How to pass the B1 Italian language test for citizenship

If you are applying for Italian citizenship by marriage or residence, you will need to pass an official B1 Italian language test to prove that you are able to study, live, work and be an active member of society in Italy.

On this page you will find out everything you need to know to obtain the B1 Italian language certificate, which is required when applying for Italian citizenship by marriage and residency.

What vocabulary and grammar do you need to know to pass the test? What is this test? Where can you take the test? How long does it take? Read on to find out.

What’s the B1 Italian proficiency test for citizenship?

It’s an intermediate language test (see section: What is level B1?) that some applicants for Italian citizenship must pass in order to obtain citizenship (see section: Do I always have to pass the B1 Italian language test to become an Italian citizen?). Passing this test is proof that you will be able to live, work and integrate in the country without any problems.

The B1 Italian language exam is administered by these authorities:

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

All exams include an enrolment fee and are held on specific days of the year, so check the schedule at the language center of your choice (see section: Where can I take the B1 Italian language test?).

Aiuta Lingookies con un 👍!

Do I always have to pass the B1 Italian language test to become a citizen of Italy?

No. You don’t actually need a language certificate if you’re applying for Italian citizenship by descent (you’re descended from Italian citizens, more info on the linked page). However, the Italian language is so beautiful that it might be worth learning anyway! 😉

What’s level B1?

The CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) divides language proficiency into 6 levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. A1-A2 are beginner levels, B1-B2 are intermediate levels and C1-C2 are advanced levels.

The B1 level is the lower-intermediate level and it’s the one you need to reach in order to obtain Italian citizenship through marriage or residency. Specifically, a student of Italian at the B1 level…

Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

This means that to pass the B1 Italian language proficiency test, you need to have an intermediate level of Italian. You certainly don’t need to become the next Dante Alighieri or have a gift for conversation, but you do need to be able to get by and interact with everyday activities in the country.

This may sound daunting if you’ve just started learning Italian, but I can assure you that the road to a B1 level of proficiency in the language is shorter than you think.

If you are applying for Italian citizenship through residency, you probably already know enough Italian. However, in order to obtain citizenship, the government needs proof of your skills regardless of your language proficiency – you may speak Italian like a pro, but your personal claim won’t be enough. You need proof.

The table below compares the CILS and CELI levels with the CEFR.


Where can I take the B1 Italian language exam?

You can’t just take the B1 Italian test anywhere. First of all, it must be taken in person. The language center where you take the exam must be approved by either the MIUR (Ministero dell’Istruzione, Ministry of Education) or the MAECI (Ministero degli Affari Esteri, Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

Since there are many certified CILS, CELI and PLIDA exam centers around the world, you may want to look for the language center closest to where you live. Click on the links below for a complete list of certified centers in Italy and around the world.

CILS-certified centers in Italy by region

CILS-certified centers by continent

CELI-certified centers worldwide (interactive map)

PLIDA-certified centers worldwide (scroll page for search tool)

How long will the B1 Italian language test last?

I can’t tell you exactly how long the exam will take because it depends on several factors: your skills, the certified language center where you register, the structure of the exam itself, etc.

For example, the standard length of the B1 CILS exam specific to acquiring Italian citizenship (UNO B1 Cittadinanza), taken at the Università di Pavia, is 2 hours and 5 minutes, and it’s structured as follows:

  • 30 min. listening
  • 40 min. reading
  • 40 min. writing
  • 15 min. speaking

In any case, you can expect a commitment of at least a couple of hours, so get plenty of rest overnight and don’t eat a peperonata the day before the exam! 😉

What will I be tested on during the B1 Italian language test?

As mentioned in the previous section, proficiency exams follow a specific structure. Your skills will be thoroughly tested:

You can find facsimiles of the B1 Italian language exams here:

CILS facsimile exam 1

CILS facsimile exam 2

CELI facsimile exam 1

CILS B1 Cittadinanza or CILS Uno B1?

