Why getting an Italian Language Certification is a great idea and how to do it

If you are a big fan of the lingua di Dante and you have already achieved a certain level of Italian, you might want to prove your worth or, maybe, set yourself a higher goal to keep your motivation high. In both cases, validating your Italian language skills through an Italian language certification is a brilliant idea.

Are you looking for a bespoken CELI or CILS exam preparation course? Click here.

Let’s start from the crucial question…

Why taking an Italian Certification is a great idea?

1 .Preparing for a CILS or CELI exam is a great motivator to continue to learn Italian consistently. Setting a goal will help you to gain a purpose.

2. Mixing business with pleasure:  you can get your Italian Language Certification in many countries worldwide and in Italy. What if you travel to the Bel Paese to sit for the exam? They take place regularly in many Italian cities, North to South.

3. You stand out in a crowd. You can use your official Italian Language Certification on your curriculum. A language certification is, in fact, an excellent tool to broaden your resume and demonstrate your level of Italian. Besides, it will come in handy if you decide to study, work or reside in Italy at some point in your life.  

4. Maybe your grandparents or great grandparents were Italian, perhaps your spouse is Italian too, and you want to apply to get the Italian dual citizenship. As for December 2018, to obtain the Italian citizenship, one needs to take an Italian language exam attesting at least, a B1 Italian language proficiency.

5. You fill the gaps. Preparing for an Italian proficiency test is the best way to tune up the whole four skills of Italian language learning: reading, speaking, listening, writing. There is always a silver lining!

6. Challenge yourself. You are not in school anymore, taking a test, without the stress that real school exams involve, can be fun. Take a chance to prove yourself. Language learning a great brain workout, after all , isn’t it?

Once you are motivated enough, you might wonder…

What are the Italian proficiency exams like?

There are several Italian language Certifications issued by universities, cultural institutions, and certified language schools in Italy and worldwide. The most known and used ones are:

  •  CELI (Italian Certification as a Foreign Language – Issued by the University for Foreigners of Perugia)
  •  CILS (Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language – Issued by the University for Foreigners of Siena )
  • PLIDA (Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language – Issued by the Dante Alighieri Society )

What is the structure of the certification exams?

Celi, Cils and Plida differ a lot depending on which level exam you are sitting for. However, all of them have a very similar format.

Each of the tests consists of four different Italian language learning areas and you will be given a specified amount of time to complete every single part.

  • reading comprehension
  • listening comprehension
  • writing expression
  • oral expression

Grammar skills will be evaluated during all of the tasks.

If you make up your mind and decide to take the test, you should figure out…

How to sign up for the exams?

You should sign up for the exam within one month from the exam. Tests take place regularly, but not very often. The timing usually depends on the level of the certification and the center. Preparing with a large advance is a good idea. Before sitting for the exam, you should, in order, take the following steps:

  • Choose the language level for which you want to be tested (remember that in Europe, we use a system called ‘CEFR,’ where language proficiency is divided into six different levels: A1, A2 (beginner levels), B1, B2 (intermediate levels), and C1, C2 (advanced levels)).
  • Choose your examination center (in Italy or in the world)
  • Choose a date
  • Register online
  • Pay for a registration fee (prices vary depending on the country)
  • Buy a preparation book or sign up for a preparation course

How to prepare for the exams?

Luckily, there is a great deal of preparation material available online to get familiar with the tests’ format. Besides self-study, you could get help from an online private tutor or join our 1o1 or 2to1 online CELI or CILS prep course. Use mock tests, which you can easily find online, or solidi preparation material. All the exams are doable if you have the correct level. Nevertheless, knowing how to deal with the format of the exams is crucial.

What level to choose?

What level to choose depends on your goal. If you need an Italian Language Certification to access university in Italy, you will need a B2 or C1. If you have an excellent command of the language, maybe you want to take your chance and try the C1 or C2. If you are a beginner learner and want to take an examination to set yourself a goal to work towards, you can sign up for an A1 or A2.

CELI and CILS in depths

In this article, I have decided to focus on the most accessible language certifications in Italy and worldwide (CELI and CILS).

Celi Certifications

The CELI was created and is issued by the University of Perugia for Foreigners. The exams take place in three annual sections (spring, summer, fall) at certified institutions, language schools or universities worldwide.

