TOEFL vs CEFR: What Is The Difference?

The CEFR or Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is a standardized language framework widely used to interpret the different English language skills. And one of the most prominent and trusted language proficiency exams is the TOEFL. 

These language assessment tools are preferred and highly recognized by most academic institutions such as universities and colleges. In addition, multinational companies also prefer the TOEFL exam to test the language proficiency level of individuals. 

In this article, we will compare the TOEFL and CEFR. We will show the different language proficiency levels used by these two language tools. Read on to find out more about the differences between the TOEFL and CEFR and their similarities if they have. 


What is TOEFL?

The TOEFL exam or also known as the Test of English as a Foreign Language is recognized and highly accepted by prominent universities and colleges in various countries worldwide. 

In addition, TOEFL is a widely used standardized English language proficiency exam best suited for non-native English speakers. And it measures the four English language skills, including writing, speaking, listening, and reading. 

It is also highly used by different multinational companies worldwide to assess the language proficiency of their workers and applicants. 

This language proficiency exam is also commonly used for academic admissions, student visa applications, and migration purposes, especially if you plan to move to an English-speaking country

There are two TOEFL exam formats: the TOEFL iBT (internet-based test) and TOEFL PBT (paper-based test). Most test-takers also prefer this exam because of its reliability and accuracy. 

In addition to that, one of the key features of the TOEFL exam contents is that it utilizes academic topics, formal language, and high-level vocabulary, making it a little bit challenging, according to most of its test-takers. 

What is CEFR? 

The CEFR or known as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is created by the British Council. In addition, the CEFR is highly recognized and the leading standardized reference language proficiency framework used to measure non-native English speakers’ proficiency levels. 

It is a guideline for foreign languages assessment across various countries worldwide. Moreover, the CEFR is critically developed to provide an accurate and reliable assessment of an individual’s language proficiency level. 

The CEFR framework has six proficiency levels such as C2, C1, B2, B1, A2, and A1. All of these levels are internationally accepted to describe the English language skills of an individual in areas such as reading, listening, writing, and speaking. 


What are the CEFR Levels of Proficiency?

There are six CEFR language proficiency levels: C2, C1, B2, B1, A2, and A1

In addition,  CEFR levels are used to describe an individual’s English language proficiency and primary English language skills.

These CEFR language descriptors are classified into three categories which are Basic User (A1 and A2 levels), Independent User (B1 and B2 levels), and the third category is the Proficient English User (C2 and C1 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)

These six CEFR language proficiency levels are accepted and globally used by prominent universities and colleges for their admissions. It is also used in other organizations and offices such as government offices, migration offices, and more. 

Moreover, most multinational companies here and abroad use and trust the CEFR scale as a standardized benchmark for language assessment for their applicant’s English language proficiency level, which is highly required for their nature of work.

Here is the table showing the CEFR Levels of Proficiency

CEFR LevelLevel Description
C2Proficient Level/User of the Langauge 
C1Advanced Proficient Level/User of the Language
B2Upper-Intermediate Level/User of the Language
B1Intermediate Level/User of the Language
A2Elementary Level/User of the Language
A1Beginner Level/User of the Language 

TOEFL Score to CEFR Level Equivalent

The TOEFL scores 0 to 30 points across all four test sections, including reading, listening, writing, and speaking. The TOEFL exam also has proficiency levels that describe the scoring points in each test section. 

Moreover, the TOEFL proficiency levels include high, intermediate good, fair, limited, and low.

On the other hand, the CEFR uses C2, C1, B2, B1, A2, and A1 proficiency levels to describe the different English language skills. 

The reading test scores between 22 to 30 points fall in the TOEFL high level, and for those scores between 15 to 21 points, it belongs in the intermediate level, and for the scores 0 to 14, it falls in the low category. 

While the listening test scores of 22 to 30 are considered on the high TOEFL level, and the lowest score of 0 to 14 points belongs in the low level. 

