Article Written By Laura Scaramella

The Italian B1 exam for Citizenship


From 2018, due to changes in legislation, to obtain Italian citizenship by marriage and residence it is now required to pass the B1 exam. We have collected your FAQs on the subject and answered them here.

Obtaining Italian citizenship has many advantages; you’ll be able to enjoy a very rich culture, you’ll gain freedom of movement not just in Italy but in all the EU countries and you’ll be able to work and vote in the country, to name but a few.

However, if you wish to obtain the Italian citizenship and you want to apply by marriage or by residence, it is mandatory to pass the Italian B1 citizenship language test. There are some exceptions, so please ask the appropriate bodies about your specific case.

To help you understand what it is and how to get it, read on. This blog includes answers to the following points and more:

  • What is the B1 test for citizenship and who needs it?
  • Where and when you can take the B1 Italian language test for Citizenship?
  • What level is B1 level Italian for citizenship?
  • What will I be tested on during the B1 Italian language test?

What is the B1 test for citizenship?

The Italian B1 test for citizenship is a compulsory test for people applying for Italian citizenship through residence or marriage. The test proves an adequate competence in the Italian language, in other words, one needs to be competent enough for everyday situations in order to live, work or study in the country. Adequate means good enough, so don’t worry you don’t need to speak fluently and without mistakes. However, you need to be able to express yourself in the basic situations of everyday life.

Who needs the B1 Italian language test?

In 2018 the citizenship law changed making it mandatory to pass the B1 language exam for everyone who wishes to obtain Italian citizenship through residency or marriage. There might be some exceptions, so ensure you do your own research and ask the appropriate bodies.

Can I sit the B1 Italian language exam for Citizenship online?

No, this exam can only be taken in person at one of the centres approved and certified by each board. You can take the exam in Italy but also abroad. See below for details.

Even if you cannot sit the exam online, you can however prepare for it online. We have a live course on Zoom specifically to prepare students to take the exam. You can get in touch for more information here, we will be happy to assess your level.

Where can I take the B1 Italian language test for Citizenship?

The test is prepared by exam boards certified and recognized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These are:

  • CILS (Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera, Italian Certificate as a Foreign Language)
  • CELI (Certificati di Lingua Italiana, Italian Language Certificates)
  • PLIDA (Progetto lingua italiana Dante Alighieri, Dante Alighieri Italian Language Project)

However, these boards have exam centres around the world and not only in Italy.

There is a difference, of course, between taking the exam and preparing for the exam. You can prepare for the exam at any school of your choice, with a tutor or by yourself.

Exams centres for sitting the B1 Italian language test for Citizenship

When can I take the B1 Italian language test for Citizenship?

There are exams throughout the year. However, dates vary according to which exam board you choose. These organizations hold exams on specific days of the year. For example, the CILS exams are in February, April and June, the CELI exams this year (2023) are in February, May, September and November. However, dates might change so please check with your chosen exam centre.

Does the B1 certificate expire?

This certification does not expire. However, some of the certifications, for example the CILS B1 Citizenship cannot be used for other purposes but only for the purpose of obtaining Citizenship. If you wish to use this certificate for other purposes, consider the full CILS B1 or others available for this purpose.

Image by Freepik

When will I get my certificate?

It might take up to a few months to receive your certificate. Only the paper copy of your certificate, and not the email confirming that you have passed, can be used for your citizenship application. When you present your application for citizenship you need to present your paper B1 certification.

What level is Italian B1?

The B1 level is based on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) classification of language levels. There are in total 6 levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. A1 being the most basic and C2 the most proficient. The B1 level is a lower intermediate.

At this level, your Italian does not have to be perfect but you need to understand and cope with any everyday situations. You don’t have to have a perfect pronunciation nor perfect comprehension.

The competencies required to achieve this level can be summarised as follows:

– Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school or leisure-related topics.
– Can deal with most situations likely to arise while traveling in an area where the language is spoken.
– Can produce simple connected texts on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
– Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes, and ambitions, as well as opinions or plans in brief.

If you have not yet achieved the A1 and the A2 levels it is best to enrol in a general Italian course. We have courses at all levels, check our schedule here.

CEFR language levels

How do I know what level of Italian I am?

You can take a test to see what level you have achieved so far. Click here to take the test.

