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What Are CEFR Language Levels?

Several language proficiency frameworks are available to identify an individual’s language proficiency level. 

In addition, these language proficiency frameworks include the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB), the Interagency Language Roundtable Scale (ILR), and others. 

This article will focus on the CEFR, where it came from, the different levels, who use the CEFR, and whether it is essential. Moreover, we will also give a comparison between the CEFR and CLB. 

What is CEFR?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is one of the most prominent and standardized international language proficiency references for language exams. 

In addition, the Council of Europe developed the CEFR between 1966 and 1989. And also, the CEFR is made possible by the collaboration of the different language teachers in various countries in Europe. 

The main goal of the British Council is to deliver a clear and standardized evaluation of language proficiency that educational institutions and employers can use. Consequently, it also aims to provide its users with a learning method, teaching, and assessment for all the different languages used in Europe. 

And later on, in 2001, the European Council suggested using the CEFR as a standardized and official assessment guideline for foreign languages across Europe. Moreover, it also aims to provide an accurate and reliable validation of an individual’s English language abilities in various countries worldwide. 

The CEFR has six proficiency levels, the highest is the C2, and the lowest is A1. And these six proficiency levels are categorized into A, B, and C levels. 

  • The A Levels: Basic User
    • A1 (Beginners)
    • A2 (Elementary)
  • The B Levels: Independent User
    • B1 (Intermediate)
    • B2 (Upper Intermediate)
  • The C Levels: Proficient User
    • C1 (Advanced)
    • C2 (Proficiency)

Consequently, these six CEFR reference levels are globally accepted by many educational institutions and industrial organizations as the European standard in assessing one’s English language competencies, including reading, listening, writing, and speaking

One of the features of the CEFR is that it presents a collection of can-do statements that best describe the language proficiency level of an individual rather than giving out vague descriptors. 

It is also one of the reasons why many prefer the CEFR scale because it is easy to understand and delivers precise statements that reflect one’s proficiency level. Note that CEFR is not tied to any specific language exams. 

However, it is now widely used and accepted as a standardized language framework for English proficiency exams. And most of these language exams now have CEFR level equivalents for their scoring and interpretations. 

Who uses the CEFR?

This standardized language framework is extensively used and accepted in various teaching sectors, both public and private educational institutions worldwide. 

In addition, the CEFR is also highly acknowledged by multinational companies, and they trust it to provide an accurate description of their applicant’s English language proficiency level. As a result, more English-speaking countries are now using the CEFR as an official English language level framework.  

Differences between CLB and CEFR

The Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) are widely used standardized benchmarks for language proficiency exams. It is the official standardized scale in Canada in assessing your language proficiency level. 

On the other hand, CEFR or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is a globally accepted and acknowledged standardized European framework used in assessing one’s English language proficiency.  

Moreover, the CLB uses a scale of 12 to 0 points, and the CEFR has a six-point scale that corresponds to the C2 proficiency level, which is the highest CEFR level, and the A1 is the lowest CEFR Level. 

Here is a table showing the comparison between the CLB and CEFR levels. 

CLB LevelCEFR Level 
12C2 Proficiency Level
11C2 Proficiency Level
10C2 Proficiency Level
9C1 Advanced Level
8C1 Advanced Level
7B2 Upper – Intermediate Level
6B2 Upper – Intermediate Level
5B1 – Intermediate Level
4A2 – Elementary Level
3 to 0A1 – Beginner Level

What are the CEFR levels? 

The CEFR has six language level descriptors describing the four English language skills: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. And these language level descriptors are categorized into Basic User, Independent User, and Proficient English User. 

Here are the English language level descriptions of the CEFR Levels.

CEFR LevelProficiency Level Description
English Basic User 
  • A1
  • A2

  • Beginner Proficiency  Level
  • Elementary English Proficiency Level 
English Independent User

  • B1
  • B2

  • Intermediate English Proficiency Level
  • Upper-Intermediate English Proficiency Level
Proficient English User
  • C1
  • C2

  • Advanced English Proficiency Level
  • Proficient English User Level

The A Levels: English Basic User

Under this level are the A2 and A1 CEFR proficiency levels.

