The TCF ANF language test is now behind me, and I hope for good! (In case you missed my last post, TCF ANF stands for Test de connaisance du français à l’acquistion de la nationalité française.)
Last Wednesday saw me hovering nervously outside the CNAM building in Limoges. Son Benjamin was hovering with me, but without the butterflies in his stomach. Very conveniently Benj’s flat is at one end of Rue François Perrin and CNAM is at the other, so I had a handy base. It was tiring enough as it was but if I’d been having to drive to Limoges, find parking and coffee, take the exam and then drive all the way home again straight after it would have completely flattened me. As it was, I dropped Benj home after his few days at the ancestral home, had tea (and buns from the very convenient supermarket) and had a companion as I headed to meet my doom.
We ended up hovering for quite a while. We pressed the CNAM (Conservatorie National des Arts et Metiers) button on the intercom next to the locked door of the building a good half dozen times without any response. Fortunately someone came out of the building, allowing us to nip in, or we could still be there.
Up on the second floor in the CNAM department it was like the Marie Celeste. There was just one other chap lurking by the desk with the sign ‘TCF merci de patienter ici’ (TCF please wait here), or words to that effect. The intercom behind the deserted reception desk buzzed a number of times, the video screen revealing other nervous-looking test candidates. Like we’d done, they eventually managed to gain entry one way or another.
A lady appeared and summoned the lurking guy. He disappeared off down the corridor. It would be my turn in quarter of an hour. I paced around, suddenly feeling very anxious. I’d been revising hard for about six weeks, taking various online tests and doing a MOOC that looked relevant, not to mention watching more French TV than is good for anyone! However, I felt woefully unprepared.
Benj stayed with me, bless him, until I was called in. I trotted down the corridor behind the examiner to a room right at the end. And so the test began.
The examiner was very pleasant and very calming. She explained what we would be doing, which I knew from my preparation, but it didn’t hurt to hear it again. She put a small recording device in front of me, and also her phone to act as a timer. The examiner would be grading us herself, and then sending her results and the recordings to CIEP (Centre Internationale d’Etudes Pédagogigues) which administers the TCF on behalf of the French Ministry of Education. They would get a second listening-to there.
First of all I had to talk about myself for two minutes. This is a fairly common way to start the exam so I’d been mulling over what I’d say and was quite confident about it. I went over the two minutes so she politely brought that section to an end. I hoped saying too much was better than not saying enough!
Next up, after two minutes’ preparation, I had to ask her questions about Limoges. I was visiting it for the first time and wanted to find out what I should see and so forth. Again, I found plenty to say and it seemed to go as well as I could hope.
The last part was more difficult. This was four and a half minutes of me giving me views on why moving abroad is a beneficial thing to do. I fear I blathered a bit and went in circles, but I kept up my monologue for the requisite amount of time, hopefully without mangling the French language too badly.
The first part of the exam, oral expression, was over.
Twenty-five minutes later the second part began. By now more people had gathered in the lobby, and in total there were eight of us taking our TCF ANF that day. We all trouped after the examiner to the same room we’d been in earlier, and looked for the desk that had been allocated to us each. I was at the back of the room, something which I was a little perturbed about as general advice I’d come across online was to sit near the front for the oral comprehension section so that you could hear properly. However, it turned out that I had nothing to worry about as the exam tape was played nice and loud.
Awaiting us on our desks were an answer sheet and a question booklet. The examiner explained how to use both. The first six questions of the exam presented us with a statement followed by the four possible answers to choose from on the tape. From question seven onwards we only got the questions on the tape: we had to read the answers in the booklet and choose the correct one, or, as in a few cases for me, the one that appeared to look the least wrong! Since the same exam is used to evaluate candidates whose language level ranges from A1 (beginner) to C2 (practically native) then there were always going to be some questions that I’d struggled with. As it turned out only one eluded me completely and so that answer was 100% guesswork. The others at least had an element, however small, of educated guesswork about them.
It’s now a waiting game for the results, which we were told we’d get in roughly two weeks. That could mean anything from ten days to a month in French speak, so I shall do my best to forget about it until the dreaded envelope arrives!
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