Consequently, the speaking section’s highest score, which ranges from 26 to 30, falls in the good level, and for its 0 to 9 scores, it is considered weak. 

The writing test score of 26 to 30 is considered a good one at the TOEFL level and while the scores between 1 to 16 falls in the limited level of proficiency. 

In the table below, the CEFR C1 level is equivalent to 24 points in the TOEFL reading test section. It is also equal to 22 points in the listening test section, 25 points in the speaking test section, and 24 points in the writing test section. 

You may check the graph below for a comprehensive reference for the TOEFL test scores in each test section, presented with their respective TOEFL levels and CEFR Levels. 

Language Skills OR
Test Sections
TOEFL Score RangeTOEFL LevelCEFR Level
Reading0 to 30
  • High Level (24 to 30)
  • Intermediate Level (15 to 23)
  • Low Level (0 to 14)
  • C1
  • B2 to B1
  • A2 to A1
Listening0 to 30
  • High Level (22 to 30)
  • Intermediate Level (15 to 21)
  • Low Level (0 to 14)
  • C1
  • B2 to B1
  • A2 to A1
Speaking 0 to 30
  • Good Level (26 to 30)
  • Fair (18 to 25)
  • Limited (10 to 17)
  • Weak (0 to 9)
  • C1
  • B2 to B1
  • A2
  • A1
Writing0 to 30
  • Good (24 to 30)
  • Fair (17 to 23)
  • Limited (1 to 16)
  • C1
  • B2 to B1
  • A2 to A1

In this section, we have a table showing the overall TOEFL scores ranging from the highest possible score of 120 points to 0 points, the lowest possible score for TOEFL. 

The TOEFL overall score of 120 to 118 points is equivalent to the CEFR C2 proficiency level, which describes the individual as an expert English language user. At the same time, the TOEFL overall score of 32 to 0 points denotes limited knowledge to intermittent English language users. 

In connection, these overall TOEFL scores are also presented with their respective CEFR level equivalents.

In the table below, we have presented the overall TOEFL scores and their CEFR equivalent with descriptors. 

TOEFL Overall Score
Level
CEFR
Level
Level
Description
  • 118 to 120 
  • 117 to 115 
C2
  • Expert User
  • Very Good User
  • 110 to 114 
  • 109 to 102 
  • 101 to 94
C1
  • Good User
  • Good User
  • Good User
  • 79 to 93
  • 78 to 60
B2
  • Competent User
  • Competent User
  • 46 to 59 
  • 45 to 35
B1
  • Modest User
  • Modest User
  • 32 to 34 
  • 31 to 0
A1
  • Limited User
  • Extremely Limited/Intermittent User 

TOEFL iTP Overall Performance to CEFR Level Equivalent

The TOEFL Institutional Testing Program (ITP) is a language assessment test series that the educational institution uses to measure academic English language skills. 

In addition, the TOEFL iTP only measures three key English language skills, including Reading, Listening, and Structure, and Written Expression. And also, the TOEFL iTP uses the CEFR scale to map out and describe the language proficiency of an individual. 

These TOEFL iTP overall scores, which range from 677 points up to 337 points, are presented in a table below, showing its CEFR levels equivalent and its descriptors. 

The highest TOEFL iTP score of 677 to 627 is equivalent to CEFR C1 proficiency level, which describes the individual as a proficient user of the English language. 

And as for the TOEFL iTP lowest score of 337 to 459 is equivalent to the CEFR A2 proficiency level, which describes the English language ability of an individual only as an elementary level. 

A table shows the TOEFL iTP overall scoring and its CEFR Level Equivalent. 

TOEFL iTP
Overall Scoring
CEFR Level
Equivalent
Level
Description
627 to 677C1Proficient User – Effective Operational Proficiency
543 to 626B2Independent User – Advantage Level
542 to 460 B1Independent User – Threshold/Minimum Level
337 to 459A2Basic User – Elementary Level

Comparison Relevance of CEFR Level with TOEFL Score Levels

The TOEFL iBT overall scores range from 120 to 0 points, and for the TOEFL Essentials, overall band scoring uses a score of 12 to 1 point with a .5 increment. 

