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What is English Proficiency?

English is the most prominent and most-spoken language in every place you go. It is also the main language used in business, commerce, entertainment, education, and community. As a result, the English language plays an important role in our daily communication and everyday life.

And because of the importance of the English language in our daily routine, many non-native speakers are trying their best to speak and learn the language for them to understand and communicate effectively with native English speakers. 

When learning the English language, you also need to achieve a certain level of fluency, accuracy, and proficiency. It will determine how well you can use the English language. So when you say learning the English language, it is where proficiency comes in. 

So what does it mean to be proficient in the English language? Is it necessary to be proficient in English? Why do academic institutions need proof of one’s English proficiency? How do we measure language proficiency? 

Of course, many of you are confused about what English proficiency is. This article will discuss what it is, know its importance, and how to achieve English language proficiency.

English Language: The Global Language

English is the most widely recognized and even considered the main language used in communication in different parts of the world. Moreover, there are 1.35 billion people in different countries who can speak English.

Most countries worldwide have a variety of languages and dialects spoken. And even if the English language is not the native language used in these places, it is often considered a second language by many cultures. 

In addition, most of these English language users are non-native speakers, which means that their native tongue is not English. For example, those Norwegian, Chinese, Spanish,  Russian, and other individuals who are non-native speakers of the English language but can use and communicate in English. 

The English language allows non-native English speakers to communicate with different people worldwide. It usually applies whenever traveling, dealing with business proposals, school, interacting with others on social media, workplace settings, and the likes.

And because of the huge number of English speakers worldwide, many people are learning the language to keep up with the trend. Consequently, there are approximately 743 million non-native English speakers worldwide.

For example, in the United Kingdom alone, 63,962,000 individuals can speak the language in the United Kingdom alone. And while in the United States, there are 298,444,149 English speakers. 

We have provided a table below showing the different countries with the percentage of English speakers respectively. 

CountryPercentage of
English Speakers
Total Population of
English Speakers
United States94.2%298,444,149
United Kingdom97.7%63,962,000
South Africa3116,424,417

What is English Language Proficiency?

Since English is one of the most spoken languages globally, knowing the language is becoming necessary for foreign learners. Thus, English proficiency is now a global demand and a top requirement for all countries, especially those English-speaking ones.

Learning another language can be challenging and involves a lot of effort. And it does not mean that if you can speak, write, read, and understand English, you are now considered a proficient user. 

The word “proficiency” refers to the level of competence or expertise you can achieve for a specific skill or ability. And it also means having excellent knowledge and experience in a specific area or trade. So what does it mean when we say proficient in English? 

If you are experienced in English, you have an excellent and total command of your language skills such as writing, reading, listening, and speaking. To put it simply, you have the ability to use the language in any situation or environment at a mastery level.

We all know that the English language has four skills that play an essential role in achieving a specific level of proficiency. To achieve the highest English language proficiency or to master, you need to improve all of these skills and not just one.

Four Core English Language Skills

  • Listening Skills
  • Writing Skills
  • Reading Skills
  • Speaking Skills

1. Listening Skills

The listening skills involve your capabilities in receiving and interpreting the relayed messages accurately in the communication process. If you do not have excellent listening skills, communication will be misinterpreted and lead to misunderstanding. 

Note that listening is not similar to hearing. Listening requires more focus, concentration, and one’s ability to interpret verbal and non-verbal messages. To put it simply, to have excellent listening skills, you need to master listening beyond words. 

2. Writing Skills

Another core English language skill is writing. This skill allows you to communicate and convey a message with clarity and convenience. However, writing is not as easy as you thought it would be. 

You also need to follow grammar rules, proper punctuation, spelling, and other technical writing features. Poor writing skills will lead to misunderstanding and mislead the readers if you cannot adequately deliver the message or subject. 

People will also judge your credibility based on your poor writing. So it is essential to know the correct spelling, proper use of tenses, grammar, punctuations, and more. These will help you write effectively and with credibility. 

3. Reading Skills

If you have an excellent set of reading skills, it implies that you can easily understand everything you read. Consequently, you have the ability to understand unfamiliar vocabulary terms by using context clues. Your reading skills show your abilities to read, comprehend, and interpret the different written materials.  

Having a great set of these skills can help you communicate smoothly, and it is also beneficial with your writing skills. It also ensures effective communication and develops your comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, and overall literacy skills, resulting in lesser misunderstandings. 

4. Speaking Skills

These are your abilities in using the language verbally. Your speaking skills help you deliver information in such a way that the listener can easily understand what you are saying. 

To be an efficient English speaker, you also need to be mindful of your pronunciation, vocabulary, diction, intonation, and other nonverbal cues such as your body language. And to effectively communicate, you also need to have the ability to persuade your listeners and be confident. 

If you have mastered these four English language skills, you are one step closer to achieving proficiency in the English language. Having English proficiency shows one’s exceptional skills in using the language either in written or oral communication. 

