European LANGUAGE LEVELS (C.E.F.R.)

 

     Assessing students is a challenge all teachers face; often it is difficult to evaluate students as one would outside the classroom. How can one evaluate students as compared to a more universal standard, not just to each other in the classroom context? The Common European Framework (CEF), established in 1996 by the Council of Europe, established such a standard for the assessment and teaching of languages. This section will give details on what the CEF is and how it can be used in any context.

 

What is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)?

CEFR logo

     The CEFR provides a common basis for the elaboration of language syllabuses, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, etc. across Europe. It describes in a comprehensive way what language learners have to learn in order to use a language for communication and what knowledge and skills they have to develop.

 

     The CEFR describes foreign language proficiency at six levels: A1 and A2, B1 and B2, C1 and C2.  These six levels are organized in three groups:  

A:  Basic Speaker or User,

B:  Independent Speaker and

C:  Proficient Speaker.  

 

The six levels of the CEFR

CEFR Levels

     This scheme makes it possible to compare tests and examinations across languages and national boundaries. It also provides a basis for recognising language qualifications and thus facilitating educational and occupational mobility. It is very widely used not only in Europe but also in other continents and is now available in 38 languages, and all important exams are mapped to the CEFR.

 

     The following chart shows these levels.

 


CEFR A1 Beginner Breakthrough

A1: Beginner or Breakthrough

Skill Self-assessment

     Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

 

Skill

A1:  Beginner or Breakthrough

Listening

(Oral Comprehension)

Can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning himself/herself, family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly. 

Reading

(Written Comprehension)

Can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues. 

Speaking

(Spoken interaction)

Can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help him/her formulate what he/she is trying to say.

Can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics. 

Speaking

(Spoken Production)

Can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where he/she lives and people he/she knows. 

Writing

(Written Production)

Can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings.  

Can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering his/her name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form. 

 

Communicative Language
Competence Assessment

(Core Inventory
for English)

Competence

A1:  Beginner or Breakthrough

Functions

Directions

Describing habits and routines

Giving personal information

Greetings

Telling the time

Understanding and using numbers

Understanding and using prices

Grammar

Adjectives: common and demonstrative

Adverbs of frequency

Comparatives and superlatives

Going to

How much/how many and very common uncountable nouns

I’d like

Imperatives (+/-)

Intensifiers - very basic

Modals: can/can’t/could/couldn’t

Past simple of “to be

Past Simple

Possessive adjectives

Possessives

Prepositions, common

Prepositions of place

Prepositions of time, including in/on/at

Present continuous

Present simple

Pronouns: simple, personal

Questions

There is/are

To be, including question+negatives

Verb + ing: like/hate/love

Discourse

Markers

Connecting words: and, but, because.

Vocabulary

Food and drink

Nationalities and countries

Personal information

Things in the town, shops and shopping

Verbs – basic

Topics

Family life

Hobbies and pastimes

Holidays

Leisure activities

Shopping

Work and jobs

 


CEFR A2 Elementary Waystage

A2: Elementary or Waystage

Skill Self-assessment

     Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

 

Skill

A2:  Elementary or Waystage

Listening

(Oral Comprehension)

Can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment).  

Can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements. 

Reading

(Written Comprehension)

Can read very short, simple texts.  

Can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and can understand short simple personal letters. 

Speaking

(Spoken interaction)

Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities.  

Can handle very short social exchanges, even though he/she can't usually understand enough to keep the conversation going himself/herself. 

Speaking

(Spoken Production)

Can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms his/her family and other people, living conditions, his/her educational background and his/her present or most recent job. 

Writing

(Written Production)

Can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs.

Can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something. 

 

Communicative Language
Competence Assessment

(Core Inventory
for English)

Competence

A2:  Elementary or Waystage

Functions

Describing habits and routines

Describing past experiences

Describing people

Describing places

Describing things

Obligation and necessity

Requests

Suggestions

Grammar

Adjectives – comparative, – use of than and definite article

Adjectives – superlative – use of definite article

Adverbial phrases of time, place and frequency – including word order

Adverbs of frequency

Articles – with countable and uncountable nouns

Countables and Uncountables: much/many

Future Time (will and going to)

Gerunds

Going to

Imperatives

Modals – can/could

Modals – have to

Modals – should

Past continuous

Past simple

Phrasal verbs – common

Possessives – use of ‘s, s’

Prepositional phrases (place, time and movement) Prepositions of time: on/in/at

Present continuous

Present continuous for future

Present perfect

Questions Verb + ing/infinitive: like/ want-would like

Wh-questions in past

Zero and 1st conditional

Discourse

Markers

Linkers: sequential – past time

Vocabulary

Adjectives: personality, description, feelings

Food and drink

Things in the town, shops and shopping

Travel and services

Topics

Education

Hobbies and pastimes

Holidays

Leisure activities

Shopping

Work and jobs

 


CEFR B1 Intermediate Threshold

B1: Intermediate or Threshold

Skill Self-assessment

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

 

Skill

B1:  Intermediate or Threshold

Listening

(Oral Comprehension)

Can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.  

