The Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language (CILS) is the official title that denotes the degree of linguistic competency of Italian as a foreign language. The CILS is awarded by the University of Siena for Foreigners and is recognised by the Italian State on the basis of an agreement with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The CILS covers four levels: ONE, TWO, THREE and FOUR. Each of these represents a progressively higher level of linguistic and communicative ability. Each CILS level is autonomous and complete: the certification for each level represents a degree of communicative ability which is adequate for specific social, professional and scholastic contexts.
To obtain the Certificate in one of the four levels, it is necessary to pass an exam composed of five sections with tests in listening comprehension, reading comprehension, analyses of the structures of communication, writing skills and speaking skills.
All foreign citizens, Italian citizens residing abroad (descendants of Italian emigrants) and foreign immigrants in Italy may request to take the CILS exam. There are no age limits and applicants are not obliged to possess educational certificates or degrees, nor is it necessary to have obtained lower levels of the CILS in order to attempt the attainment of a higher level. The CILS exams are not bound to the study of specific methods or forms of Italian language courses. Each candidate can prepare for the CILS exams in the ways deemed most appropriate and suitable in accordance with the demands of the level.
The CILS is useful to those who study Italian, who work and study within an Italian context, and to those who wish to measure their capacity in Italian. Each CILS level denotes an ability to communicate which may be used in different contexts and situations. The ability of each level of certification for foreigners who wish to undertake activities in relation with Italian institutions for professional or scholastic purposes is established in the document of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs entitled "Coordinated system of Certificates of Italian for Foreigners", Rome 1998.
Level ONE denotes the ability to communicate in daily situations.
Level TWO allows holders to enrol in Italian universities without the obligation of taking the pre-entry language proficiency test.
Foreign students with a Level THREE or Level FOUR certificate may obtain extra points on University admission lists. At the University of Siena for Foreigners, the Level THREE is a requisite for enrolling in the Advanced Courses in Italian Language and Culture, Courses in Italian Language and Didactics for Teachers and Advanced Courses in Italian Literature and Art History.
Level FOUR enables holders to enrol in the Advanced Course in Didactics for Teaching Italian to Foreigners and in the School of Specialisation in the Didactics of Italian as a Foreign Language. Level FOUR denotes the communication skills that a foreigner should possess in order to use the Italian language in the professional world. For example, it is the level necessary to teach Italian as an L2. Many Italian companies that work abroad or that wish to hire foreigners, or foreign companies that do business with Italy, require that their employees possess a CILS certificate, in accordance with the work they are required to perform. For example, Level TWO is accepted as the minimum level of competence required by the Italian Railway Company for employees involved in security.
Exams and scores
All exams are produced and evaluated by the Certification Centre of the University of Siena for Foreigners on the basis of European standards set by the Council of Europe. Each of the five sections is worth 20 points, and in each section it is necessary to score at least 11 points. The highest total score possible is 100 points, and the lowest passing score is 55 points. Candidates must obtain at least the minimum score in each section to be awarded the CILS. If a candidate obtains the minimum score in only some sections, then the candidate may take subsequent exams in those sections in which he or she had not obtained the minimum score. The sections of the exam that have been passed are valid for one year from the date of the first exam.
Sites and dates of the exams. Outside of Italy, the exam may be taken at Italian Institutes of Culture as well as at other selected venues. In Italy, the exam takes place at the University of Siena for Foreigners and in other selected sites (at the Centri Territoriali di Educazione Permanente in Tuscany and in other regions, at the Language Centres of certain universities, etc.).