Current statistics count more than seventy million native speakers of Italian.

Further tallies indicate that more than one hundred twenty five million people claim Italian as a second language.

Do you want to be among that number? Certify your Italian skills.

If so, you should know about the PLIDA: Progetto Lingua Italiana Dante Alighieri.

In English, that would be: Italian Language Project Dante Alighieri.

PLIDA is a language certification program attesting to your competence and degree of mastery of Italian as a second language.

On the surface, PLIDA bears great similarity to CILS and CELI, most notably in the structure of language competence levels, from A1 to C2.

One distinguishing difference is with the institution that administers each programme.

CILS is sponsored by the University of Siena.

CELI is the brainchild of the University of Perugia.

PLIDA is the exclusive purview of the Società Dante Alighieri, or The Dante Alighieri Society.

Let us now find out everything we can about sitting for (and passing!) PLIDA.

What is PLIDA, Exactly?

Before you question its worth – as opposed to certificates of fluency from formal houses of learning, you should know that the Dante Alighieri Society was convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1889.

Outside of that government regulatory body, PLIDA certification is formally recognised by numerous entities in Italy, including the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Education; institutes of higher learning as well as research facilities.

Clearly, PLIDA carries substantial weight!

Whether your aim is to enroll at the University of Rome as an exchange student, or start your career in fashion in Florence, PLIDA is THE distinguishing factor on your resume, possibly serving as the deciding factor for admission.

Even better: attaining a Level B2 or C1 PLIDA certification entitles you to enroll with the Italian university of your choice without having to prove your language ability through their in-house exam.

You should check with your target university's admissions office, because some institutes accept B2 while others insist on C1.

The European student exchange program, Erasmus, requires potential enrollees to present a B2 level certification before matriculating anywhere, just as an example.

Find and start taking Italian classes Edinburgh.

Testing for a lower level than your ability is not a good idea
We recommend you test for your actual level of Italian language ability! Source: Pixabay Credit: Michael Gaida

Variations of PLIDA

As with CILS, the Italian Language Project exam comprises of six levels, all independent of one another.

These competency levels were established by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CECRL (acronym derived from the French language).

You do not have to take the basic Italian exam (A1) if you can speak Italian at intermediate level, for example.

Of course, if you test successfully at Level C2, indicating mastery, clearly you know how to conjugate irregular verbs and all about Italian grammar, and no further testing would be required.

It is vital to test at the level that corresponds to your actual Italian speaking abilities.

Sitting for a test level lower than your abilities with the language will give you bragging rights, but does not accurately reflect how much you've learned from your Italian lessons.

An excellent score on the B2 bears less import than a moderate to good score on the C1.

PLIDA differs from other certifying Italian language exams because it offers versions for specific target audiences.

Junior PLIDA

This assessment is meant for non native Italian speakers aged 13 to 18.

Formulated for adolescents, the topics included in this exam range from school and learning experience to family life and pastimes.

Proctors tend to be less formal in their interview methods for the spoken Italian portion of the exam, ever-mindful of not exacerbating the stress young linguists may labour under.

Teenage test takers may elect to test for Levels A1 to C1.

Business PLIDA

This exam is targeted to anyone in finance, commerce or industry, who might have dealings with such concerns in Italy or engage regularly with Italian counterparts.

Here again, test topics are selected based on the population that would sit for this exam.

Thus, any candidate may be exposed to writing in Italian about the economy, manufacturing or retail practices regardless of what his business environment actually is.

Professionals taking this test have the option of testing at B1, B2, and C1 levels.

Evaluation Criteria

Although each of PLIDA's six levels are independent of one another, they are all structured in the same way, and address each of language learning's four main areas:

  • Speaking skills
  • Listening skills
  • Reading skills
  • Writing skills

These four language categories are organised into two broad areas: oral – which encompass listening and spoken Italian; and written, which cover the remaining two.