Please note that the CILS B1 exam for acquiring Italian citizenship is different and simpler than the standard Uno B1 exam:

ITA Avendo obiettivi specifici, l’esame CILS B1 Cittadinanza ha un costrutto e un formato diverso da quello dell’esame CILS UNO B1. In particolare il B1 Cittadinanza descrive una porzione di competenza molto più limitata rispetto al B1 standard e per questo ha una spendibilità limitata ai soli scopi della cittadinanza. Tale esame non copre gli scopi lavorativi, accademici ecc.

ENG – Having specific objectives, the CILS B1 Citizenship exam has a different construct and format than the CILS UNO B1 exam. Specifically, the B1 Citizenship describes a much more limited portion of competence than the standard B1 and therefore its expendability is limited to citizenship purposes only. This exam does not cover work purposes, academic purposes, etc.

If your goal is only to obtain Italian citizenship and not to study or work in the country, the CILS B1 Cittadinanza exam is all you need. It is easier than a regular B1 exam.

However, since it tests a limited part of competence (see quote above), you will be limited in your activities and will not be able to use the certificate for work or academic purposes. You may want to study a little more and take the standard Uno B1 CILS exam, which will allow you to do many more things and grant you Italian citizenship!

You can find the guidelines for all CILS exams here and the specific syllabus for the B1 Cittadinanza exam here (PDF). Please note that the skills listed in the syllabus for the B1 Cittadinanza exam DO NOT include the skills acquired in the lower levels (A1, A2), so if you are new to learning Italian, make sure you check these in the complete guidelines file.

Remember: B1 is an intermediate level, so you need to learn basic vocabulary and grammar (A1-2) before you can tackle B1 topics.

You don’t have to take the A1 and A2 exams before taking the B1 exam. If you feel confident enough, you can even apply for the C2 exam as your first Italian test ever!

Since these guidelines are in Italian, I have translated what grammar is required for each level into English for you below.

Grammar topics required for the CILS B1 Cittadinanza exam for Italian citizenship


The applicant must have a passive knowledge of:

  • Definite and indefinite articles
  • Gender and number of nouns (masculine, feminine, plural)
  • Subject and complement pronouns
  • Adjectives (grande, piccolo, rosso, alto…)
  • Possessive adjectives and pronouns
  • Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns
  • Interrogative adjectives and pronouns
  • Indefinite adjectives and pronouns
  • Cardinal numbers (1, 2, 3…)
  • Ordinal numbers: primo, secondo, terzo
  • Simple prepositions and articulated prepositions
  • Active conjugation of the verbs essere and avere and potere, dovere and volere modal verbs
  • Active conjugation of regular verbs in the following modes and tenses:
  • Most frequent qualifying adverbs of time, place, quantity, affirmation and negation
  • Simple sentence: declarative, interrogative and volitional clauses using the imperative mood
  • Complex sentence: copulative, adversative, declarative coordinate clauses
  • Complex sentence: casual, temporal, relative and final implicit subordinate clauses
  • Hypothetical sentences introduced by se.

The applicant must have an active knowledge of:

  • Gender and number of regular nouns (masculine, feminine, plural)
  • Subject pronouns
  • Qualifying adjectives (noun-adjective agreement is not required)
  • Possessive adjectives
  • Demonstrative adjectives and pronouns (questo, quello)
  • Interrogative adjectives and pronouns (chi, cosa, quale, quanto)
  • Indefinite adjectives and pronouns (tanto, molto, poco, tutto)
  • Cardinal numbers from 1 to 20
  • Simple prepositions
  • Active conjugation of verbs essere and avere and potere, dovere and volere modal verbs
  • Active conjugation of regular verbs in the following modes and tenses:
  • Most frequent adverbs:
    • of affirmation and negation (sì, no)
    • of time (prima, poi, dopo, già, ora/adesso, sempre, mai, oggi, domani, ieri)
    • of place (qui/qua, lì/là, sopra, sotto, giù, dentro, fuori, vicino, lontano, davanti, dietro, a destra, a sinistra)
  • Other more frequent adverbs (così, molto, poco, tanto, più, meno, bene, male)
  • Simple sentences: declarative, interrogative clauses introduced by chi, come, dove, quando, perché, che cosa, quanto
  • Complex sentence: coordinate clauses introduced by e and ma;
  • Complex sentence: causal subordinate clauses introduced by perché, temporal clauses introduced by quando, final implicit clauses introduced by per with verbs in the infinitive.