However, the TOEFL iBT overall score does not have a score that corresponds to the CEFR level of A2 and A1 proficiency levels. It only has a score level corresponding to the CEFR C2 to B1 proficiency levels. 

The TOEFL iBT scores between 120 to 114 fall in the C2 proficiency level, and the lowest possible score of 71 to 42 corresponds to the CEFR B1 proficiency level. 

On the other hand, the TOEFL Essentials’ highest score of 12 points is equivalent to the CEFR C2 proficiency level, and the lowest possible score of 2.5 to 1 point falls in the CEFR A1 proficiency level. 

A comparison table shows the CEFR level, TOEFL iTP, and TOEFL overall scoring. 

CEFR
Proficiency Level
TOEFL iBT
Overall Score
(0 to 120 points)
TOEFL Essentials
Overall Band Score
(1 to 12 points)
C2114 to 12012
C195 to 11310 to 11.5
B272 to 948 to 9.5
B142 to 715 to 7.5
A2N/A3 to 4.5
A1N/A2 to 2.5
Below A1N/A1 to 1.5

Additional FAQs: TOEFL vs CEFR

What is B2 Equivalent to TOEFL?

The CEFR B2 level indicates an upper-intermediate language proficiency level of an individual. And this is equivalent to a TOEFL overall score of 72 to 94 points

The TOEFL uses 0 to 120 overall points. The TOEFL score range of 95 to 113 falls on the CEFR C1 proficiency level and while the score range of 42 to 71 falls on the CEFR B1 language proficiency

What CEFR Levels Does the TOEFL iTP Measure?

The TOEFL ITP measures the CEFR C1 level to the CEFR B1 proficiency level. In addition, There are three TOEFL ITP certifications: gold, silver, and bronze. Consequently, these TOEFL ITP certifications are given to students to recognize their improvement in using the English language and measure their proficiency. 

And these TOEFL ITP is comparable to the different CEFR levels to help the exam users easily interpret its scoring.

Moreover, the TOEFL ITP gold corresponds to the CEFR C1 level, the silver is equivalent to the CEFR B2 level, and the TOEFL ITP bronze is comparable to the CEFR B1 proficiency level

What are CEFR A2 and A1 Levels Equivalent in TOEFL scores? 

The CEFR A2 and A1 language proficiency levels are considered elementary in the CEFR language proficiency scale. It means that those individuals who fall under these basic levels are only just starting to use the English language and have limited knowledge. 

However, these basic levels of the CEFR scale do not have a score comparison in the TOEFL scores. The lowest TOEFL overall scores are 71 to 42 points, which fall in the CEFR B1 language proficiency level

Is 70 a Good TOEFL score?

Many educational institutions differ in their TOEFL score requirement for admission. However, a TOEFL score of 70 is considered a poor one. Note that the TOEFL score of 71 points is equivalent to the CEFR B1 level of proficiency. 

In cases that you get a 70 score in the TOEFL exam, it is already equivalent to CEFR level A2 and below, which initiates a non-sufficient proficiency level in the English language. And it is not enough for you to pass in any university or college that you wish to apply to. 

What CEFR Level is TOEFL?

The TOEFL overall scores are comparable to all the CEFR levels: the C2, C1, B2, B1, A2, and A1 proficiency levels.

Consequently, the highest TOEFL obtainable overall score between 114 to 120 is the CEFR C2 proficiency level. 

In addition, the CEFR C1 proficiency level is the TOEFL overall score of 95 to 113. And for the CEFR B2 level is identical to the TOEFL score of 72 to 94 points. 

While the TOEFL overall score of 42 to 71 is comparable to the CEFR B1 level. Moreover, those TOEFL overall scores below 71 points fall under the CEFR levels of A2 and A1. 

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