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Portuguese Language Tests for PhD Study

by Dr Nathalie Mather-L'Huillier

There are two main certifications of Portuguese language proficiency. One awarded by CAPLE - Centre for Evaluation of Portuguese Language (Centro de Avaliação de Português Língua Estrangeira) in Portugal and one by the Brazilian authorities, the CELPE-BRAS. The CELPE-BRAS is the only Portuguese as a foreign language proficiency test recognised by the Brazilian Ministry of Education.

European Portuguese

The official tests and certificates for Portuguese language are delivered and accredited by a tri-partite collaboration in Portugal between the Department for Education, the University of Lisbon and the Camões Institute which administers the exam procedures on behalf of the Foreign office.

There are five diplomas of Portuguese as a Foreign Language, each of them representing a different level of proficiency:

  • CIPLE – Certificado Inicial de Português Língua Estrangeira
  • DEPLE – Diploma Elementar de Português Língua Estrangeira
  • DIPLE – Diploma Intermédio de Português Língua Estrangeira
  • DAPLE – Diploma Avançado de Português Língua Estrangeira
  • DUPLE – Diploma Universitário de Português Língua Estrangeira

Just like the tests of French and Spanish you do not get a score. The highest level of diplomas you obtain will determine your proficiency level. If you are applying to study in Portugal or in other Portuguese-speaking countries, you are most likely to require a DAPLE or DUPLE. These levels are also within the CEFRL so check the table below to get an idea of the equivalences in other languages.

You will be tested in the main four linguistic skills which are divided into:

  • Reading
  • Written expression
  • Syntaxic competence
  • Oral comprehension
  • Oral expression

The DIPLE takes three hours 35 minutes while the DAPLE exam lasts four hours 30 minutes. Exams are hosted three times a year in May, July and November.

You can find out more about these tests, here.

Brazilian Portuguese

CELPE-Bras (Certificado de Proficiência em Língua Portuguesa para Estrangeiros or Certificate of Proficiency in Portuguese for Foreigners) is the official certificate of proficiency in Brazilian Portuguese developed and awarded by the Brazilian Ministry of Education. In Brazil, the certificate is mandatory when applying for programs of study in Brazilian Universities. Private sector organisations in Brazil also recognise it.

The exam takes place twice a year in April and October and you can register online. The registration fee is currently around 90 but it will vary according to the test centre and its location.

Unlike the CAPLE system (see above), the test is more aligned with the IELTS or TOEFL system in that only one exam is taken and it determines your proficiency level: intermediate, upper intermediate, advanced, and upper advanced. The exam consists of two parts:

  • A written test which takes two hours 30 minutes
    • Two exercises which combine listening (audio or video) and written skills
    • Two exercises which combine reading and written skills
  • A 20-minute oral evaluation

You can find more information on this Portuguese website.

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