On top of what is required for A1 level exams, applicants need to have a passive knowledge of:

  • Subject, direct and indirect pronouns
  • Impersonal si
  • Indefinite adjectives
  • Ordinal numbers
  • Articulated prepositions
  • Active conjugation of regular verbs, irregular verbs andare, bere, dare,
    dire, fare, stare, venire
    , and of modal verbs in the following modes and tenses:
  • Simple sentence: exclamatory clauses
  • Complex sentence: subordinate objective clauses, implicit temporal clauses
    introduced by prima di.

On top of what is required for A1 level exams, applicants need to have an active knowledge of:

  • Noun and adjective agreement
  • Complement pronouns: tonic forms, atone forms lo, la, li, le
  • Cardinal numbers
  • Ordinal numbers: primo, secondo, terzo
  • Articulated prepositions formed with di, a, da, su
  • Active conjugation of regular verbs, irregular verbs andare, bere, dare,
    dire, fare, stare, venire
    , and of modal verbs in the following modes and tenses:
  • The most frequent qualifying adverbs of time, of quantity, of place, of
    affirmation, of negation
  • Simple sentence: exclamatory clauses
  • Complex sentence: coordinate clauses introduced by o, invece, allora,
    infatti, non solo…ma anche
  • Complex sentence: subordinate objective clauses introduced by che, relative
    clauses introduced by che and subject-centered, hypothetical clauses introduced by se.

CILS B1 Cittadinanza

Please note that the CILS B1 Cittadinanza test is not the typical CILS B1 Uno test and will only allow you to obtain Italian citizenship. You can’t use it for work/study. See section CILS B1 Cittadinanza or CILS Uno B1?.

On top of what is required for A1 and A2 level exams, applicants to the B1 Italian language test for citizenship need to have knowledge of:

  • Definite and indefinite articles
  • Position of qualifying adjectives
  • Comparative and superlative adjectives
  • Subject pronouns and other pronouns: tonic and atonal forms, reflexive pronouns
  • Relative pronouns
  • Possessive, demonstrative, interrogative adjectives and pronouns
  • Indefinite adjectives and pronouns ogni, ciascuno, nessuno, qualche
  • Articulated prepositions
  • Conjugation of the active and reflexive form of regular verbs, modal verbs and verbs dare, fare, stare, andare, potere, sapere, bere, dire, venire in the following modes and tenses:
  • Most frequent qualifying adverbs of time, of quantity, of place
  • Simple sentence: declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, volitional clauses with the imperative and conditional moods
  • Complex sentence: copulative, adversative, declarative coordinate clauses
  • Complex sentence: implicit objective subordinate clauses, temporal, causal, declarative, explicit relative clauses.

You will also need to learn enough vocabulary to manage your everyday activities.

ITA – Il candidato è in grado di capire il senso generale di testi contenenti parole del Nuovo Vocabolario di Base della lingua italiana, più un’eventuale parte di lessico comune fino al 5%.

ENG – The candidate is able to understand the general meaning of texts containing words from the Nuovo vocabolario di base della lingua italiana, plus a possible up to 5 percent common vocabulary portion.

CILS guidelines for the B1 Italian language test for citizenship

Refer to the highlighted words in the free Nuovo vocabolario di base della lingua italiana for reference on what words are most important to learn. Here you can download the PDF version of the vocabulary.

Tips and tricks for passing the B1 Italian language test

Focus on what’s actually needed

B1 is an intermediate level, so there is no point in studying topics and grammar rules that only advanced learners need to know. It’s more important for you to know the translation for car (automobile) or ticket (biglietto) than the translation for disqualification (squalifica).

At the same time, you don’t want to study the Italian past subjunctive if you don’t know how to conjugate verbs in the present tense. Focus on the vocabulary and grammar you really need to learn to reach the B1 level in Italian!