There are three types of Celi Exam:

  • CELI (the traditional one, intended for educated adults)
  • CELI for immigrants (intended for foreign citizens who immigrated to Italy and is also available for students with very little education)
  • CELI for teens (intended for youngsters aged between 13 and 17)

The most widespread one is of course the traditional CELI which comprises of six levels, adapted to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

  • CELI Impatto – level A1
  • CELI 1 – level A2
  • CELI 2 – level B1
  • CELI 2 per la Cittadinanza – level B1
  • CELI 3 – level B2
  • CELI 4 – level C1
  • CELI 5 – level C2

You should know that…

CELI 2 per la Cittadinananza (Citizenship)

If you’re eligible to apply for Italian citizenship through marriage or residency, you will be required to pass an intermediate Italian language exam and provide your language certification. If you want to learn more about the CELI for Citizenship language exam, check out this article.

CELI 3 – valid for entering Italian Universities

The Italian Ministry of Education recognizes the CELI 3 as a valid Italian Language Certification to study at University in Italy, alongside with CELI 4 and CELI 5. The CELI 2 is, instead, valid for citizenship purposes.


All the CELI exams are divided into 4 to 5 sections (depending on test level) and cover the four skills of Italian language learning (reading, listening, speaking, writing). The test comprises of multiple-choice answers, complete the gaps tests, conversation and writing.

Cils Certifications

The CILS Certification is issued by the University for Foreigners of Siena. The exams take place several times a year in Italy and at various accredited centers and universities worldwide.

The CILS comprises of six levels of increasing difficulty, recognizing various levels of Italian language proficiency. As the CELI, the CILS is designed to test students’ ability to listen to and express themselves in Italian.  

The CILS is the Italian Proficiency examination with the longest tradition (dating back to 1588) and is a valid worldwide.

It consists of four different modules: the children module, the adolescent module, the module for integration in Italy, the adult module.

  • CILS A1
  • CILS A2
  • CILS 1 – level B1
  • CILS 1 per la Cittadinanza level B1
  • CILS 2 – level B2
  • CILS 3 – level C1
  • CILS 4 – level C2

You should know that…

CILS 1 B1 per la Cittadinanza (Citizenship)

If you’re eligible to apply for Italian citizenship through marriage or residency, you will be required to pass an intermediate Italian language exam and provide your language certification. If you want to learn more about the Celi B1 for Citizenship language exam, check out this article.

CILS 2 (B2) – valid for entering Italian Universities

The Italian Ministry of Education recognizes the CILS 2 (B2), as a valid Italian Language Certification to study at University in Italy, without the usual mandatory language assessment. The CILS 1(B1) is, instead, valid for citizenship purposes.

The CILS test consists of four sections (oral, written, morphosyntactic and lexical competence, comprehension of written texts, comprehension of oral texts). The format of the exam comes into the shape of multiple choice questions, re-elaboration of texts starting from some given elements and free development of a topic.

Each part of the exam is evaluated independently: hence, to pass the test you need to succeed in each of the four sections. If you fail in one or more parts, you can retake the test on those specific sections.

Click here to read all about the specifics of the CILS exam

Suppose you are uncertain about what Italian Language Certification to earn. In that case, I think you should consider the best timing of the year and the best examination center for you, in terms of locations. Both the CELI and the CILS are official Italian certifications issued by Italian universities, which means they are valid and recognized worldwide.

The Italian B1 level for Italian duel Citizenship

The Italian B1 proficiency test is required by the Italian government to get the Italian dual citizenship application by marriage or residency.
To be eligible for Italian citizenship, as for December 2018, one must prove an intermediate knowledge of the Italian language: at least B1 level.

In other words, all applicants must take an official Italian Language Certification, attesting, at least, the B1 one level of Italian language fluency.

The CILS B1 for citizenship

The CELI 2 for citizenship

The Italian language tests for citizenship can be taken at any private or public Italian language institution providing CILS, CELI, or PILDA certifications.

Dates and Costs

To find out the dates and costs of the certifications, I recommend visiting the official websites

the University of Siena – CILS

the University for Foreigners of Perugia – CELI

the Dante Alighieri Society – PILDA


About the Author

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

Learn Italian
the smart way!

Sign up and receive the best exercises that have already helped my private clients to finally speak italiano + weekly doses of Italian!

Ciao, I'm Serena!

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

7 Romance Short Stories for Italian Language Learners