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PhD Italian language tests

There are two tests, both internationally-recognised, which demonstrate your competencies in the Italian language: Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera (CILS) and Certificato di Conoscenza della Lingua Italiana (CELI). CILS is administered by the Università per Stranieri di Siena (The Foreigners’ university of Siena) and is accredited by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while CELI is administered by the Università per Stranieri di Perugia (The Foreigners’ university of Perugia) and is accredited by both the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education and Research.

For both tests and similarly to the French DELF/DALF and Spanish DELE, there is no score; your level of proficiency is reflected by the highest level of diploma you hold.

Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera (CILS)

CILS is divided into four levels:

  • Beginner (CILS Uno; equivalent to CEFLR B1).
  • Elementary (CILS Due; equivalent to CEFLR B2).
  • Intermediate (CILS Trè; equivalent to CEFLR C1).
  • Advanced (CILS Quattro; equivalent to CEFLR C2).

The CILS exams evaluates and consists of five parts:

  • Listening test.
  • Reading comprehension.
  • Use of the Italian language or metalanguage (According to Wikipedia: the language used to make statements about statements in another language).
  • Written test.
  • Speaking test.

Certificato di Conoscenza della Lingua Italiana (CELI)

CELI is an alternative exam which consists of five language proficiency tests designed to evaluate Italian proficiency in non-native speakers.

CELI has three levels:

  • CELI Uno.
  • CELI Due .
  • CELI Trè.

Except for CELI Uno, which is a simple pass or fail, different grades are given (A, B, C are pass grades). The test consists of four sections: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.


Both CILS and CELI exams are regulated by their parent institutions (Siena and Perugia, respectively). Examination centres, certified by the two institutions, can be found all over the world.

CILS exams are normally hosted in June and December and CELI exams are available throughout the year depending on which country you sit the exam. As a general rule, the higher the level you take, the longer the exam (up to five and a half hours for CILS Quattro).

You will have to pay a registration fee which varies from centre to centre.

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