Portuguese languague proficiency exams


Information on how to register and prepare for CAPLE exams — the official Portuguese Language Proficiency Certificate

How can I get a certificate for my European Portuguese language proficiency?

CAPLE stands for "Centro de Avaliação de Português Língua Estrangeira," an institution hosted by the University of Lisbon that offers the only officially recognized certification for European Portuguese as a foreign language. It is important to highlight that it is the European variety of the Portuguese language because in Brazil, the official certificate is called CELPE-Bras or Certificate of Proficiency in Portuguese Language for Foreigners. For more information about this exam please refer to their official website.
Concerning the CAPLE exam, there are six levels ranging from A1 (absolute beginner) to C2 (near-native) testing the candidates’ ability to interact in writing and orally in various situations as well as understand written and spoken Portuguese.

Where can I take these exams?

The exam takes place in different locations known as LAPE (an acronym for Local para Aplicação e Promoção de Exames/Place for Application and Promotion of Exams) hosted mainly by universities and other institutions that offer language courses in Portugal as well as abroad. In some countries, embassies and/or consulates may also offer this possibility. To find out where is the LAPE most convenient for you, please visit CAPLE's official website.

It is also important to check the exam annual schedule for each LAPE because depending on demand and examiners availability they may offer less opportunities for candidates to take the exam  than those made available at the University of Lisbon where CAPLE is located. If you are taking the exam outside Portugal, there are usually less opportunities to sit the exam than in Portugal. Each examination center also decides how many candidates will examine, so it is important that you are aware of the registration start and end dates to make sure that you sit the exam at the centre and at the time that is most convenient for you.

The calendar for the CAPLE exams is published early in January, so make sure you visit their website site to find out which is the LAPE closest to you as well as the calendar for the exams dates they will be offering that year. Sometimes, the website of the LAPE will have that information as well, so make sure that you visit that website too.
As any other language certificate, CAPLE will test you ability to listen, read, write and speak (all the four skills) but each exam has a different format, depending on the level. Be sure to understand the format of your exam as well as each section within that exam. Taking an exam is challenging enough so it is important to prepare thoroughly for the type of questions you can expect as well as the time limit for answering every part of each section of the exam. For more information of the format of the exam as well as tips on answering each question time check our our blog entries.

If you are planing to sit a CAPLE exam, make sure that you plan carefully where and when your exam will take place. Most importantly, give yourself enough time to prepare for the exam because, like every other language certificate exam, only dedication and regular practice will prepare you to succeed.

Which level should I apply for?

I guess that the first and most important decision you must take is what level should I register for. The answer will depend on what you need your certificate for.

Do You want to obtain Portuguese nationality?

If you want to apply for Portuguese nationality you will have to demonstrate that your proficiency is at the CEFL A2 level so you must take the CIPLE exam, which tests your ability to communicate in basic everyday situations, such as introducing yourself, ordering food, or asking for information. A detailed description of the format and content of this exam is available on CAPLE’s official webpage. Make sure to read it carefully if you decide to take this exam.

Do You need a proficiency certificate for other purposes?

If you need a certificate for professional or other purposes then the level of the CAPLE exam you decide to take should reflect your current proficiency in the language but your goals for using Portuguese. It's important to choose a level that is challenging but also achievable, so you can have a positive testing experience and build confidence in your language skills.
If you have some experience with the language e and can communicate in basic situations, then you may consider taking the DEPLE (B1 level). If you have a good command of Portuguese and can communicate effectively in most situations, you can consider taking the B2 (DIPLE). If you have a more advanced level of Portuguese, you can take the C1 exam (DAPLE), which tests your ability to communicate in more complex situations, such as discussing abstract topics or expressing opinions on current events. You will need to have near-native proficiency in Portuguese to apply for the DUPLE (C2 level).


Are you unsure about your proficiency level?

If you are not sure which is you proficiency level in the language, the best way to find out is to ask a Portuguese language instructor with experience training students for these exams. Taking a proficiency level test can also help you to determine what is you language level but only if they respect two very important criteria: they are not grammar based and all for skills are included.


What is the first thing you should do in preparation for the exam?

Once you have made a decision regarding the level, the examination centre and the day you will take your exam, you must familiarize yourself with the exam format. This can easily be done by downloading the sample test for your exam from the CAPLE official website.