Can understand the main point of many radio or TV programs on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear. 

Reading

(Written Comprehension)

Can understand texts that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language.  

Can understand the description of events, feelings and wishes in personal letters. 

Speaking

(Spoken interaction)

Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst traveling in an area where the language is spoken. Can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies, work, travel and current events). 

Speaking

(Spoken Production)

Can connect phrases in a simple way in order to describe experiences and events, his/her dreams, hopes and ambitions.  

Can briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.  

Can narrate a story or relate the plot of a book or film and describe his/her reactions. 

Writing

(Written Production)

Can write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest.  

Can write personal letters describing experiences and impressions 

 

Communicative Language
Competence Assessment

(Core Inventory
for English)

Competence

B1:  Intermediate or Threshold

Functions

Checking understanding

Describing experiences and events

Describing feelings and emotion

Describing places

Expressing opinions; language of agreeing and disagreeing

Initiating and closing conversation

Managing interaction (interrupting, changing topic, resuming or continuing)

Grammar

Adverbs

Broader range of intensifiers such as too, enough

Comparatives and superlatives

Complex question tags

Conditionals, 2nd and 3rd

Connecting words expressing cause and effect, contrast, etc.

Future continuous

Modals - must/can’t deduction

Modals – might, may, will, probably

Modals – should have/might have/etc

Modals: must/have to

Past continuous

Past perfect

Past simple

Past tense responses

Phrasal verbs, extended

Present perfect continuous

Present perfect/past simple

Reported speech (range of tenses)

Simple passive

Wh- questions in the past

Will and going to, for prediction

Discourse

Markers

Connecting words expressing cause and effect, contrast, etc.

Linkers: sequential past time

Vocabulary

Collocation

Colloquial language

Things in the town, shops and shopping

Travel and services

Topics

Books and literature

Education

Film

Leisure activities

Media

News, lifestyles and current affairs

 


CEFR B2 Upper Intermediate Vantage

B2: Upper Intermediate or Vantage

Skill Self-assessment

     Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

 

Skill

B2:  Upper Intermediate or Vantage

Listening

(Oral Comprehension)

Can understand extended speech and lectures and follow even complex lines of argument provided the topic is reasonably familiar.  

Can understand most TV news and current affairs programs.  

Can understand the majority of films in standard dialect. 

Reading

(Written Comprehension)

Can read articles and reports concerned with contemporary problems in which the writers adopt particular attitudes or viewpoints.  

Can understand contemporary literary prose. 

Speaking

(Spoken interaction)

Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible.  

Can take an active part in discussion in familiar contexts, accounting for and sustaining his/her views. 

Speaking

(Spoken Production)

Can present clear, detailed descriptions on a wide range of subjects related to his/her field of interest. Can explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options. 

Writing

(Written Production)

Can write clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects related to his/her interests.  

Can write an essay or report, passing on information or giving reasons in support of or against a particular point of view.  

Can write letters highlighting the personal significance of events and experiences. 

 

Communicative Language
Competence Assessment

(Core Inventory
for English)

Competence

B2:  Upper Intermediate or Vantage

Functions

Critiquing and reviewing

Describing experiences

Describing feelings and emotions

Describing hopes and plans

Developing an argument

Encouraging and inviting another speaker to continue, come in

Expressing abstract ideas

Expressing agreement and disagreement

Expressing opinions

Expressing reaction, e.g. indifference

Interacting informally, reacting, expressing interest, sympathy, surprise, etc.

Opinion, justification

Speculating

Taking the initiative in interaction

Synthesizing, evaluating, glossing info

Grammar

Adjectives and adverbs

Future continuous

Future perfect

Future perfect continuous

Mixed conditionals

Modals – can’t have, needn’t have

Modals of deduction and speculation

Narrative tenses

Passives

Past perfect

Past perfect continuous

Phrasal verbs, extended

Relative clauses

Reported speech

Will and going to, for prediction

Wish

Would expressing habits, in the past

Discourse

Markers

Connecting words expressing cause and effect, contrast etc.

