A learner-friendly guide to the best Italian language certification

Is there more than one kind of Italian language certification? What are the differences? Are all certifications equally valid? 

To answer these and more questions, we’ve prepared a short guide for all the Italian language learners out there.

CEFR: What is it?

CEFR is the acronym for the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: learning, teaching, assessment. Its aim is to provide a commonly shared basis for the creation of language syllabi, CV guidelines, exams and textbooks throughout Europe. Basically, it shows in an exhaustive way what skills one should acquire and develop in order to effectively communicate in a foreign language.

While its creation began in 1989, it was only in November 2001 that a European Union Council resolution finally recognized the CEFR as an official validator for language ability.

Nowadays, the validity of this system is recognized and accepted worldwide (not only in Europe).


From A1 to C2

While slightly counterintuitively, the CEFR breaks learners down into three categories:

  • A: Basic users
  • B: Independent users
  • C: Advanced users

In a nutshell, that’s the opposite of college grades, where A is the highest mark.

Every category has two sub-sections, so there are six levels in the end:

  • A1: Breakthrough or beginner
  • A2: Waystage or elementary
  • B1: Threshold or intermediate
  • B2: Vantage or upper intermediate
  • C1: Effective operational proficiency or advanced
  • C2: Mastery or proficiency

To further understand the differences between levels, the CEFR has provided additional grids:

The CEFR is currently applied to all languages of the European Union, but it also has equivalencies with other non-EU languages.

How can an Italian language certification be useful?

You’re probably wondering what do language certifications have to do with you. Well, a lot more than you think.

Official proof of your skills

Were you capable of driving a car a few days before passing your driving licence exam? Of course you were. Still, you were not officially qualified to drive, nor legally allowed to. Hence, no one would trust you for a ride. 

Same applies to foreign languages. Maybe your family speaks Italian to you all the time, or you spent a semester abroad in Italy and learnt how to get along. But is an employer gonna trust your word for it?

Or maybe, you’ve already taken two semesters of Italian in college, which are bound to disappear into nowhere as soon as you graduate. The best way to make them count is to get an official certificate that will prove your accomplishment.

To get an Italian language certification is to achieve a purpose and to get a tangible result for your efforts.

No matter the level, a language certification is a huge personal achievement, and a great self-motivator.

 A powerful short-cut

Planning on studying at an Italian university? As you know, you will have to pass an Italian language exam. Unless, of course, you already have an official Italian language certification (B1 and above) than can prove your proficiency.

Applying for an internship or a job with an Italian company? No matter what they say, Italians will always prefer to speak Italian (rather than English) whenever they get a chance. This is why a candidate with proven knowledge of the language already has a head start.

A spark on your resumé

When recruiters read through applications, they don’t care about how long a resumé is, or how many experiences it has on it. On the contrary, a resumé full of apparently irrelevant information can easily become unappealing.  

Whether you’re a college sophomore or an executive director, the nicer your resumé, the better. 

And you know what looks great on resumés, and can easily be spotted by recruiters? A language certification, indeed. Again, if you’re applying with a company that has even the tiniest relationship with Italy, they will be thrilled to read that you have achieved an Italian language certification. It will make you (and your application) stand out from the crowd.

More than just one Italian language certification

Fun enough, only Italians, in Italy, speak Italian. 

Notwithstanding, Italian is one of the most loved and studied languages in the world. While some study Italian in an effort to reconnect with their Italian ancestors, many others simply love the language and are eager to learn it. 

That’s why Italian as a foreign language is such a huge thing in Italy and abroad. 

On one hand, there are specific university courses and masters designed for prospective teachers of Italian as a foreign language. Moreover, the certification exams to become a teacher of Italian as a foreign language (DITALS, CEDILS and DILS) become more and more challenging with time. 

On the other hand, over the years many universities and private schools have come up with their own language certificates, adding quite a bit of confusion to the mix. In response to this, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) has been working alongside the highest Italian institutions in the field of Italian as a foreign language. As a result, in February 2013 the MAE has formally announced the creation of CLIQ – Certificazione Lingua Italiana di Qualità (Quality Italian Language Certification).

The CLIQ includes only these four official language certifications:

  • CILS from Università per Stranieri di Siena
  • CELI from Università per Stranieri di Perugia
  • CERT.IT from Università di Roma Tre
  • PLIDA from Associazione Dante Alighieri

 CLIQ-recognizes certifications follow the CEFR and offer exams which are based on the 6 levels of knowledge of the language.

We started this article with a clear question: What’s the best Italian language certification? 

Now luckily, with CLIQ, we have four correct answers. In fact, these four certifications are equally valid for all official purposes, such as university enrolment.

Depending on the school you will be studying Italian at, or where you are in the world, these certifications can be more or less easily accessible.  Moreover, they offer exam dates throughout the year, so that learners with different needs can find the date that best suits them.

Make sure you always rely on a professional institution and an officially accredited exam center. For instance, The Italian Academy in Syracuse, Sicily, is an accredited center for CILS exams, in partnership with the Università per Stranieri di Siena.

Many learners from all over the world are currently taking a gap year with us, focusing on improving their Italian language skills.

Still not sure? Trust us when we say that studying Italian online with The Italian Academy Live is effective. You won’t be disappointed!