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Study the exam structure

Studying the structure of the exam is almost as important as studying vocabulary and grammar.

Knowing what you’re up against is crucial to the success of your exam. That’s because there are time limits for all of the required tasks, and it’s likely that you’ll have to practice two skills at the same time.

For example, during the listening section of the exam, you will be asked to fill in details on a piece of paper while listening to an audio recording in Italian, which you will only be able to listen to a limited number of times.

Reading: Read, read, read!

Don’t jump right into answering the questions on your worksheet. Read the lecture first, then read the passage, and read it carefully. This will help you familiarize yourself with the topic of the text and prepare you for your answers later.

Remember that you have a limited amount of time to complete the assignment. There’s no point in jumping back and forth between reading and writing because you’ll just waste your time.

Also, make sure you know all the vocabulary you need to understand the text. You don’t have to understand every single word, but if you don’t understand a lot of them, it will be much harder to get the general meaning of the text and answer the questions.

If you don’t know the meaning of a word and can’t deduce it from the context, don’t waste any more time and keep reading. Again, time is limited.

The best way to improve your vocabulary is to read books in Italian and focus on the word lists for each lever. For example, here is the vocabulary you need to know to pass the Italian A1 level.

Writing: Don’t bite more than you can chew

My high school Italian teacher once said, “If you can’t handle sentences with three or more subordinate clauses, don’t do it“. And she was speaking to native speakers of Italian. This is very good advice that applies to any language you learn.

Connectors and linking words are especially important to use in the writing part of the B1 Italian language test (not so much in lower levels), but if you can’t handle them correctly, you risk writing an unreadable sentence, and that’s even worse than not using connectors at all.

Your writing must have a logical flow. At the same time, it must be clear and easy to understand. You have to get all the information across in a limited amount of time and space, so focus on that. Don’t ramble. Ask yourself what, when, why, where, who, and how. Ideally, each answer to these questions should be in a separate paragraph.

Listening: Don’t panic and just listen

Students often dread this part of the test. Don’t panic. Read the questions on the page carefully.

Want a very useful trick? Read the questions on the sheet to familiarize yourself with the topic, but DO NOT write anything down when you first listen to the audio recording. Just listen and let it flow.

This way, you are much more likely to understand the general meaning of the dialog, and you won’t risk missing words that might slip your attention as you scramble to mark each answer on the sheet as soon as you hear parts of it. Don’t do that, don’t panic. You can listen to the recording more than once.

When you listen to the recording a second time, that’s when you’ll fill in the required information.

How can you improve your listening skills? Study a test facsimile (I’ve listed a few here, but you can find many more with a quick search on Google) and write down every word you understand. Basically, you want to make a transcription of the audio recording.

If you focus on the general meaning of the recording, you have a better chance of guessing the correct answer to questions you missed. Never leave an answer blank, especially if there’s no penalty for giving random answers. Listening questions are often multiple choice, and there’s always a chance you’ll stumble on the right answer.

If there’s a word you don’t understand, look at the answer keys and ask yourself why that word was so hard to hear. Is it because it’s unfamiliar? Is it because it was pronounced too quickly? Depending on your answer, you can focus on your weaknesses.

Speaking: Spaced repetition is your friend

Speaking is especially tricky for beginners and intermediate speakers. This is because you should be able to talk about a limited number of topics with relative ease, but at the same time your vocabulary is limited and you have to stick to the words you already know. If you can’t translate a word, you’ll have to use synonyms or other descriptions.

If you are worried that your speaking skills are not up to what you will be asked to do on the B1 Italian exam, you can practice by repeating sentences out loud.

Yes, you read that right: all you need to do to improve your speaking skills is to repeat whole sentences like a parrot, at different intervals depending on your familiarity with each sentence or linguistic element. You can find a number of free resources on the Internet that do just that, such as Memrise or Anki.

This method is called spaced repetition, and it’s scientifically proven to improve your language skills.

