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The Ultimate Guide to the National French Contest 2025

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a group of students studying

The Ultimate Guide to the National French Contest 2025

Most of us have taken a language, whether that started in middle school, high school, or college. Learning another language is normally a requirement in many schools as we grow up, as developing an appreciation of other cultures is something we should all be taught. A common language taught in schools is Spanish, as well as other Romance languages such as French or Italian, and what better way to use your language skills than compete in the National French contest.

a female person writing french on a board

Bilinguals have better problem-solving skills, as well as improved memory, concentration, and mental flexibility. Students who pursue language studies also tend to score better on standardized tests and benefit from academic progress in other subjects. Learning another language can benefit you if you travel to another country or meet people from other backgrounds. You will become a more well-rounded individual with consciousness and appreciation of others and the world around you.

If French happens to be a language that you know or ended up learning back in school, did you know that there is a nationally recognized competition you can demonstrate your skills in and be recognized for? Any type of award or recognition is always looked upon favorably by admissions officers.

One such nationally recognized competition is the National French competition.

What is the National French Competition?

The National French Contest/Le Grand Concours is an annual competition sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French.

Writing an essay on a notebook.

Students of French in grades 1-12, in all 50 states and abroad, take a written test and compete against students with a similar educational background for prizes. Grades 1-6 participate in the FLES Contest.  Grades 7-12 in the Secondary Contest.

Students enter via their French teacher. All students are eligible — home school parents or private tutors can request information on participation from the nearest Chapter Administrator. Students of non-AATF members are also welcome to participate.

Eligibility Rules

The following Eligibility Rules include the criteria necessary to place most students in Le Grand Concours.  There are always exceptions and borderline cases that the teacher and contest administrator must decide on the basis of good judgment, fairness, and consistency.  The level at which the Contest Administrator registers a student is irrevocable.  Therefore, in case of doubt, be sure to contact the National Chairman for Eligibility before registering.

No student shall take the same level of Concours more than once. In particular, where a high school obliges all entering ninth graders to take French 1, this rule applies and the student, who has already taken Concours at level 1, will have the choice of:

  • taking Contest level 2;
  • abstaining for a year; or
  • taking level 1 hors concours (results unranked and ineligible for National awards).

If students are found to be enrolled in the wrong level or and/or division for whatever reason, they will be disqualified from national ranking. If a student indicates the wrong level/division on their answer sheet or online, they may be disqualified from national rankings. For these reasons, it is absolutely essential that students be registered correctly and the accuracy of answer sheets and data entry is verified.

If it is discovered that a student has been registered at the same level two years in a row (without having received prior written permission—see below), or that a student has entered the Concours at two different levels or divisions for the same competition, that student’s registration shall be nullified.  Teachers and Contest Administrators will keep registration records in order to prevent such repeat registrations and to simplify record-keeping from year to year.

There are only three exceptions to this rule: (1) Level 5 and (2) FLES students may take the same level more than once (3). Students will be permitted to take the Concours at the same level two years in a row provided they submit evidence to the Contest Administrator, through their teacher, that they are repeating the same French course because they did not pass it when they took it previously.

General Guidelines for Division Categories

Students may be entered at Divisions A, B, C, D, or E as determined by the Contest Administrator. Division A and Division C apply to all levels, 01-5. Division B is available only at levels 01, 1, and 2, where it permits at the first three levels a fairer ranking of students of differing French backgrounds. Division B is not offered beyond level 2 since the Concours is more challenging at the higher levels and early French experience will not give students any measurable advantage over students who do not have any previous exposure.

Division A:or the student who has not lived with French-speaking parents, who have not attended a French school, and who has not lived in a French-speaking community.

Division B: for students who, after their sixth birthday, attended a school where French was the language of instruction for a total of more than one semester but fewer than four semesters (two years); or, (2) students who, after their sixth birthday, have lived in a French-speaking community for a total of more than one year but fewer than three years. (Three years or more is Division C.)

  • Students with one French-speaking parent.
  • Students taking, in addition to their regular French course, one course or more conducted predominantly in French.
  • Students who have spent two or more successive summers in a French-speaking area.
  • Students entering Concours at level 1 and who within the previous two years (1) have had one year or more of FLES or any equivalent French program, or (2) one semester or more of instruction in French above the sixth-grade level.

Division C: For students whose background is more extensive than those in levels 01B – 2B and 3A-5A. A few examples would be:

  • Native French students.
  • Foreign exchange students from schools where French is the principal language and instruction.
  • Students who, within the last two years, have studied for two years/four semesters or more at a school where French was the principal language of instruction
  • Students who, within the last two years, have lived in a French-speaking community for three or more years.
  • Students who are children of French instructors.
  • Students who regularly use French at home.

Divisions D & E: Because of the availability of alternate school schedules such as block or trimester, there may be many variations in exposure to French. In each case, we ask the Contest Administrator to make a decision based, generally, on the guidelines below. En Principe, Division D refers to students who when they take the Concours are still enrolled in French; E is designed for students “in-between” French courses.

If the student has a more extensive French background and meets the criteria for Division C, the student must be enrolled in Division C, regardless of the school schedule and current enrollment. Division D is for students who began their study of French at a given level (01 – 5) at the beginning of the fall semester but, at the Contest time, are studying at the next level.

If, however, the student will complete the next level by the end of the current academic year, he/she will take Concours at that level, but not in division D.