The key to success on the CAPLE exam is preparation and practice. Being fully aware of what the exam entails and having completed as many exam-test as possible will help you feel confident on the exam day which is a major step towards not only passing the exam but having a good result.



The CAPLE exams are make up of four parts, all delivered on the same day. First, you will sit for the Listening, Reading and Writing sections of the exam and then the Speaking test. If you are taking this exam in Portugal, the Speaking test is usually scheduled for after the lunch break. Let’s start with the very last section of the exam and work our way up.


The Speaking component assesses your use of spoken Portuguese and takes between 15 to 25 minutes to complete. Usually, candidates are assessed in pairs following an alphabetic list which will be posted outside the venue where this oral exam will take place.
In the first part of this component, candidates will be asked to introduce themselves. In the second and third part, test takers will receive a prompt (during or before the interview) to talk about a particular topic or perform a role play with their partner or the examiner. In the CIPLE exam, candidates may be asked to talk about current events. In other exams, they will have to “stage” a dialogue planning an activity or solving a problem and give their opinion on a given topic.
Every test will be recorded so that it can be reviewed whenever candidates are not happy with their grade and request a reassessment of their exam.


The Reading and Writing sections of the CIPLE exam are assessed together. This section of that exam lasts for 75 minutes. In the remaining levels, these two sections will be assess separately.
This section of the exam will last 60, 75, 90 and 105 minutes for the DEPLE, DIPLE, DAPLE and DUPLE exams, respectively.
The Writing component of all CAPLE exams includes two major tasks. Writing a note and a message or two messages of different lengths in the CIPLE exam and writing a message requesting information, explaining a situation or making a complain and drafting an opinion essay in the remaining levels. The DEPLE; DAPLE and DUPLE exams will also include a third part where candidates will have to rewrite 10 sentences.


Again, the duration for this section will vary depending on the exam level you are taking: 30 minutes in the DEPLE, 75 in the DIPLE, 90 in the DAPLE and 120 in the DUPLE. Moreover, the type and number of questions will also be different between A1 and B1 and B2 to C2 levels.
This section requires exam takers to read a wide array of texts that they will most likely encounter on a daily basis in a Portuguese-speaking environment. These texts are extracted from public notices or guidelines, advertisements, newspapers and magazines.


The duration of this section ranges from 30 minutes in the CIPLE exam to 40 minutes in all other levels. In this section of the exam, candidates will listen to several recorded conversations and/or monologues on a range of topics and answer mainly multiple-choice questions, but also matching or correspondence exercises as well as true or false questions.
In the CIPLE exam, text will most likely be informal speech frequently heard in social, educational and/or professional interactions. In the remaining levels, texts will also include informative news articles, weather reports, and cultural events advertising as well as asking for/giving instruction and discussing tasks or situations.


Here’s an outline of the types of questions used in the Reading and Writing sections of the sample-tests available in the CAPLE website:







multiple choice with three options






multiple choice with four options






matching or correspondence






fill in the blanks




error analysis


The Writing, Reading and Listening sections of the exam have different types of questions but one that is common to all of them is the multiple choice question with three answer options. Multiple choice questions (MCQs) are a popular format of assessment. First and foremost, because they are an efficient way to test a large number of students in a relatively short amount of time. MCQs are graded and scored objectively because there is only one correct answer. By eliminating examiners’ bias, MCQs ensure grading fairness.

There are two criticism we can raise regarding this type of questions, both of which may lead to inaccurate assessments of an exam taker's knowledge. The first is that there is a possibility of guessing the right answer and the second has to do with flawed questions that are too ambiguous and confusing to allow exam takers to arrive at the right answer. Despite these shortfalls, MCQs are the most effective way to assess a broad range of knowledge in a short amount of time. Besides they are used in conjunction with other question types to ensure a fair and thorough examination of Portuguese language knowledge and proficiency levels.


Multiple Choice Questions

It goes without saying that each question type requires a specific answering approach. Considering that multiple choice questions (henceforth referred to as MCQs) are the most frequently used throughout the European Portuguese proficiency exams, mastering its answering techniques is an important stepping stone to achieve the best results so make sure that test takers prepare themselves to answer this specific type of question. Here are some useful tip:


The first and most important thing to do is to read the question as well as the answer choices carefully. Even if the wording of the question should be adequate to the exam taker’s proficiency level, it may use synonyms or antonyms or words that appear in the text that you might not be so familiar with, so make sure that you read the question or prompt well before moving on to the options.

