Language of instruction
As a general rule, French is the language of instruction at the University of Geneva, especially at the Bachelor’s level.
requirements to sit for the French exam
In order to study at the University of Geneva, you are required to have a good level of French (B2 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Language - CECR).
- Use the "guide" to determine whether you are required to sit for the French exam.
Exemptions are possible (see below) depending on the candidate's nationality, high school studies and university studies. Obtention of one of the diplomas / certificates listed below may also exempt candidates from sitting for the basic test. We strongly advise candidates to sit an applicable exam (see list below) in their home country.
French proficiency exam
If the program applied for requires French proficiency and that you cannot be exempted, you must sit for the French exam organized by the University of Geneva. The French exam comprises a basic test and, for candidates applying to the Faculty of Humanities (including the ELCF), a supplementary writing test.
Notification to candidates
Candidates required to sit for the exam will be notified by e-mail (in an attached document "Confirmation of Enrollment") once we have received their application. This document indicates the exact date and place of the exam, as well as information regarding payment of the applicable fee.
In order to be exempted from sitting for the exam (basic test), candidates must provide in their application file a copy of their diploma or proof that they have passed one of the applicable exams (see list below) by 15 August for the Autumn semester or by 15 January for the Spring semester.
- Candidates applying for the Autumn semester (September - February) will sit for the exam either at the end of August or the beginning of September.
- Candidates applying for the Spring semester (February - September) will take the exam at the beginning of February.
There is a fee of CHF 100 to register for the French exam.
Duration, structure and sample exams
- Results are announced several days after the test, as indicated in the instructions provided on the day of the test by the ELCF.
- Successful completion of the exam is valid for 4 years. In the event of failure on the test (even if the student is admitted for a Preparatory Year / Année propédeutique (AP) or for the DEFLE ‘parcours A’), the test must be retaken.
In the event of failure
If the test is eliminatory:
Applicants who fail the basic test but are evaluated at B1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) are allowed to attend the preparatory year (‘Année propédeutique’, ‘AP’) at the School of French language and Civilization (ELCF). If they pass the AP year, they will be able to enter their chosen program the following year. Please note, the AP program can only be started in the Autumn semester. Applicants who fail the exam for the Spring semester must reactivate their application within the deadline for a future semester. .
Faculty of Humanities (including ELCF) only: applicants who fail the supplementary writing test but pass the basic test (or have obtained a recognized B2 level diploma or certificate) may attend the "DEFLE parcours restreint". If they pass the year, they will be able to enter their chosen program the following year.
Applicants who have not reached the B1 level shall not be allowed to start studies at UNIGE during the semester for which they applied. Once the required level has been reached, they must reactivate their application within the deadline for a future semester.
If the test is for assessment purposes (complementary studies for a Bachelor's degree in Humanities or Master's degrees in Humanities in german, english, spanish, italian and russian): applicants who are unsuccessful on the test may begin their studies at UNIGE as planned, but they are limited to the program for which they applied - no changes are permitted. Additionally, during their first year of study, they will attend a level-appropriate French course for a minimum of 2 hours per week. Attending this course and completing regular assignments will result in a certificate from the Maison des langues of the UNIGE.
Exemption from the French exam
Exemptions only apply to the basic test. The supplementary writing test is mandatory for candidates applying to the Faculty of Humanities (including the School of French Language and Civilization).
There are two types of exemptions:
- You are exempt from the French exam (basic test and supplementary writing test) if you...
- are of Swiss or Liechtenstein nationality
- hold a Swiss or Lichtenstein high school diploma meeting UNIGE the conditions of enrollment
- hold a foreign high school diploma obtained meeting conditions of enrollment, and for which French was the official language of instruction
- hold a university diploma (Bachelor's degree equivalent; minimum three-year program, equivalent to at least 180 ECTS credits) obtained from an institution that is recognized by our university, and for which French was the official language of instruction
hold an attestation of achievement of a complete year of study at:
- the School for French Language and Civilization (ELCF) of the University of Geneva
- the "Institut de langue et de civilisation françaises" of the University of Neuchâtel
- the "Ecole de français langue étrangère" of the University of Lausanne, level B2
- are required to sit for the Complementary examination of the Swiss higher education institutions (ECUS)
- are an applicant to the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting (FTI)
having successfully passed the French (passive language) test during the FTI-specific entrance exams (BA in Multilingual Communication, MA in Translation, MA in Interpreting)
exempted by the FTI from the entrance exam for the MA in Translation, as long as French is part of the applicant’s language combination
- are applying to a Complementary Certificate program that does not require candidates to sit for the French exam
- are applying to a Master's program that does not require candidates to sit for the French exam
- are applying to a Specialisation Certificate program that does not require candidates to sit for the French exam
- are applying to a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) program
- are applying to a Doctoral program
N.B.: Applicants for the Diplôme de français langue étrangère (DEFLE) program offered by the School for French Language and Civilization (ELCF), who are exempt from the French exam because of their nationality or because of a high school diploma from Switzerland or Liechtenstein for which the official language of instruction was not French, are required to take a placement test (for assessment purposes).
N.B.2: For admission to the Diplôme d'études spécialisées en didactique du français langue étrangère (DESFLE) program, the ELCF verifies that UNIGE language requirements have been satisfied as part of the preregistration process. No certification is required.
- You are exempt from the basic test if you hold one of the following diplomas or certificates * :
- DELF (Diplôme d'Études de Langue Française) level B2
- DALF (Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française) level C1 ou C2
- TCF (Test de connaissance du français) with a minimum level of B2 on the compulsory examinations and on the supplementary examinations
- TCF DAP (Test de connaissance du français pour la demande d'admission préalable) with a minimum level of B2 on the compulsory examinations and on the writing test (which is mandatory)
- TEF (Test d'évaluation du français) with a minimum level of B2 on the compulsory sections and on the optional sections. Offered by the CCIP (Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris Ile-de-France) / Alliance française
- Certificate from the Cours d'été de l'Université de Genève
* The diploma must have been earned in the 4 years preceding the start of classes for the semester applied for (Monday of the 8th week of the year for the spring semester, or Monday of the 38th week of the year for the autumn semester).
These waivers are only valid for the general test. No waivers are granted for the supplementary test, which remains mandatory for the Faculty of Humanities, including the ELCF.