In addition, English language proficiency also indicates how one understands and comprehends various English contexts and uses proper grammar rules. It also demonstrates that you have confidently and efficiently integrated the language into your daily life. 

You can use it in communication every day without any difficulty, and it also indicates that you have a similar level of proficiency with a native speaker.

The Importance of English Language Proficiency

Being proficient in English has many advantages. And one of them is it is one of the admission requirements for most universities and colleges, including those famous and prominent educational institutions here and abroad. 

Having an English proficiency certification will help you get into any academic institution you prefer. It gives them an idea of how well you can use the English language since most of their courses and subjects use English as a medium of instruction. 

In addition, the English language is widely used in books, literature, and other published materials. Students use these academic materials in universities, colleges, and those higher levels of education, such as in law, medicine, and other doctorate programs.

Aside from that, international companies often require their applicants for an English language proficiency certification. The high multicultural work setting for global companies usually demands knowledge in using the language. 

And mostly they need people who can effectively communicate and confidently use the language in any situation and represent their company to clients internationally. 

Migration offices and other organizations also request proof of their applicant’s English language proficiency, especially if you want to migrate or work in any English-speaking country.

However, while many are learning how to speak the language, it is also important to note that being proficient with it is much better and an advantage in all areas. 

How is Language Proficiency Measured?

The language proficiency of an individual is measured using a language proficiency test. And there are many language proficiency tests available that you can choose from, such as IELTS, TOEFL, Duolingo English Test, and more.

These language exams are available under different testing centers in various countries or providers such as the ETS and British Council

These language proficiency exams are designed to evaluate an individual’s primary English language skills in areas such as reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Moreover, their test structures and sections are designed to deliver quality and accurate language assessment results. 

Many academic and industrial institutions use these language exams to know the proficiency level of their applicants. However, these language exams use different scoring systems and are interpreted differently.  

And you might think if these exams provide reliable and accurate test results because of their respective scoring system used. However, these language exam assessment results can also be interpreted using a standardized international language benchmark or framework for language proficiency. 

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) Scale is the most commonly used language benchmark worldwide. And also, the CEFR Language Proficiency Scale helps deliver a uniform and accurate description of an individual’s language abilities. 

Moreover, the CEFR Language Proficiency Scale is a widely recognized standardized language proficiency benchmark by various institutions, including prominent universities and colleges. 

It contains six proficiency levels that can be used to interpret an individual’s proficiency level. And the highest CEFR level is the C2, the mastery level, while the lowest CEFR Level is A1, which is considered a beginner level.

CEFR Six Proficiency Levels:

  • C2 — Mastery
  • C1 — Advanced
  • B2 — Upper-Intermediate
  • B1 — Intermediate
  • A2 — Pre-Intermediate
  • A1 — Beginner

How to Achieve your Proficiency Goals?

In these highly globalized environments and multicultural setups, the English language has now become the standardized international language used by many people and organizations. And having an English proficiency certification is an advantage in many aspects. 

And to achieve your desired English language proficiency level, you need to expose yourself more to the language itself. We have already provided you with some quick tips above to help you upgrade your language skills. 

However, you should not worry if you are progressing slower than your expected pace. Remember that language abilities vary per person, and one might be progressing fast within a short timeframe while another’s language skills develop at a slow pace. 

And whatever reasons or circumstances, learning a language takes time with a well-thought study plan. And also, do not be afraid to learn the language, you will commit mistakes along the way, but these will be your stepping stones to improve more. 

To help you upgrade your English skills, you need determination and the right mindset. Practice more, explore different English language resources, talk to native speakers, etc. 

Additional FAQs about English Language Proficiency

How Do I Know My English Proficiency?

You can take language exams online for free, and some are offered by different testing centers in your area or country. In addition, many free online language exams are now recognized by educational institutions and companies, such as the Duolingo English Test

If you want a standardized English language proficiency exam to know your proficiency level, you can take the IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, TOEIC, CELPIP, and more. These language exams are available in various countries globally, and also they have different purposes on where they will be used. However, they generally evaluate one’s primary English language skills. 

What is the Purpose of English Proficiency?

Having an English proficiency is a great advantage, especially if you are a non-native English speaker. It will help you adapt quickly if ever you visit English-speaking countries and also communicating using the language will not be difficult on your end.

Moreover, English proficiency is also used for various reasons, including academic admissions to universities and colleges. And also, it is one of the requirements for visa applications, migration, work requirements, and many more. 

Are English Language Proficiency Exams Reliable?

Yes, standardized English Language Proficiency exams are reliable and recognized by many prominent universities and colleges worldwide. 

Other institutions and organizations, including multinational organizations, government agencies, and migration offices, also trust and highly accept these English language proficiency exams to accurately assess an individual’s English language skills.


A group of language enthusiasts with a shared commitment to helping you succeed in your English language journey. With years of experience, relevant certifications, and a deep love for languages, we're here to provide you with the support and resources you need to excel in exams like IELTS, TOEFL, OET, Duolingo and many others. We take pride in helping individuals like you achieve their language goals.