The A1 proficiency level is described as the beginner users of the language. It means that those who fall under this level show only basic understanding and use of the English language. 

In addition, the A1 proficiency level also describes the individual under this level can introduce themselves using only basic English terms and can also interact given that the other person speaks slowly, clearly, and will assist during the conversation. 

The A2 proficiency level describes that the individual can understand and use everyday expressions usually encountered daily in various settings such as workplace, school, home, and community. 

In addition, the individual at this level can communicate using the English language in only simple structure and routine tasks such as answering very simple type of questions.

The B Levels: Independent User 

The B levels are consist of the CEFR B1 and B2 language proficiency levels.

At the B1 level, the individual can comprehend the main idea of a context or statement, which usually deals with familiar topics about career, school, and other day-to-day happenings. 

Moreover, the individual also can establish communication using the English language when traveling to a place where the language is used. One can also deliver simple and connected thoughts about a familiar topic. 

And also, the individual can describe recent events and express one’s dreams, ambitions, hopes, and the likes. 

The B2 or the upper intermediate level describes the individual’s ability to understand the main ideas of a given context, both concrete and abstract ones. In addition, one can also interact with another person with fluency and spontaneity. 

Talking with native English speakers is also possible at this level of proficiency, and also the individual can produce precise and give a description on a variety of different subjects.  

The C Levels: Proficient English User 

Under the C levels are the CEFR C1 and C2 proficiency levels.

The C1 level describes the individual understanding a variety of long and complex contexts. And also, one can identify implicit meaning. 

In addition, the individual at this level can also express thoughts and ideas with a high degree of fluency and spontaneity without any apparent struggle in finding the correct terms to be used. 

One can also deliver well-structured content with detailed unique information unique and show great control in using organizational patterns, connectors, and cohesive devices. 

The C2 level shows excellent and effortless understanding and comprehension of any type of context. In addition, the individual at this level can give an excellent summary of different spoken and written sources. 

Moreover, one can also easily reconstruct arguments and with cohesion. And also, the individual in the C2 level shows fluency in all aspects, is precise, and can differentiate finer details in any given complex situation. 

What are the CEFR Three Tables?

Three CEFR tables are used to introduce the CEFR Levels, including the Global Scale (Table 1), Self-Assessment Grid (Table 2), and the Qualitative Aspects of Spoken Langauge Use (Table 3). 

  • Table 1 – Global Scale
  • Table 2 – Self-Assessment Grid
  • Table 3 – Qualitative Aspects of Spoken Langauge Use 

Moreover, these tables share the same contents and assessment levels; however, they differ in their purpose and intended audience. Therefore, these CEFR tables are presented in different forms to cater to various CEFR language levels’ various users accordingly. 

Below are the details for each of the CEFR tables. 

Table 1 – Global Scale

This table is intended and summarized comprehensively for the Global Scale of the CEFR level, making it more transparent and easy to understand. Moreover, it is specially made for non-specialist users of the CEFR levels, such as teachers, professors, and other academic administrators.

