Inspect what you expect is an idiom used in business management.

Essentially, it advocates for positive leadership by giving your employees room to accomplish their assigned task, only verifying its accomplishment after completion, instead of standing over their shoulders and breathing down their necks.

If you think about it, that motto has underscored the soundtrack of our lives.

As school children, our knowledge was constantly tested after absorbing segments of curriculum.

To measure our overall academic achievements, we sat for GCSE and A Levels, didn't we?

Why should learning Italian be any different?

The best part of certifying your Italian language skills is that you will derive substantial benefit from doing so. Searching for, Italian lessons London, Manchester or Birmingham for example, can help you find a tutor to help guide you through these certifications.

Among other advantages, formally proving your mastery of the Italian language through an exam such as CILS puts a feather in your cap, and declares you adept at la lingua italiana.

The highest authorities will tell you: you must certify your language ability before applying for a job in Italy
You cannot gain entry to any university or business concern unless you present CILS certification Source: Pixabay Credit: DomyD

Why Should You Sit for CILS?

This exam is an official certification of Italian as a foreign language. Coupled with the CELI, it attests to the holder's ability to use Italian language skills.

Such a credential is vital to your future because:

  1. Any business in Italy that hires non natives requires applicants to present such certification.
  1. Any university that accepts foreign exchange students demands proof of proficiency in Italian before admission.

So, if you had intended to matriculate in Milan or semester in Sardinia, you too would be required to sit for this exam.

If you want to learn salami making from meat masters in Genoa, or should fashion strike your fancy in Firenze – Florence, you will most certainly have to be in possession of such credentials.

Other than a trip to Italy while on holiday, no matter what your undertaking in that country might be, earning your CILS certificate is the preferred official way to proclaim your skill.

CILS is recognised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

By obtaining such an attestation, what might have started out as a dalliance with a romance language has turned into a serious, life-altering affair for you.

What does CILS Stand for?

Short answer:

CILS is a means of proving a non native Italian person's skill in reading, writing and speaking the language.

More detailed answer:

CILS stands for Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera, literally: Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language.

It is a standardised exam for language learners to demonstrate their grasp of Italian grammar and vocabulary prior to studying, seeking work or engaging in any type of business or partnership in Italy.

CILS is not intended to motivate people to learn Italian as a vocation. Its purpose is to map learners' step as they progress toward mastery of the language.

To sit for this test of language ability, you need no proof of formal language training or diploma.

You only need be aware of how well you know words and phrases, how well you conjugate verbs – even irregular verbs, and your familiarity with Italian grammar.

Concisely said, CILS answers the question: to what degree of fluency can you use the language of Dante?

We will talk about those degrees in just a moment.

In the meantime, we present a statistic that should awe you:

Throughout the world and in the country that looks like a boot, more than one hundred thousand people have sat for, and succeeded at CILS since its inception, in 1993.

Be one of the qualifieds who has passed CILS
Join the legions who have passed CILS! Source: Pixabay Credit: Skeeze

Progressing Through CILS

The different levels of CILS certification are in line with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFRL.

Each of the six levels denotes a specific depth of language learning. Although structured progressively, each tier is completely autonomous.

You do not have to sit for the lowest level exam if you know you can speak more than basic Italian, for example.

Unlike the American TOEFL, which certifies a working knowledge of English – but is not specific about degree of mastery, CILS breaks language competence into six ranks.

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 how to 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 a 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.

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 proposed by the proctor – 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 of 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 test comprises of dissecting long, complex texts and rapid-fire dialogue, the expectation being that there will be no stalling or searching for appropriate words in responses.

Appropriate usage 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 stress for the context, as well as 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.

With these language capabilities, the test-taker 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 of the six language levels, you can see the importance of correctly assessing one's ability.

Testing lower than your ability might give you bragging rights, but testing too high could crush your ambition, as well as cost you a sizable sum.

To determine exactly where you are in your Italian studies, make the best progress and test successfully, you might employ an Italian language teacher for private lessons.

