DELF and DALF written exam: How to organize your thoughts with a good outline

When you’re preparing for or taking the DELF or DALF written exam, it’s important to know how to organize your thoughts and to know how to write a good outline. This will save you time, help you feel more in control and it can also improve your grade by ticking extra boxes on the examiners’ checklist of areas they evaluate you on!

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read this post about the reasons why writing an outline is beneficial and how you can include this skills in the preparation leading to the exam.

Check out the video at the end of the post if you prefer a video lesson format.

Types of French outlines (called plans in French) for the DELF and DALF written exam #

Now that you know why it’s important, here are some concrete resources to help you. These are 3 examples of typical French essay or expose outlines.

DELF writing exam: theatre outline

PATTERN A: it unfolds like a Moliere play
Part 1: Exposition / Facts
Part 2: The action, what problems are we facing because of Part 1 facts
Part 3: The resolution

DALF written exam

PATTERN B: everything in life is relative, a philosopher’s reflection
Part 1: “Yes/White” (thèse = thesis, which reflects the direction you’re leaning toward to answer the question)
Part 2: “No/Black” (antithèse = antithesis)
Part 3: “Yes but,/Grey” (synthèse = synthesis, from the arguments in part 1 and 2, find a middle ground or opening to an answer that’s neither of the extremes)

DELF writing exam: yes but outline

PATTERN C: “YES, BUT…”
It’s also acceptable to do 2 parts only:
Part 1: 2 or 3 arguments in favour of your point of view (YES)
Part 2: Limitations of Part 1’s arguments (BUT, why it’s not ideal)
Your conclusion would emphasize the upsides of your arguments and how we could overcome the limitations.

chronological outline for DALF written exam

PATTERN D: Chronological
Part 1: Phase 1 or Before/The past
Part 2: Phase 2 or Now/The present
Part 3: Phase 3 or After/The future

Which outline should you choose for the DELF writing exam? #

There is no “right” pattern, it will depend on what you have to say. The content needs to be divided into balanced parts.

  • Pattern A is efficient because there’s tension, your audience wants to know the end of the play.
  • On the other hand, pattern B might be the most difficult. You may end up not being convincing enough in conveying your opinion to your audience.
  • Pattern C is maybe the most accessible if you’re used to writing English-style essays.
  • Pattern D is a rather obvious choice when you’re dealing with a topic spread across a period of time with distinct phases. Make sure you include argumentation, not just facts!

Troubleshooting:
If you’ve decided to do 3 parts but end up with 2 long ones and a short one, it means you should do 2 parts only or find more material for your 3rd part. If you were going for a 2-parts outline but have a lot of sub-parts (paragaphs within each section), you should probably divide them up in 3 parts. That’s why it’s important to think and plan before you start writing your DELF exam.

Keep in mind the word count range you’re allowed at the test you’re taking and practice the format.

Watch this video explaining the process leading to writing a good outline #

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