What Russian language exams are there for foreigners?

A short guide to the most common official exams in Russian as a foreign language, as well as where to take them and how much they cost.


Perhaps the best known is the Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (ToRFL; in Russian TRKI). You can take this state-certified exam in various locations around the world. The review has many foreign partners, notably in London, Rio de Janeiro and Beijing.

In Russia, there are 13 official universities that issue certification. And not all of them are in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the main tourist hubs. If you want, you can sit at ToRFL in Tomsk, Kazan, Tyumen, Volgograd and elsewhere.

ToRFL has six levels, identical to those accepted in other countries (A1-C2). However, a ToRFL certificate is only issued from B1 (the first level of certification is therefore called TRKI-I / B1). This is usually the minimum required to enter a Russian university. But to get a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree, you need to raise your level to at least TRKI-II / B2.

The examination for the six levels consists of five parts. Four of them correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages ​​(CEFR): reading, writing, listening, speaking. The fifth “non-standard” section (vocabulary / grammar) is a multiple choice test.

You can take ToRFL as many times as you want; the cost ranges from 5,000 to 6,500 rubles ($ 70 to $ 90), depending on the level and university. But keep in mind that the certificate is only valid for two years, and those who wish to take the exam without a preparatory course may need to undergo a prior assessment: an RLC [The Russian Language Centre] evaluation before registering for the exam. I had to do it for the 2nd TRKI certificate because I arrived at the RLC ‘cold’. By the time I took the 3rd TRKI certificate, I had already taken a summer course with them, ”says multilingual blogger Gareth Popkins.

Pushkin State Russian Language Institute exams

In the 1970s, the Pushkin Institute became the first educational center to train teachers and teach Russian as a foreign language. At the time, she developed a whole system of exclusive exams – from a six-level test for children (A1-C2), an equivalent test for adults in Business Russian (B1-C1) and Russian for international tourism (A1-C1). All are structured roughly on the same model as ToRFL and are comparable at the CEFR scale. For example, B1 level in Business Russian corresponds to the fundamental level of the examination system of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

You can take the exam directly at the Moscow Institute or at a partner center abroad, available in 15 countries, including Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Turkey. Prices range from 3,000 to 6,000 rubles ($ 42 to $ 83).

One of the main advantages is that, since it is the Pushkin Institute’s own exam, the center issues certificates for life. Not to be confused with ToRFL or the Russian citizenship test, as the Pushkin Institute offers them as well.

Russian citizenship test

This is a mandatory exam for all those applying for Russian citizenship (it is of no use to anything else). To be successful, you must answer at least 60% of the questions correctly.

Since this is an official state exam, separate from the ToRFL system, it can only be taken at specific educational institutions (a list is provided for each region) and only in Russia.

The exam is considered basic and corresponds to level A2 of the ToRFL with the same structure: reading, writing, listening, speaking and multiple choice vocabulary / grammar. A practice test can be viewed here; it costs about 4,500 rubles ($ 62).

Telc exams

Telc (acronym for “The European Language Certificates”), a non-profit company based in Frankfurt am Main with more than 7,500 licensed partners worldwide (mainly in Europe). Telc initially specialized in German, but now offers certification in other languages, including Russian.

The test is designed for those who wish to confirm their basic communication skills (the top level is B2). It corresponds to the international standard and consists of four parts: written (70-150 minutes, depending on the level), listening (30 minutes), writing (30 minutes) and speaking, where the candidate must maintain a real dialogue for 15 minutes. A practice test is available on the company’s website.

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Sylvester L. Goldfarb