant can appear in this French test for Canada immigration multiple times, but with a minimum gap of 30 days between two sessions. The official certificate of results is available within 4-8 weeks after the test and shows the score for each module. 

TCF Test Scores

You can score a total of 699 possible points for the reading and listening section of the test, and a total of 20 possible points for writing and speaking. The test scores have to be converted according to CLB rankings to assess your standing. The CLB conversion of TCF test scores is as follows. 

TCF Score and CLB


There isn’t exactly a passing score per se. The total score is reflective of your level of proficiency, and the better you score, the stronger your immigration profile will be with higher chances of immigration or citizenship. The test results can be improved by giving the test again and again until you get your desired scores. 

TCF Registration and Requirements

The candidate must contact the TCF Canada Center to inquire about test session dates. The TCF center guides the applicant about the location of the test session, registration procedures and fees. The registration fee for TCF Canada is $380, and a non-refundable fee of $75 will be charged if the candidate wants to reschedule or cancel before the deadline.

It is quite convenient to give TCF as it is also electronically conducted (eTCF). There’s no other test or prior qualification required for the exam, and the candidate must be at least 16 years old to be eligible.

Are you eligible for a Canadian Visa?

TEF & TCF Preparation

Preparation Tips

Even if you are proficient in French, it should still be kept in mind that TEF and TCF are both tests and, as for any other test, one needs to be prepared to do well.

You can use all of the possible means to build up your skills: search for exams’ samples, download language apps, watch movies, and read books in French.

However, when it comes to exam preparation, it is better to prepare systematically and that is something that goes more efficiently when guided by a professional.

Recommended TEF & TCF Teachers

In some places, French natives who have experience in preparing students for TEF & TCF could be hard to find. Luckily, you can live anywhere and prepare with such a teacher online.

Here we recommend you the experienced French natives who can help you pass the test:

Jeanne T. :

Certified French Teacher, French native
Experience: 10 years
Jeanne says: “I am qualified as an examiner / corrector for the DELF / DALF, TCF and TEF exams. <…> I love being in contact with new people and having the opportunity to teach my language and French culture”

Book a Trial Lesson with Jeanne

Louis J. :

Certified French Teacher, French native
Experience: 9 years
Louis says: “Are you looking for a native teacher to teach you French for personal or professional reasons, to take exams (DALF, DELF, TEF, TCF, ) or just for fun? I can help you reach your goal!”

Book a Trial Lesson with Louis

Leo L. :

French-native tutor
Experience: 5 years
Leo says: “I’m Teaching French to students of any age and with any level of knowledge.”

Book a Trial Lesson with Leo

Jean Christophe:

Native French teacher (DELF, TEF and TCF)
Experience: 4 years
Jean says: “Your goal is my goal. When you succeed, I succeed!
Remember that with persistence, a structured plan, and hard work, you will likely reach your goals before your deadline.”

Book a Trial Lesson with Jean

Stephanie M. :

Native French tutor
Experience: 4 years
Stephanie says: “I’m a French tutor with a robust wealth of experience in this regard. <…> My passion for languages makes my commitment more interesting and efficient.”

Book a Trial Lesson with Stephanie

All of the recommended tutors offer trial lessons, so you can get to meet each other and talk about the possible exam preparation course.

brought to you by Preply.com: Prepare to speak confidently with the best online tutors

So, TEF or TCF?

Both TEF & TCF could be used as French tests for immigration to Canada and both have the same level of difficulty, so we can say that choosing between the IRCC approved language test is up to the candidate’s personal preferences.

Now that you know so much about the exams, you may just have a quick look at samples and start preparing for the exam of your choice!

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Sidrah is a writer and a dentist who moved to Canada in 2017. Currently, she resides in Calgary with her husband and son. Although she isn't a big fan of frost and snowstorms, she has come to love her new hometown and poutine.

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