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CILS Exam: Italian Proficiency Test

Speak Italian? Prove It!
Some people study Italian for self-enrichment or to satisfy language requirements in high school or college. Or, they're traveling to "il bel paese" and want to know how to tell time in Italian or how to use the phone in Italy. Others, though, such as art history students, aspiring teachers, or translators, study the language as part of a formal training program. For them, proving competency in the language is a requirement.

The CILS Exam (Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera) is the definitive proficiency examination to prove competence in the language. The CILS test is held twice a year in June and December at the Università per Stranieri di Siena and at other institutions abroad. The certificate is recognized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and most Italian universities as a requirement for admission. Divided into four levels - beginner, elementary, intermediate, and advanced - the CILS exams consists of five parts:

  1. Listening test
  2. Reading comprehension
  3. Use of the Italian language or metalanguage
  4. Written test
  5. Speaking test
Test Prep Courses
Many language schools in Italy, including The Cambridge School and Koinè, offer CILS exam preparation courses, which typically include diagnostic exams regarding grammar, conversation, and written Italian, didactic materials, and several weeks of instruction.

See Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language for more information on general Italian language proficiency certificates including tests for teachers and business professionals.

CELI Exam
An alternative exam, established by the Università per Stranieri di Perugia, is the CELI Exam (Certificato di Conoscenza della Lingua Italiana), which consists of five language proficiency tests designed for non-native speakers of Italian. The test is based on the Council of Europe's Waystage Level specification. Candidates should be able to communicate in Italian in a limited number of standard everyday situations. The test consists of four sections: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

The Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) has a comprehensive overview of the CELI Exam, including scoring parameters, materials, registration, and procedures. Test dates are in June and November, and candidates are awarded either a 'pass' or 'fail.'


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