PLIDA administrators understand that the ability to express oneself, to communicate and to comprehend, happens incrementally.

Learning to speak Italian; grasping the nuances of language and culture: all of these can be proven in stages, as follows.

Level A1

This is the test for those who have just started their language courses.

The exam comprises of vocabulary used in everyday Italian. The proctor would use simple terms and speak Italian slowly, to give the candidate every chance to demonstrate understanding of spoken Italian.

Italian learners should be able to construct simple sentences, describing where s/he lives, family members, and buying food at the grocer's, using only Italian words.

Level A2

This low to mid-intermediate level test measures conversational Italian ability, as well as the grasp of grammar fundamentals.

Word order and using the correct verb tense are benchmarks of mastery for this exam.

Gender assignment for nouns and using the proper pronoun in context are also considered.

The candidate would demonstrate the ability to exchange simple information – ordering food in a restaurant, for example, or asking directions.

If you can order food in a restaurant, you could qualify for PLIDA level A2
At Level A2, you should be able to order a meal in any restaurant in Italy! Source: PIxabay Credit: Joshuemd

Level B1

A learner sitting for B1 – the mid- to high-intermediate exam, would be required to understand key points of Italian conversation, without necessarily grasping every detail of the exchange.

S/he should be able to recount experiences at school or university, talk about hobbies or even work-related issues.

Coherent narratives over specified subjects, albeit related in simplistic terms is the objective for this level of Italian.

Level B2

This certification attests to the candidate's ability to grasp relatively complex information, and render opinions on any given subject according to the proctor's prompt, who should be a native speaker of Italian.

At this advanced intermediate level, those speaking Italian as a second language would have an expanded knowledge base, both of the culture and language nuance, to include the more common regional dialects.

Standard Italian, based on the Tuscan dialect, features prominently, but the examinee may also need to understand the Florentine dialect, or the speech patterns of Rome, for example.

Level C1

Testing at this point suggests that the candidate is fluent in Italian and has assimilated a measure of culture and history.

The exam comprises of dissecting long, complex texts and of rapid-fire dialogue, the expectation being that there will be no stalling or searching for appropriate words.

Correct use of idioms or popular expressions in Italian are used to measure the degree of the candidate's cultural integration.

Verbal and non-verbal communication will be assessed.

That latter includes: proper tone and inflection for the context, body language and other signals that indicate control of the discussion in proportion to the proctor's input.

Level C2

Here, the non native speaker certifies mastery of the Italian language at or near native speaker level.

With these language capabilities, the examinee could argue anything from complex social issues to technical matters.

Topics addressed in this exam may include the history of Italian art, or the impact of religion on modern Italian society.

From this breakdown you can see the importance of correctly assessing one's language level.

Considering the diversity of these stages, you may wonder whether a candidate testing at B1 would sit for the same amount of time as a C2 examinee.

PLIDA exams are carefully timed
How much time you are allotted for each exam depends on the level you sit for Source: Pixabay Credit MonikaW

In fact, the timetable for each ordeal is:

Exam Listening   Reading   Writing   Speaking   Total

A1      35 mins      30 mins   40 mins   10 mins     1h55

A2      25 mins     30 mins   40 mins   10 mins     1h45

B1      35 mins      30 mins   50 mins   10 mins    2h05

B2      35 mins     30 mins   50 mins   10 mins    2h05

C1      35 mins      45 mins   90 mins   15 mins    3h05

C2     40 mins      45 mins   135 mins  15 mins    3h55


Whereas the timing for each level is slightly different (save for the B stage), scoring remains the same across all levels.

Any candidate can achieve a maximum of thirty (30) points on each of the four portions, with the bar set at eighteen (18) for passing.

Should you attain a score over 18 on three of the four areas, your passing scores would remain valid.

You would only have to retake the exam segment that was found to be insufficiently proven.

How to Prepare for PLIDA

As you learn French, as you learn Russian; as you learn Korean or Arabic, so it is with learning Italian.