Division AP: NEW in 2020, this is for students in level 4 or 5 who are taking their French course for AP credit. However, if the student has a more extensive French background and meets the criteria for Division C, the student must be enrolled in Division C, regardless of current enrollment.

  • Any high school student up to and including fourth-year French taking AP French will take Concours at Level 4, Division AP.
  • Any high school student beyond fourth-year French taking AP French shall take Concours at Level 5, Division AP.

How does one prepare?

The Specifications for levels 01-5 and for FLES are available here.  Reviewing these specifications and practicing with previous contests will help both teachers and students prepare for the coming event. A sample of the test levels is located here. The complete review is included in student Contest registration.

Group of students studying together.

What are the dates for the 2025 Contest administration?

The administration dates for the 2025 Contest vary by grade level. For students in grades 1 through 6, which falls under the FLES category, the contest will be held from February 12 to March 7, 2025. For students in grades 7 through 12, corresponding to levels 01 through 5, the contest will take place from February 13 to April 7, 2025. These dates provide the timeframe within which the contest activities will occur for each educational level.

Where is the contest held?

FLES may be administered in the classroom. Levels 01-5 are administered in the classroom, language lab, or other room in the school.

What are the fees?

The following fees represent the National expenses, for basic test development and computer hosting; administrative costs; publicity; and prizes. Chapters normally add a charge to these fees to support local Contest expenses.

Individual tests:

  • AATF members: $3.50* PLUS local fees, if applicable
  • Non-members: $7.00* PLUS local fees, if applicable

*Chapters add additional fees to support local Contest expenses

What Prizes are awarded and to whom?

There are two categories of awards: Chapter and National. Chapters offer prizes to those students who are among the top percentiles at the Chapter level for each level and division. National prizes are subsidized out of the fees paid by each entrant. National Prizes include Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals and Honorable Mention certificates.

three medals dangling

How many students may enter Le Grand Concours?

The Executive Council of the AATF recommends that teachers enter all of their students. The purpose goes far beyond “winning” or receiving national recognition. It provides a solid class activity; it also provides a national “guide” to help teachers determine how their students perform, item by item, based on major grammatical concepts, reading comprehension, aural comprehension, and cultural topics. Individual student scores are never published by the National Office.

a person taking a math test

Is the Contest available on paper?

NO. Beginning with the 2020 Contest, online testing only is available (except for FLES).

Who scores the test?

All tests will be computer-scored by AATF. Results will be sent in a timely fashion.

If you happen to be a student who is looking to expand your resume and enhance your college applications with another extracurricular, considering learning another language!

If French is a language you already know or have taken classes in, register for the National French Contest! You could have the chance to earn recognition for your skills and gain valuable experiences that will last you a lifetime.

Even if you don’t end up registering for the National French Competition, learning a language or taking classes is still an option you should look into. In today’s increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, proficiency in other languages is a vital skill that gives you the opportunity to engage with the world in a more immediate and meaningful way—whether in your neighbourhood or thousands of miles away—while better preparing you to compete and succeed in the global economy.

Final Thoughts

Language skills can be a significant competitive advantage that sets you apart from your monolingual peers. They are among the top eight skills required of all occupations—no matter your sector or skill level—and the demand for bilingual professionals is rising exponentially. In fact, between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. job postings specifically geared toward bilingual candidates more than doubled.

Employers are seeking professionals who can communicate seamlessly with customers in new and expanding overseas markets, as well as serve and sell to a large foreign-born population here at home. With more than 60 million U.S. residents who speak a language other than English at home, you don’t need to get on a plane to put your language skills to work.

As an added incentive, in many instances, language skills also lead to hiring bonuses and increased salaries. Whatever your career aspiration—with language skills added to the mix, you’re ahead of the crowd!

Besides an academic or career-based advantage, learning a language will also benefit you immeasurably by deepening your connection to other cultures and widening your worldview. You will learn the customs and history behind the culture of another country. Language is the most direct connection to other cultures.

Being able to communicate in another language exposes us to and nurtures an appreciation for the traditions, religions, arts, and history of the people associated with that language. Greater understanding, in turn, promotes greater tolerance, empathy, and acceptance of others—with studies showing that children who have studied another language are more open toward and express more positive attitudes toward the culture associated with that language.

Female students holding her books while walking.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the dates for the 2025 National French Contest?

For students in grades 1-6 (FLES category), the contest will be held from February 12 to March 7, 2025. For students in grades 7-12 (levels 01-5), the contest dates are from February 13 to April 7, 2025.

2. Who can participate in the National French Contest?

Students of French in grades 1-12, across all 50 states and abroad, are eligible to participate. This includes students taught by French teachers, homeschool parents, or private tutors. Both students of AATF members and non-members are welcome.

3. Where is the contest administered?

For FLES students (grades 1-6), the contest may be administered in the classroom. For students in grades 7-12 (levels 01-5), it can be held in a classroom, language lab, or other suitable room within the school.

4. What are the registration fees for the contest?

AATF members pay a basic fee of $3.50 plus any local chapter fees. Non-members pay $7.00 plus local fees. These fees cover national expenses such as test development, administration, and prizes.

5. What prizes are awarded in the National French Contest?

There are Chapter and National level prizes. Chapter prizes are awarded to top-performing students at the chapter level, while National Prizes include Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze medals, and Honorable Mention certificates, subsidized by the fees paid by each entrant.

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