Characteristics of the Italian CILS A1 exam (level A1)

 If you want to certify your knowledge of Italian with an official diploma, the degrees from the University for Foreigners of Siena, CILS, are the ideal option. It is a certificate that can open doors for you in the work and academic world by demonstrating your knowledge of Italian at different levels. In today's article, we explain what the CILS Italian certification consists of and everything you should take into account if you have an initial level A1 and want to obtain your CILS A1 diploma.

 What exactly is the CILS certificate?

 It is an officially recognized title that certifies the level of linguistic-communicative competence in Italian as L2, a foreign language. The CILS certification is the first Italian certification that has adopted the system of six levels of linguistic-communicative competence proposed by the Common European Framework of Reference of the Council of Europe, which has created specific certification modules for workers of foreign origin in Italy. The CILS Center is an institutional member of EALTA (European Language Testing Association) and an affiliate member of ALTE (Association of Language Testers in Europe). These are two associations that aim to promote knowledge of language tests and assessments in Europe. With these affiliations, the CILS Center is committed to guaranteeing ethical management of the evaluation process to all those involved. In 2004, CILS obtained an important recognition, the European Language Label, a quality certificate that rewards the most important and innovative projects in the field of language teaching. The award was given to the CILS A1 and A2 certification modules for integration in Italy.

 Who can take the CILS A1 Italian level exam?

 This test can be taken by all those who study Italian, work and study in contact with Italian reality, wish to obtain long residence permits or want their Italian skills to be measured. The CILS certification tests are not tied to particular methods or types of language courses: each candidate can prepare for the CILS certification exams in the way they consider most appropriate. To take the CILS certification exams it is not necessary to have special qualifications, but only a knowledge of the Italian language corresponding to the parameters indicated for each CILS level. Well-founded general cognitive skills are required, sufficient language skills in your own language, knowledge of the Latin alphabet.

Although there are different options to obtain an official certification of Italian as a second language, the University of Siena recommends the CILS qualification because:

  • It guarantees the correct evaluation of one's own competence in Italian as a foreign language, according to valid and safe criteria.

  • It is chosen every year by thousands of foreigners, young people, and adults, in Italy and in the world, who want to integrate into the world of work and study, enroll in an Italian university, teach Italian or prove their level of competence in other areas of use in which it is required.

  • It takes place in carefully selected examination sites, which conform to the permanently controlled quality and transparency criteria.

If you need to obtain the A1 level certificate, you must take into account, therefore, that you must have already acquired the knowledge for that level. It is essential that you can develop the fundamental skills of A1 level of Italian.


Structure of the CILS A1 exam test:


Each CILS exam proposes tasks that are related to real-life situations to assess the candidate's ability to use language in different contexts of communicative interaction. The tests measure all language and communication skills: —Listening; —Reading comprehension; —Written production; —Oral production; —The ability to manage communication structures in Italian. Regarding the types of tests, CILS offers both objective tests and semi-open tests, as well as open and thematic tests in a balanced way. In this way, candidates have the opportunity to show their linguistic-communicative competence through differentiated services. In the following table you have specified the duration of the test with the time that each of the parts that comprise it last:







It may be interesting that you read it so you can see how the whole procedure unfolds.

How to prepare for the CILS A1 exam on your own:


— If you plan to prepare for the exam on your own, the first thing you have to do is make sure that you have the level required to take the test, in this case it is level A1;


— Look at the different parts of the exam and from here get an idea of 鈥嬧媏verything you have to work on to pass the exam. Create a weekly work schedule, in which you distribute the time you really have to dedicate to this project and the different tests. It is essential that every week you work on everything.


— It would be an excellent idea to keep in touch with native speakers, as this will allow you to acquire greater fluency, practice, and accent as well as vocabulary and structures that you may not be able to obtain by studying alone. Currently, you have many possibilities of contact with people from anywhere in the world, use the Internet to your advantage;


— Another important idea to keep in mind is to find groups or people who are also preparing for the test. That can help you connect with people who are like you, to resolve doubts and help each other;


— The University of Siena makes the following link available to all those interested in taking CILS A1.

This is a sample of an exam so that the preparation follows a specific objective and course. It is essential that you work with this material.


— To help all those interested in taking this exam and who are preparing on their own, the University of Siena makes the following guide available, with all the information that you can consult and follow in the form of basic advice.

Recommended material to prepare the different tests


  1. Oral comprehension: it is essential that you practice direct listening to native speakers, that can help you a lot. For this we are going to propose material that can help you:


— In the following link you will find films in Italian, all recommended for level A1, with which you can practice listening. In the following links, you will find direct material from previous exams, from 2014, exactly from the listening test, which can come in handy to practice.  B)

Text comprehension: the only thing you can do to prepare for this test is read. Take texts from newspapers, magazines related to the topics that you know they can ask you and, especially, read books of level A1 of Italian so that you become familiar with them and master structures and the maximum possible vocabulary. To practice a lot, we advise you to review the following list with reading books adapted to the required level, therefore they can be used to take the CILS A1 test.

Production of written texts: it is essential that you write, that you redact. Take a good look at the exam model and the guides proposed by the University of Siena. When you are clear about the tests you have to face, work by that guideline; the goal is to be as well prepared as possible for that particular test; D) Oral expression: it is about speaking, if possible with native speakers; practice will ensure success. You must make the effort and make the most of all the vocabulary that you have acquired in your readings or in your series, songs, movies. This will help you to converse more richly and fluently.

Books to prepare for the CILS A1 exam

To prepare the test directly you have the following books:

—If you take the exam outside of Italy, the University of Siena recommends.

—If you take the exam at any location in Italy.

—In addition, we remind you of this list of books to work on the General level A1 of Italian, which will surely be useful for you. And this other.

Test scores

All exam tests are centrally assessed in the CILS Certification Center, which has developed the criteria for evaluating skills and the various types of tests, and the relative method for scoring. The decision to evaluate all the tests under the direct control of the CILS Center, including the oral production tests, which are specifically recorded in audio during the exam, represents a guarantee of impartiality for the candidates. In this way, all are subject to homogeneous treatment and reliable evaluation. The evaluation is administered by specially trained evaluators on an ongoing basis, sharing the CILS philosophy, criteria, and application options through ongoing comparison and discussion. The evaluation of oral production tests at the various exam sites Also carried out through precise grids given to the evaluators, It does not seem to guarantee the use of evaluation criteria and similar points by all and, therefore, their homogeneity and reliability. Explanation, exchange, coherence, discussion of criteria and choices is considered the only way, to date, to at least limit the influence of subjectivity in the judgment. The overall score is 60 at level A1. Each skill gets its own score (variable from 0 to 20). To achieve the CILS certification it is necessary to reach the proficiency threshold in each of the skills that make up the exam. Candidates who are not proficient in all skills are awarded a certificate indicating passed and unsuccessful skills. The certificate can be saved in subsequent certification exams. Skills in which the proficiency threshold has been reached can be maintained for up to 18 months. The candidate can only come forward to support skills in which they have failed. The results of the CILS exams are communicated to the venues and candidates within 3 months of the exam date. 


Registration for the next CILS A1 tests

To prepare for your exam and control when you can take the exam, the following link has all the next exam dates posted.