You might also investigate the PLIDA or CIC.

Talk with your language teacher about what to expect with CILS
To help prepare for CILS, you might ask your Italian instructor what to expect Source: PIxabay Credit: Ann McDon

What sitting for CILS Involves

Thinking back on our most critical exams: even though we studied till our eyes ached, we still were not prepared for exactly how those analyses of our knowledge would unfurl.

To save you that stress, we now go through CILS, step by step.

As previously stated, each of these levels are progressive, yet they remain independent of each other.

Nevertheless, they all have roughly the same structure – broadly divided into Oral and Written categories, and cover the same objectives:

  • Writing skills: demonstrated by composing an essay. The higher the level, the more complex the topic and the more involved it dissertation is expected to be.
  • Reading skills: measured through conversation over the assigned reading
  • Speaking skills are measured in the course of these discussions, as are...
  • Listening skills, which also include questions launched by a proctor.
  • Analysis of communications structures: word order, choice of words, verb tenses used, adjective and adverb use, among others.

For levels A1 and -2, maximum points top out at 60; for the more advanced language levels the ceiling is set at 100 points.

The two categories – oral and written are each allotted a specific amount of time, which increases as the examinee progresses through the levels:

LevelWritten PortionOral Portion
A11h 45mins to 2h 15mins10 min
A22h 5mins to 2h 45mins10 min
B13h 40mins10 min
B23h 45mins10 min
C14h 40mins15 min
C23h 45mins15 min

How do You Register for CILS?

To formally declare yourself for the exam, you must address yourself to any of the agencies affiliated with the University of Siena, which spearheads this certification process.

Such offices abound in the UK! You can address yourself to the Institute of Italian Culture, or apply through any commercial concern.

You could also ask your Italian course instructor for the best way to register!  

The prices listed below are from Happy Languages, and all include value added tax.

  • A1: £53, and £18 for each exam part to be repeated
  • A2: £53, and £18 for each exam part to be repeated
  • B1 (CILS Uno): £119, and £29 for each exam part to be repeated
  • B2 (CILS Due): £140, and £32 for each exam part to be repeated
  • C1 (CILS Tre): £179, and £40 for each exam part to be repeated
  • C2 (CILS Quattro): £212, and £47 for each exam part to be repeated

To register, you will need to properly fill out the required registration form, and send it in, along with a photocopy of valid identification and a cheque for the designated amount.

If you are applying for a retake of any exam portion, you should specify, on the application form, what level, and which portion: written or oral.

Provided you have listed your email, you will receive electronic notification of exam dates and times, along with what to bring to your exam, and other helpful hints.

To Summarise

Not everyone has a concrete objective when learning a new language.

Should you have a purpose to your Italian lessons – be it a love of romance languages or the hope of attending any of the renown schools in Italy, certifying your ability is always a resounding idea.

CILS is the perfect vehicle to demonstrate your knowledge of Italian language and culture, with the added benefit that such a certification is recognised by all Italian businesses, colleges and even the government.

Before registering for this exam, it would be best to:

  • take an Italian language course, if only to confirm your Italian speaking ability and comprehension
    • You may also consider engaging in Italian culture while still at home, or even plan an Italian holiday, to make proper use of your Italian learning
  • Practice Italian online: if you have a phrasebook replete with Italian phrases, idioms or favorite words, you could make use of them either with an app, or through a language exchange website.
    • You should hone your Italian vocabulary every day, if only through reading out loud.
  • Don't forget the audio portion! To expose yourself to maximum Italian pronunciation, watching movies, listening to music and even catching radio broadcasts is the most entertaining way to do it.

Learning a language is a multi-faceted endeavour that can last for years.

Shouldn't you have something to show for all of that work learning Italian for beginners to fluency?

Whether learn Italian online, or you learn to speak Italian in a language school, the return on your investment should be a formally recognised certification.

Your CILS is silent testimony to your learning experience.

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.

Need an Italian teacher?

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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.