CEFR LevelsLevel Descriptors
C2Proficient User
  • The individual has the ability to understand with ease any written information and heard information. And one is also able to summarize information from various spoken and written materials that can establish coherence.
  • One can also establish arguments and express ideas with spontaneity, fluency, accuracy, and precision. And also, the individual can differentiate and identify information from complex contexts. 
C2Proficient User
  • The individual at this level can comprehend a variety of demanding, long types of contexts and can also understand its meaning. And also, one can express his/herself fluently and establish concise ideas without noticeable errors. 
  • Has the ability to use the English language with flexibility and effectiveness in any given situation. And the individual can also produce detailed, clear, and concise details for a complex type of context. 
B2Independent User
  • The individual can comprehend ideas presented in concrete and abstract contexts. And also, one has the ability to identify technicalities in a specific topic given. 
  • One also shows fluency and spontaneity in using the English language and has the ability to interact with a native speaker without apparent errors. In addition, one can also deliver detailed information and explain the writer’s viewpoint for a topic.
B1Independent User
  • At this level, one shows a clear comprehension and inputs regarding common topics from day-to-day happenings, work environment, school, and other social interactions. 
  • The individual also has the ability to deal with familiar situations that will likely arise in different settings. And also, one can describe events, dreams, plans and has the ability to reason out and share opinions. 
A2Basic User
  • The individual at this level can comprehend simple sentences and understand expressions frequently used daily. And also, one can communicate in a simple form using the English language.
  • And also, the individual can only use simple terms while communicating and can establish a direct interaction about familiar everyday topics.  
A1Basic User
  • The individual shows ability in using only familiar daily expressions and basic English phrases. And also, one can introduce and describe themselves using simple terms and can answer simple questions. 
  • One also has the ability to communicate and interact, given that the other person talks slowly and will assist the speaker from time to time. 

Table 2 – Self-Assessment Grid

The Self-Assessment Grid of the CEFR levels shows three scales, including understanding, speaking, and writing. Consequently, this table is a detailed overview of the CEFR levels. 

It is also used as a self-assessment orientation tool when using the CEFR, and it is intended to assist learners in profiling their language skills. Moreover, this table will also help them have a more detailed look at the CEFR level descriptors. 

Spoken Interaction
Spoken Production
  • You can recognize familiar English terms and basic phrases. 
  • And also, you can understand and speak the language at a slower pace.
  • You can understand and read familiar words and English terms.
  • And also, you have the ability to read and comprehend very simple sentences such as posters and ads. 
  • You can interact in a very simple manner with the help of the other speaker. 
  • You can also formulate sentences with the help of other people and can ask and answer questions on familiar topics. 
  • You can use simple English terms and phrases. 
  • You can also describe people and places you are familiar with. 
  • You can write short and simple sentences. 
  • And you can also fill in forms that need personal details, addresses, and other standard details. 
  • You can understand phrases and other immediate levels of context. 
  • And you can also identify the main points for short and simple sentences. 
  • You can read very short and simple texts. 
  • And also, you can identify specific information from familiar reading materials such as announcements, menus, and timetables. 
  • You have the ability to communicate simply in day-to-day activities and scenarios. 
  • And, you also have the ability to handle a short conversation even if you cannot fully understand the whole discussion. 
  • You can use a couple of phrases and sentences to describe familiar scenarios and people. 
  • And, you can also give a short description of your career, educational background, and living status. 
  • You can write short and simple messages about familiar topics. 
  • For example, a thank you note, a reminder, and other simple writing. 
  • You can easily understand the main idea of a speech or context that you commonly encounter daily. 
  • In addition, you also comprehend information from radios and TVs. 
  • You can understand reading materials that contain a high level of English terms that you encounter in your school, workplace, and community. 
  • You can comprehend and understand the description of events, identify other persons’ feelings, and read personal letters. 
  • You can understand And use the English language accordingly, especially when traveling to places.
  • You can communicate and expand the conversation about specific topics.  
  • You have the ability to connect phrases in a simple form to talk about events and personal ideas. 
  • You can also give a short explanation about your plans and narrate a movie or book you have read. 
  • You can do a simple write-up about a familiar topic.
  • You can also write personal letters about your experiences and opinions. 
  • You can follow and understand extended speeches and lectures. 
  • You can also understand complex arguments and debates, given that the topic is familiar to you. 
  • You can read articles and reports about specific topics that discuss situations. 
  • You can identify and understand the writer’s viewpoints and message. And also, you can understand contemporary literary prose. 
  • You can communicate and establish fluency and spontaneity. 
  • Talking to a native speaker at this level is possible, and you can also take an active part in the discussion.
  • You can deliver clear, detailed information about various topics related to your interest. 
  • You can also identify the advantages and disadvantages of an issue. 
  • You have the ability to write a clear and comprehensive text about different subjects. 
  • You can also write essays or reports and provide enough supporting information.
  • You can easily understand and comprehend an extended speech even if it does not have a clear structure.
  • And also, you can easily understand television and movies with ease. 
  • You can comprehend and read complex contexts with different styles of writing. 
  • And you can easily understand technical writing without any problem, even when it is not related to your field. 
  • You are able to express your ideas and opinions with ease, fluency, and consistency. 
  • You can also establish a conversation without any difficulty in any given situation, such as in a professional and social setting. 
  • You can discuss complex subjects, provide accurate descriptions for each, and integrate other sub-themes. 
  • And also, you can establish detailed information and pinpoint essential details of the context. 
  • You can express yourself in a very well and structured manner without obvious inaccuracy. 
  • And also, you have the ability to write about complex topics such as in an essay or for a report. 
  • You have no difficulty in comprehending and understanding any kind of spoken language. 
  • And also, you can understand native speakers even with accents without any problem. 
  • You can read various written contexts without any difficulty.
  • And also, you can understand complex literary works and texts. 
  • You can join any type of conversation with confidence, precision, and fluency. 
  • And also, you can effectively use idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms without any problem. 
  • In addition, you can also deliver excellent conversations and can convey finer details. 
  • You do not have any problem in handling a conversation or an argument. 
  • In addition, you can establish excellent communication in any structure and deliver clear points and information. 
  • You have the ability to write clear and complex contexts without any difficulty. 
  • And also, you have the ability to produce excellent articles and reports with an effective logical structure to ensure the proper delivery of the message. 