Discourse markers to structure fromal speech

Linkers: although, in spite of, despite

Linkers: sequential – past time – subsequently

Vocabulary

Collocation

Colloquial language

Topics

Arts Books and literature

Education

Film

Media

News, lifestyles and current affairs

 


CEFR C1 Advanced Effective Operational Proficiency

C1: Advanced or Effective Operational Proficiency

Skill Self-assessment

     Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

 

Skill

C1:  Advanced or Effective Operational Proficiency

Listening

(Oral Comprehension)

Can understand extended speech even when it is not clearly structured and when relationships are only implied and not signaled explicitly.  

Can understand television programs and films without too much effort. 

Reading

(Written Comprehension)

Can understand long and complex factual and literary texts, appreciating distinctions of style.  

Can understand specialized articles and longer technical instructions, even when they do not relate to his/her field. 

Speaking

(Spoken interaction)

Can express himself/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.  

Can use language flexibly and effectively for social and professional purposes.

Can formulate ideas and opinions with precision and relate his/her contribution skillfully to those of other speakers. 

Speaking

(Spoken Production)

Can present clear, detailed descriptions of complex subjects integrating sub-themes, developing particular points and rounding off with an appropriate conclusion.

Writing

(Written Production)

Can express himself/herself in clear, well structured text, expressing points of view at some length.  

Can write about complex subjects in a letter, an essay or a report, underlining what he/she consider to be the salient issues.  

Can select style appropriate to the reader in mind. 

 

Communicative Language
Competence Assessment

(Core Inventory
for English)

Competence

C1:  Advanced or Effective Operational Proficiency

Functions

Conceding a point

Critiquing and reviewing constructively

Defending a point of view persuasively

Developing an argument systematically

Emphasizing a point, feeling, issue

Expressing attitudes and feelings precisely

Expressing certainty, probability, doubt

Expressing opinions tentatively, hedging

Expressing reaction, e.g. indifference

Expressing shades of opinion and certainty

Responding to counterarguments

Speculating and hypothesising about causes, consequences etc.

Synthesising, evaluating and glossing information

Grammar

Futures (revision)

Inversion with negative adverbials

Mixed conditionals in past, present and future

Modals in the past

Narrative tenses for experience, incl. passive

Passive forms, all

Phrasal verbs, especially splitting

Wish/if only regrets

Discourse

Markers

Linking devices, logical markers

Markers to structure and signpost formal and informal speech and writing

Vocabulary

Approximating (vague language)

Collocation

Colloquial language

Differentiated use of vocabulary

Eliminating false friends

Formal and informal registers

Idiomatic expressions

Topics

Arts

Books and literature

Film

Media

News, lifestyles and current affairs

Scientific developments

Technical and legal language

 


CEFR C2 Expert Mastery or Proficiency

C2: Expert or Mastery

     Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.

 

Skill

C2:  Expert or Mastery or Proficiency

Listening

(Oral Comprehension)

Has no difficulty in understanding any kind of spoken language, whether live or broadcast, even when delivered at fast native speed, provided.  

Has some time to get familiar with the accent. 

Reading

(Written Comprehension)

Can read with ease virtually all forms of the written language, including abstract, structurally or linguistically complex texts such as manuals, specialized articles and literary works. 

Speaking

(Spoken interaction)

Can take part effortlessly in any conversation or discussion and have a good familiarity with idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms.  

Can express himself/herself fluently and convey finer shades of meaning precisely.  

If he/she does have a problem can backtrack and restructure around the difficulty so smoothly that other people are hardly aware of it. 

Speaking

(Spoken Production)

Can present a clear, smoothly flowing description or argument in a style appropriate to the context and with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points. 

Writing

(Written Production)

Can write clear, smoothly-flowing text in an appropriate style.  

Can write complex letters, reports or articles which present a case with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points.  

Can write summaries and reviews of professional or literary works. 

 


Guided Learning Hours for each CEFR level

     EuroLingual is often asked about the number of study hours required to reach a certain examination level. It is not possible to give a categorical answer to this, as hours of study required will vary depending upon several factors such as the candidates’ language learning background, the intensity of the study, the inclinations and age of the individual as well as the amount of study/exposure outside of lesson times. The following figures are, however, sometimes quoted as an approximate guideline:

 

CEFR level

Guided Learning Hours 

(Class time + Self study)

Approximate

Number of words 

A1 approx. 90~100  750 
A2 approx. 180~200 1,500
B1  approx. 350~400 2,000 
B2 approx. 500~600 3,000 
C1  approx. 700~800 4,000 
C2 approx. 1,000~1,200  5,000

 

The six levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2) of the CEFR
and the guided learning hours needed for each level

CEFR Levels and the guided learning hours needed for each level

Click on picture to zoom in

 


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