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CILS Certification Examinations

COVID-19 Update: Next CILS examination session scheduled for May / June 2022

Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation, temporary suspension of face-to-face assessment at Durham, and the obligations we have in our core role as a University, we are unable to offer CILS examinations in 2021. 

We are currently planning to hold our next CILS examination session in late May / early June 2022. Further details will be released in due course. If you would like to be added to a contact list to receive updates on this, please contact

Please note that you may still be able to sit an examination this year at another centre. We cannot however provide any advice as to possible alternatives due to the present situation nationally and internationally.


Durham University is an accredited centre for the CILS examinations.

The CILS Exam (Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera, Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language) is a proficiency examination to prove competence in the Italian language. The CILS certificates are official recognitions of the attained level of linguistic competence of Italian as a foreign language. As a certificate of proficiency, the exam can be taken at every level of competence, from Beginners to Advanced.

The Università per Stranieri di Siena is responsible for the exam papers, has established the competences standards in accordance to the European Framework for languages, and sets the dates of examination.

Further Information

Students or staff at Durham University are asked to register with their university email address.

For any questions, please contact Mark Critchley.

Mark Critchley - Director, Centre for Foreign Language Study, School of Modern Languages & Cultures, Elvet Riverside, New Elvet, Durham, DH1 3JT, UK.

How does CILS work?

For each level the CILS exams consist of five parts:

  • Listening test
  • Reading comprehension
  • Use of the Italian language
  • Written test
  • Speaking test

Levels - Common European Framework

Each CILS level denotes an ability to communicate which may be used in different contexts and situations.

The Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera covers six levels: Level A1, Level A2, Level ONE-B1, Level TWO-B2, Level THREE-C1 and Level FOUR-C2. Each of these represents a progressively higher level of linguistic - grammar, syntax, vocabulary - and communicative ability.

The examinations are aligned to the common reference levels of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

Why the CILS

  • CILS Certifications are internationally recognised
  • The CILS is awarded by the University of Siena for Foreigners and is recognised by the Italian State as a certification of proficiency in Italian as a foreign language
  • The CILS certificate is recognised by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the document entitled "Coordinated system of Certificates of Italian for Foreigners", Rome 1998
  • The CILS is used by employers in Italy to select foreign candidates who wish to undertake activities in relation to Italian institutions for professional purposes
  • Most Italian universities adopt the CILS Certificates as an entrance requirement for prospective students, Erasmus students, and year-abroad students
  • The CILS is very useful to those who study Italian, who are planning to or already work and study within an Italian context
  • The CILS is a certified measurement of the attained level of ability in Italian

For further info visit Siena University for Foreigners (CILS).

Who can take the exam?

All learners of Italian as a foreign language, Italian citizens residing abroad (descendants of Italian emigrants), foreign citizens, and foreign immigrants in Italy may request to take the CILS exam. There are no age limits. Applicants are not obliged to possess previous educational certificates or degrees.

For Intermediate and above students it is not necessary to have passed lower levels of the CILS exams in order to attempt the attainment of higher levels. Candidate can prepare individually to sit the CILS exams, and we do not offer CILS preparation courses at Durham.