Table 3 – Qualitative Aspects of Spoken Langauge Use 

The Qualitative Aspects of Spoken Langauge Use is the third CEFR table. This table was created only to measure the spoken performances. 

Moreover, Table 3 also presents the different qualitative aspects of language use, including range, accuracy, fluency, interaction, and coherence. 

  • Have the ability to establish a cohesive and coherent conversation using the English language. 
  • In addition, you also have the ability to use the appropriate terms and other cohesive devices.  
  • Grammatical error is very minimal, and you can establish consistent control of your grammar. 
  • And also, one can continue the discussion even when there is little attention from others. 
  • Can communicate spontaneously and effectively. 
  • And one can also establish a smooth conversation with none to very minimal error. 
  • Delivers excellent flexibility in using the English language. Can easily formulate ideas with precision and accuracy. 
  • One has an excellent command of idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms.
  • Shows excellent interaction skills while using non-verbal cues with less effort. 
  • There is no difficulty in establishing a discourse with any given topic. 
  • Have the ability to create clear, fluent, coherent, and well-structured speech. 
  • And excellent control of connectors, organizational patterns, and cohesive devices. 
  • Has the ability to maintain a high level of grammatical accuracy. 
  • There are fewer unnoticeable errors, and they are difficult to spot. 
  • Is able to express oneself fluently and effortlessly. 
  • There is a little difficulty in terms of the topic, but one can still carry on with the discussion. 
  • Shows good knowledge of different language terms. Can fully express oneself with consistency and a great flow of ideas. 
  • In addition, one can also talk about a wide range of general, academic, professional, and other topics without showing any restrictions. 
  • One is able to use suitable phrases with a wide range of sentence structure and also give concrete remarks for any issue. 
  • The individual has limited cohesive devices to make the discussion clearer and coherent.
  • And also, there are visible errors in the long run. 
  • Has a high control of grammar and is aware and can correct mistakes if present. 
  • Rarely commits an error that can cause misinterpretation.
  • There is a noticeable hesitation when communicating, and one also tends to search for patterns and expressions.
  • And also, there are long visible pauses when speaking. 
  • Has sufficient knowledge about different topics and is also able to give precise descriptions and viewpoints on each. 
  • There is consistency and accuracy during the discussion.
  • Can establish and initiate a good conversation while using appropriate language terms. 
  • And also, one can deliver reliable information about familiar topics and establish good comprehension skills.
  • Is able to create short and distinct terms in the English language. 
  • And one is also able to use simple elements and connectors. 
  • Can establish patterns and routines while communicating. 
  • One can also deliver a reasonable and accurate discussion.
  • Has the ability to create an understandable discussion even with pauses due to some grammatical errors. 
  • Needs to pause to do some planning and structuring for the discussion. 
  • There is only enough knowledge in using the language terms. 
  • And also, one has sufficient vocabulary knowledge and is able to talk about familiar topics. 
  • One has the ability to initiate and maintain a conversation about familiar topics encountered at work, home, and the community.
  • Is able to recall and repeat given information for a better understanding.  
  • Can create a simple conversation by linking a group of words and is also able to use simple connectors such as “like,” “as,” and “because.”
  • Is able to use simple structures accordingly and with noticeable basic errors while establishing a communication.
  • Is able to establish communication and express oneself by using simple terms. 
  • Consistent pauses while talking and evident restructuring of sentences. 
  • One only uses basic sentence structure and patterns. 
  • There are also noticeable memorized phrases used during the conversation.   
  • Only uses simple and basic English terms. 
  • One also shows consistently memorized phrases on a daily basis. 
  • Has the ability to link groups of words that are very simple and are used daily. 
  • And also, it is able to use simple connectors such as “and” or “then.” 
  • One only establishes a limited and simple grammatical structure and sentence patterns. 
  • Can communicate but only with very short and isolated English terms. 
  • Finds a hard time looking for the right expression and proper wording. 
  • Delivers only very basic terms and phrases. 
  • One can only talk about personal details and other specific daily happenings. 
  • One only has very basic knowledge in terms of words and phrases. 
  • Can talk only about related and very common settings. 

