One of the requirements for the Quebec Skilled Worker Program is that you prove competency in the French language. In order to do this, you must pass an exam. There are a few options available:
- DELF — Diplôme d’études en langue française (English: Diploma in French Studies)
- TCF (Test de connaissance du français (English: French Knowledge Test)
- TEFaQ (Test d’évaluation du français adapté pour le Québec (English: French Evaluation Test for Quebec)
I chose to sit the TEFaQ exam in Montreal, primarily for the sake of convenience. Point 3 Language Center in Old Montreal offers sittings of the TEFaQ at regular intervals (around twice per month), so I registered there and took the exam in the Spring of 2014. This article will deal with the TEFaQ.
Before getting into the details of the exam itself, let’s take stock of the French language in Quebec. In doing this, it’s important to cast aside any ideological or prejudicial concepts one might hold. Language issues are a constant subject of discussion in Quebec, and various people and groups have some strong ideas surrounding French. Regarding immigration and your new life in Quebec, however, remember this — French is, and will remain, the predominant language of Quebec. Indeed, it is the only official language in the province.
Without making the effort to learn French, you are limiting your opportunities, professionally and socially. There is a glass ceiling for monolingual residents of Quebec, and that also applies to those who don’t speak English. If you are moving to Quebec and your first language is not French, you would be strongly advised to make a significant effort to learn it. The most effective first step is to embrace the language — learn to like or even love it — and appreciate its influence not just on Quebec, but on the world. It may open doors you didn’t even know existed.
Preparation for the TEFaQ can be viewed in two contexts: the broader context of becoming comfortable with the French language, and the narrower context of preparing for the exam itself.
Before you move to Quebec, there are a number of ways you can get ready for daily interactions in French. You can take a series of formal classes, either as part of a group or with a tutor. Alliance Française is great for this — they have centres in all major countries and cities across the world. There are also some less formal ways you can learn. You can watch the news or a TV show in French (with or without subtitles/captioning), read a newspaper (even figuring out the headlines is wonderful for new vocabulary), listen to French language radio, or organise time for basic conversation with a fluent speaker. When you pick up a new word or phrase, write it down on a flashcard and keep these in your pocket or wallet with French on one side and English on the other. When you get a minute during the day — while you’re waiting for the bus or an elevator, for example — take out the cards and test yourself. It’s a fantastic, free way to learn.
The TEFaQ is split into four modules:
- Compréhension orale (oral comprehension): 40 minutes, 60 questions.
- Expression orale (oral expression): 15 minutes, two topics.
- Compréhension écrite (written comprehension): 60 minutes, 50 questions.
- Expression écrite (written expression): 60 minutes, two topics.
The candidate’s manual (in French only) is your bible when preparing for this exam. Linked from there are practice sections and all the information you need about each module. When I was preparing for the TEFaQ, my tutor and I did some exercises that mirrored how the exam works. This was of huge benefit come exam day.
For the oral expression module, for example, you will have to discuss two topics, one in the informal “tu” form, and one in the formal “vous” form. Practicing speaking in both forms will allow you to switch between them on the day. It goes without saying that focusing on your verb conjugation is paramount for this module.
For the written expression, keep it simple. Use the basic verbs “être” and “avoir” when possible, and don’t try to show off. The first topic will be written using the past tenses, so make sure you are comfortable with the passé composé and imparfait.
The comprehension sections just demand practice, and lots of it. For the oral comprehension, bear in mind that most of the recordings are played only once. One of the most important things to work on, therefore, is basic concentration. Don’t allow your mind to drift, because once the recording has been played you will not hear it again. For the written comprehension, practice skim-reading and answering the questions at speed — 50 questions is quite a lot.
Get to the exam centre early on the day, ask whoever is working there the exact order of the modules, and ensure any questions you might have are dealt with.
Registration is simple. Click here to learn how to register for the TEFaQ at Point 3 Language Centre. It’s not cheap, however — the four modules come to $460 in total.
The results for the comprehension modules will be emailed to you within 24 hours of sitting the exam. You sit these two modules on a computer, so no human analysis of your completed exam is necessary. The results of the expression modules will be available at the exam centre 4-8 weeks later.