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The A2 (CIPLE) Portuguese language proficiency test

The A2 exam is held several times annually in Portugal and usually two times per year in locations outside the country, often at a Portuguese consulate.

Pre-registration is mandatory and the cut-off date is usually about a month before the exam. This exam is necessary for Portuguese citizenship or permanent residency.

It confers the necessary ”CIPLE” or ”Certificado Inicial de Português Língua Estrangeira”, showing holders have a basic understanding of everyday Portuguese. However, there are some exceptions to who needs a certificate.

Generally, you do not need the CIPLE certificate if:

You are married to a citizen of Portugal
You are eligible for Portuguese citizenship by naturalization
You and your partner are both older than 60 years, have a mental handicap or
are illiterate
You are seriously ill or disabled
You are from a Portuguese speaking country
You have a certificate proving a Portuguese language level higher than A2

(These conditions could change, so always check with the Portuguese Consulate in your country of current citizenship).


The exam takes about two hours and has sections on oral conversation, aural comprehension, reading and writing. Contrary to what some websites state, it is not easy. For detailed information on the test itself, how to register, exam dates, and more see here.

I took the test in May, 2021 and passed with the designation ”Bom”; which thrilled me, but I was on tenterhooks for the six weeks it took to receive my results. Passing marks of 55% must be logged in each of the separate sections. I received only a 60% in the writing section, the area in which I thought I was strongest. I received a much better mark in conversation, where I thought I was weakest. This taught me that preparation is key, because you never know what might go wrong…or right.

I had studied for about two years before taking the A2 exam, and although, being Canadian, I had studied French in school from a young age, I had never taken a language exam before. I found Portuguese to be particularly difficult because of the cadence and lilt of the language, as well as its infernal complications. Textbooks which did not reflect the new-ish spelling changes, as well as learning materials and sites which used Brazilian Portuguese expressions and spellings continually posed difficulties for me.

However, I used some online sites and had and several excellent teachers to improve my writing and speaking skills. There are many on-line sites and courses available. For Portuguese lessons see here!

Textbooks such as Português Atual 1, Gramática Ativa 1, Português em Foco 1 and Exames de Português CAPLE-UL (some with audio files) were invaluable. Practising for the exam with actual older exams helped immensely as the format can be unfamiliar to those who have not done language exams in the past. There
are some tests available on the Camões Institute site.


Listening to audio files of actual Portuguese conversations and answering multiple choice questions was the most difficult part of the test for me. Panic would set in as I listened, initially unable to understand much of what was going on. Eventually, my listening skills started to develop, and my panic subsided – though not entirely! Listening to Portuguese newscasts on RTP Notícias and television programs on RTP play (there are downloadable apps) as well as AudioPress (available with download of the SoundCloud app) were extremely helpful. But the real secret weapon to success was to just keep speaking and reading. I was able to download several European Portuguese books on my kindle as well as translations of popular works (the Harry Potter series is a favourite) and sign up for the RTP weekly newsletter.

My fellow on-line Portuguese students Ayline S, Sarah W and I formed our own Skype and WhatApp groups, exchanging messages in Portuguese regularly and meeting virtually for video chats once a week. Ayline began studying Portuguese before she moved to Portugal for work and participated in speaking and writing groups to help improve her skills. Now living near Setúbal, Portugal and commuting regularly to Lisbon and other European locations, she has not yet taken the A2 exam but hopes to do so in the future, when work demands permit. Sarah, originally from England, now lives in France where she successfully passed an upper-level French language exam and recently successfully completed the Portuguese B1 (DEPLE) exam in Paris. The B1 exam, which I hope to sit soon, is much tougher than the A2 exam – but Sarah was glad of the
challenge. Being able to communicate regularly in Portuguese helped us all feel more comfortable – and to worry less about making mistakes.

When in Portugal, I made a point of speaking Portuguese as much as possible, including booking accommodation, opening a bank account and arranging transportation. There were a few miscommunications but they are all part of learning, aren’t they?

With many thanks to Leslie Smith for sharing this experience and their article!

3 thoughts on “The A2 (CIPLE) Portuguese language proficiency test

  1. I don’t agree with what you said that this exam could be difficult. It’s very easy. Only a2 level is very low for people living in Portugal for some years. You have to be and live in Portugal though, together with having correct Portuguese (not Brazilian!) pronunciation.

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