When Do You Need the CEFR Language Proficiency Certification?

The CEFR language certification is mostly used and accepted by academic institutions and industrial organizations in different countries across the globe. 

Here are some situations wherein you may need a CEFR Language Proficiency Certification. 

  1. The CEFR certification is needed when you apply to educational institutions such as universities and colleges wherein the medium of instruction is the English language.  
  2. It is one of the admission requirements if you apply for a doctorate, master’s degree, or any higher level of an academic program. 
  3. It is also needed for employment, especially if you wish to apply to a multinational company or if you want to pursue a career abroad. 
  4. The certification is also needed for immigration purposes. 

Additional FAQs on CEFR

What are the Six Levels of CEFR?

The CEFR has six levels: the A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2 levels. All of these six levels are designed to describe the language proficiency level of an individual. 

In addition, the highest CEFR level is the C2, while the B2 level is considered to be the average language proficiency level, and the lowest in the CEFR scale is the A1 level. 

What is the CEFR Language Levels A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2?

The CEFR levels A1 and A2 belong to the A level, the beginner level. And for the B1 and B2 levels are under the B levels, which corresponds to an independent language user level.

While the C1 and C2 levels belong to the C levels or the proficiency English user, which are the highest CEFR proficiency language levels.

In addition, these CEFR levels are often used by test-takers and other professionals to describe their English language skills, including speaking, writing, listening, and reading. 

What CEFR level is Fluent?

The B levels, which contains the B1 and B2 proficiency levels, if you fall under this CEFR level, your English language proficiency level is considered fluent.

In addition, the B2 CEFR level is the minimum requirement language proficiency level by most academic and industrial institutions. It is also considered especially for those non-native English speakers. 

What are the Different CEFR levels?

The different CEFR levels are as follows, C2 level, the proficiency language user level. It is then followed by the C1 level, which is the advanced level. After that, the other CEFR level is the B2 level which corresponds to an upper-intermediate proficiency level. And the next CEFR level is the B1 level, wherein it is considered the intermediate proficiency level. And for the lowest CEFR level is the A level, which consists of the A2 level, which means an elementary level of proficiency. Lastly, the CEFR A1 level corresponds to a beginner language proficiency level. 


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