Learning any foreign language requires time and effort.

Before taking any proficiency exam, you should maximise your chances of earning high marks by taking a preparatory course that focuses exclusively on the standards of this assessment.

There are several ways to do that.

The Dante Alighieri School in Siena offers an intensive immersion program that lasts two weeks.

As a student there, you would enjoy three hour-long lessons per day, Monday through Friday, for a total of thirty lessons.

Of particular mention: these preparatory language lessons are held in small groups, of no more than five students per session.

The cost for these concentrated Italian lessons is750.00, plus the cost of a trip to Italy.

Nowhere in the UK is this type of tutelage offered for Italian language courses.

Well, that is not exactly true.

You could engage a private tutor; one who may employ such immersive tactics.

If you live in the Manchester area, you could address yourself to the Dante Alighieri Society on the University of Manchester campus.

They offer weekly preparatory courses for all levels of PLIDA. If you live elsewhere in the UK, you could request their help online; they do support distance learning.

On the other hand, if you are willing to take Italian courses online, you could surely find all manner of apps and chat partners that can further your ability and confidence in speaking this romance language.

You may even get lucky and find free Italian lessons!

Think of how your Italian pronunciation and comprehension would improve, conversing with native Italian speakers online!

You could travel to Italy to sit for PLIDA, or take it in the UK
There are three PLIDA testing centers in the UK Source: Pixabay Credit: Pexels

Where Can You Sit for PLIDA?

Any official centre recognized for the administration of the PLIDA complies with directives of the Dante Alighieri Society in Rome, even though each centre operate autonomously.

Dante Alighieri Society is therefore recognized as the official coordinator of the PLIDA exams.

Their partnership with the Sapienza University of Rome ensures delivery of the most academically superior, culturally relevant and up-to-date test materials possible.

If you are already in Italy, you could sit for the exam in Pisa, Turin, Milan or Tuscany... just to name a few of the more famous cities.

Should a sojourn in Italy not be on your horizon – and you're not there already, you could sit for PLIDA at any of UK's three approved testing locations:

  • University of Manchester
  • Cambridge
  • Exeter University.

Please check here for the most recent updates to the testing schedule, for all locations, worldwide.

As for cost: all rates are set by the Dante Alighieri Society as follows.

Both A level exams cost €65.

Level B1 € 85

Level B2 € 95

Levels C1 and C2 € 135

An additional €15 is attached to your testing fee to provide you with one year's membership in the Dante Society.

Considering the benefits and advantages this relationship brings you, we may consider that money well spent!

To Sum it All Up

Your ability to speak Italian will be recognised at the highest levels of government and academia in Italy, meaning you can pursue your higher education at the university of your choice, from Naples to Sardinia.

Furthermore, you can let go of any worries over working in Italy, or forming any business partnerships with native Italians.

After demonstrating proper use of Italian vocabulary, you will be in full compliance with the laws regarding foreign transactions.

Earning PLIDA certification, at any level, translates to official validation of one's Italian language skills.

It is vital to test at your level, rather than too high or too low.

Besides the obvious money factor, a certification mismatched to your true abilities will, in the end, hamper your efforts and momentum, rather than help them.

Taking a PLIDA prep course would serve you well in determining your level – how well you know Italian words and phrases.

Another reason for taking such a class would be to speak more fluently, and gain greater exposure to Italian audio.

These preparatory classes are designed to reflect the most current exam standards, which means that you will gain exposure to mock tests and perhaps even the exam proctors, who may function as tutors when no exams are scheduled.

No matter which way you slice it, certifying your Italian learning through PLIDA will only bring you beneficio.

Dai, caro!

Consider taking DITALS: Didattica dell'italiano come lingua straniera. A pair of exams meant for non native speakers who intend to teach Italian as a foreign language. Or the CICCertificato dell'Italiana Commerciale – in English: Certificate of Commercial Italian.

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.