If you have not yet achieved the A2 level, we suggest that you enrol in one of our A2 or relevant level courses, to build your knowledge and competencies first. If you have achieved that level, then you can start preparing for the B1 for citizenship. If you are in doubt, we will be happy to advise you.

Do I need to enrol in a course to take the B1 Italian language test for Citizenship?

It is not mandatory to enrol in a course, however, in order to prepare for the exam it is advised. The exam has a specific structure and you need to have not only the language skills required for the level but also the techniques for passing the exams.

Our teachers have prepared many students for this exam and know the structure of the exam, as well as tips and tricks to prepare and pass successfully. Click here to see when our next preparation course starts.

If you have not yet achieved the A1 and the A2 levels it is best to enrol in a general Italian course. We are Italian specialist and have courses at all levels.

Do you offer a preparatory course for the B1 Italian language test for Citizenship?

Yes, we have a course specifically designed to prepare students to pass this exam. Our teachers know the structure of the course inside out and what it is expected by the examiners.

During this course you will learn skills specific for each part of the exam and practise it in each lesson. You will also get practise based on previous exam papers. In our classroom we will also learn, revise and practise the main grammar structures required for each part of the exam and any relevant vocabulary.

If you already have a full A2 level, you can start preparing for your B1 exam straight away. If your level is lower than A2, it is advisable to enrol in one of our general courses in order to achieve at least the A2 level in full before starting your preparation to take the exam. Click here for the schedule of courses.

How long does it take to prepare?

It depends. If you are close to the B1 level already, then one term of lessons or less will be sufficient. However, if your level is A2 or below, it will take significantly more time. In this case we suggest that you enrol in a general Italian course first that will help you get nearer to the level required.

Nevertheless, please consider that each student, their circumstances, the time they have to study, and their abilities are different and this will determine the time required.

Our teachers can assess your level prior to enrolling and advise you.

What will I be tested on for the B1 Italian test for citizenship?

During the exam – which lasts in total between 2 to 3 hours – you will be tested on the four linguistic skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking).

The exams from the various exam boards have a similar structure and will cover the four elements below. Here is the actual structure and timing of the CILS exam:

Listening skills (30 minutes exam)
The listening exam consists of a mix of multiple choice and matching tasks both based on the general comprehension of the texts. This test is based on a variety of short audio excerpts rather than one longer one.

Reading comprehension (40 minutes exam)
The reading part of the exam also consists of both multiple choice and matching exercises. A variety of short texts are given and students choose an answer between the ones given. The matching activity consists of, for example, matching the texts with their titles, or with sentences extracted from them.

Writing skills (40 minutes exam)
The writing portion of the exam consists of two writing exercises one short (minimum of 80 words) and one slightly longer (minimum of 100 words). One is related to your personal experience, an every day situation such as a dinner with friends, your birthday or your holiday. The other one might be in the form of an email, writing to a friend or a school or to your local authority.

Speaking skills (10 minutes exam)
The speaking part of the exam is made up of two parts a brief conversation and a monologue.

The conversation is based on an exchange with the examiner. In the first part the candidate chooses between topics given by the examiner. This could be for example about your hobby, a museum you have visited or your favourite band. The examiner asks the first questions and keeps the conversation going based on your answers.

For the second part of the exam, the candidate speaks for a few minutes about a topic chosen from a few given. Some examples of topics are: what you do in your free time, or talking about ones friends or describing a picture and talking about its meaning.

Is there a book?

Yes these are a few books you can buy to start preparing for the exam:

  1. Preparazione al Celi (Vol. 2): Celi 2 (con Prova di Comprensione dell’Ascolto) Libro + CD : Rapacciuolo, M.A.: Libri
  2. Celi 2.Test di preparazione. Livello intermedio B1 – Cernigliano, Maria Angela, Damascelli, Antonio – Libri
  3. Pronti per il test B1. Prepararsi alla certificazione di italiano B1 per la cittadinanza. Con espansione online: Pronti per il test B1 – per la citt : Benenti, Alessia, Mussi, Valentina: Libri
  4. Percorso CILS Cittadinanza. (Livello B1) – AA. VV., AA. VV. – Libri

I hope this blog has helped answering your questions and of course please do get in touch if you have any doubts or you wish to get information about our Italian B1 test preparation. Click here for more information about myself and our school.

Happy learning!

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