Books for self-study

If you are new to studying Italian, you may want to take a look at some Italian textbooks for beginners before delving into preparation books for B1 learners.

That said, here are some very useful books you can buy to prepare for your B1 Italian language test to obtain Italian citizenship. Remember: studying the structure of the exam is just as important as studying grammar and vocabulary.

Percorso CILS Cittadinanza B1

Percorso CILS Uno B1

Test di preparazione CELI 2 B1

Preparazione al Celi: Celi 2 + CD

Quaderni del PLIDA: Nuovo esame B1

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Best of luck to you! Buona fortuna! 🤞

Last updated: March 2023

8 thoughts on “How to pass the B1 Italian language test for citizenship”

  1. Hi,

    I would like to pass the Italian B1 exam. I have no prior knowledge of Italian.

    Can you recommend a self study book please?

    • Hi Richard,
      since you are a beginner, you might want to check this list:

      The Nuovo Espresso series is one of the most used Italian textbooks in class and covers all language levels up to C2, but in order to use it for self-study as a beginner you will first need to integrate it with other resources because the manual is entirely written in Italian. I suggest you start with Duolingo and complete its tree, build a foundation of the language and then continue with Nuovo Espresso 1-3. If you like reading, buying a couple of graded readers ( and short stories (in the article) along the way will also be very useful! Since you won’t be doing much talking this way, read and repeat sentences aloud as much as you can.

      If you need some tips on reading books in Italian along with other short stories books, check:

      Buona fortuna! Good luck!

  2. Hi
    Good day. Please I want to know what professional course can someone write ✍️ after the B1 exams.

    • Hi there!
      What do you mean by professional course? A B1 exam + citizenship will allow you the freedom to work and study in the country, but you don’t need proof of your language level if, say, you want to write a professional course in Italian on how to learn English the right way. If you mean you want to go higher than B1, CILS and CELI also offer professional Italian courses and certifications up to C2.

  3. Hello! I have a question about the payment, is there any place I can find the info of where to pay and payment methods? I have my exam scheduled on March 17th and I can’t find anything on this matter online. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Renee, the payment method may depend on the type of exam (PLIDA, CILS, etc.). For example, I’m looking at the payment info for the CELI exams and their website says that the language center itself will tell the candidate how to pay the fee (here, under the heading “Per chi sostiene l’esame in una sede in Italia o nel mondo”). What kind of exam did you schedule?

  4. If I pass one part, but not the other parts of the citizen CELI B1 exam, do I have to take ALL the parts over again? I know that the CILS test makes a student take ALL the parts over again! Even if you get 100% in one of the parts!

    • Hi Mary, I googled that up and found the guidelines for the CELI B1 evaluations (in Italian).

      From what I understand, you don’t need to pass all parts of the written exam (for example, if you fail the listening part but do exceptionally well in other parts, you can still pass) because what matters is the total score of all parts of the written test combined, which must be at least 72/120, and then 22/40 for the speaking test. If you fail to pass either of the two exam chunks, it looks like you fail only that part and can retake it within a year:

      Per superare l’esame del CELI 2 – B1 è necessario ottenere un minimo di
      72 punti nella Prova scritta (dato dalla somma dei punteggi ottenuti nelle diverse
      22 punti nella Prova orale

      To pass the CELI 2 – B1 exam, it is necessary to obtain a minimum of
      72 points in the Written Test (given by the sum of the scores obtained in its different
      22 points in the Speaking Test

      I candidati che non abbiano superato la Prova Scritta (Parti A, B, C) e che abbiano invece superato la Prova Orale o viceversa (Prova scritta superata e Prova orale non superata), possono capitalizzare per un anno (due sessioni d’esame) il risultato parziale ottenuto, sottoponendosi nuovamente alla prova risultata insufficiente.

      Candidates who did not pass the Written Test (Parts A, B, C) and instead passed the Speaking Test or vice versa (Written Test passed and Oral Test failed), may capitalize for one year (two exam sessions) the partial result obtained by re-submitting to the test found to be insufficient.

      You might want to give a call to the CELI language center nearest to you to confirm!

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