Is Your French Up to Par to Graduate?

In the News

Starting this year, Bill 96 and related regulations are set to change the French language course requirements to receive a CEGEP diploma. With so many articles online, it can be difficult for students to distinguish myth from reality. Here’s what you need to know.

New rules as of 2023

Students who have started their programs this Fall semester will be the first to be required to pass a French language exit exam before graduating. This new requirement applies whether the students attend an English CEGEP or a French CEGEP as it is an integral part of the new curricula set by the Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.  

One exception: those who were declared eligible to attend English school in elementary or high school, be it through the issuance of a certificate of eligibility or a special authorization to receive instruction in English, will not have to write the test to graduate.

Throughout their program and their French language courses and exams, these students will also have to show that they have “sufficient knowledge of French to be able to interact, thrive within Québec society and participate in its development.” For most students that have previously done at least three years of high school or higher education in French or that have passed their French, second language course in secondary 5, simply providing a copy of their certificate or diploma is enough to fulfill this requirement. For other students, results of a French exam must be provided, showing that the student can 

  • communicate unaided in everyday conversations in predictable or partially predictable situations, and  
  • write and understand simple, complete, connected sentences related to personal or everyday events and experiences. 

These abilities correspond to a level 7 (intermediate) in oral communication and a level 4 (beginner) in written communication on the Échelle québécoise des niveaux de compétence en français (French only). 

New rules to come: 2024-2025 school year 

Other rules will come into force as of the next school year. English CEGEPs will need to ensure that students successfully complete at least three courses given in French before graduation, in addition to their two mandatory French language courses. These can be concentration courses, humanities courses or complementary courses.

For students who were declared eligible to attend English school previously, it is possible to fulfil this graduation requirement by replacing the three courses with additional French language courses, for a total of five French language courses.

Each of the three courses given in French must include a minimum of 45 hours of learning activities, such as theoretical courses, lab work and assignments.

Started your program before the rules came into force? 

Yes, new rules are coming into play as of this year or as of the 2024-2025 school year. But do they apply to everyone? What if you started classes last year with your graduation set for this coming Winter semester?

The law’s transitional provisions state that students who have registered for their CEGEP study program and who were already receiving classes in English under that program before the 2023-2024 school year are allowed to graduate even if they do not pass the French exit exam or provide the results of a French test demonstrating the required French proficiency levels on the Échelle québécoise des niveaux de compétence en français

For students that will have started their programs before the 2024-2025 school year, the French exit exam and the proof of sufficient knowledge of French will be required. However, graduation will still be within reach even if they do not fill the requirement of completing three courses in French, other than their French, second language courses.

Did you know?

Transitional provisions, as their name suggest, exist to manage the transition from the old law to the new law, facilitating the implementation of the new rules.

The government tries to predict possible conflicts and to prevent them by clearly stating when the old rules still apply, notably to preserve the previous rights of those who were already exercising them.