Once you understand the question you may be able to answer it straight away, without even looking at the options. If you can do this, all you need to is select the right option. But again make sure you read the options extremely carefully to make sure you are picking the right one.

One of the strategies used to draft a MCQ is to include an incorrect answer options that is very similar to the correct answer. Such plausible distractors help to ensure that test takers demonstrate thorough knowledge of the language rather than skillful guess work, so don’t be fooled by the small differences or similarities in choices offered and read then attentively.


Often it is possible to read through the answer choices and eliminate one or two that are obviously incorrect. This will help you focus on the remaining option(s) and, even if you end up guessing, increase your chances of choosing the correct answer. In MCQs with only three answer option, which make up for the majority of CAPLE’s exam questions, if you manage to eliminate one of the options then you have a 50% chance of choosing the right answer.

The process of elimination, which is central to answering MCQs, may be done in two stages: first, eliminate anything that is obviously wrong such as the answers options that contain false information or that are completely irrelevant. Maybe you are lucky and that selection leaves out only one option: the right answer. More likely, it will leave you with two options and you can begin phase two of your elimination process: re-read the question and compare your remaining choices to find the difference(s) or isolate similarities, which will help up select the correct option.


It's important to select the best answer to the question being asked. Very often there will be two options that are very similar. Sometime there will even be two options that are correct. When this happens you must choose the option that is best or most complete or detailed one.

As we pointed out earlier, it is a good strategy to answer the question first in your mind without looking at the options but please don’t just glance through the answer options to find the answer you are looking for or, if you are stressed for time, just select the first right answer you encounter. Even if you know the correct answer make sure you read every answer option carefully to select the best answer.


We do not know how each MCQ is graded in the CAPLE exam but usually in this type of assessment all questions are worth the same amount so don’t spend too much time on a particular question at the expense of others that have the same bearing in the overall grade.

Try to answer all questions for one particular section but do not waste time on the questions you do not know the answer for or are having issues with. Vacillating too much between two answer choices is a waste of precious time. Each time you are not sure of the right answer, skip that question and move forward to the next one. Answering easier questions first or answering a fair amount of questions over the first round can help you tackle the more challenging questions as well as help reduce the stress that you may be feeling. It will also leave you with more time to answer the harder or more challenging questions.

Once you have gone through all questions return to the ones you were not sure of the right answer. If you are still unable to find the right answer take a break, i.e. do another section of the exam and return a little bit later on to the questions you were not sure of. If, after returning to these questions, you still have no idea, then make a logical guess: return to the question and think what would be the most logical reply and then select the answer option that is most closely related to your logical answer.


Check that you have answered ALL the questions. Even if you do not know the answer, guess. Do not leave any question unanswered. Trust your knowledge more than your gut but remember that your first guess was most likely the right one.


Practicing well for the exam is really the only way to achieve a high result. To prepare yourself to answer MCQs download the official model of the exam from the CAPLE website, look for other sample exams available in print or online and do as many exercises as you can using this type of question. Try to learn from your mistakes. Once you answer these model test and/or mock exam questions, review the answers and try to understand what made you to pick an incorrect answer. Were you not able to read the question or the answer options correctly? Were you mislead by punctuation or an unknown word? Did you guess and it turned out to be wrong? Reason out what were the difficulties you had answering so that you can avoid making the same mistakes on the day of the exam.


Before taking the exam, analyse the sample test available on the CAPLE’s website to roughly count how many questions there are per section and divide your time into segments. If you are taking the DEPLE exam, you will have 30 minutes to complete the reading comprehension section which has roughly 20 question of which half are MCQs. You should divide your time in half and make sure that you respect that timing to ensure you get to answer every single question. If you spend too much time on the first ten questions, you may be wasting points that you could get by answering correctly the other ten questions. Every time you practice answering a sample exam or doing MCQs exercises, make sure you time yourself so that on the day of the exam you are well prepared to reply to all the question within the given time frame.

If you have any questions or would like help preparing for your CAPLE exam, contact me via email or though the contact page on the Say it in Portuguese website.

Best of luck for your exam.