How are language levels described?
If you have ever learned a new language, or if you have watched children developing their language skills, you will understand the idea of different ‘levels’ of learning. It’s like stepping up a ladder. Young learners of English usually start with very simple things like numbers and colours. Next, they begin to learn vocabulary and grammar linked to everyday topics, such as animals, the family, food and drink, sports and games.
By learning these things, they can then read about their favourite animal, write about their brothers and sisters, listen to a song about oranges and lemons, or talk about the games they enjoy playing. Learning a new language is not just about collecting words or knowing the grammar. People need to learn to do useful things with that language, developing the skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking in order to understand and communicate.
In foreign language learning, many teachers and other experts use the Common European Framework of Reference, usually known as the CEFR, when discussing the level that a student has reached. Watch this short video about what the CEFR is for and why it is useful.
The CEFR has six levels from beginner (A1) to very advanced (C2). The CEFR is available online in 39 different language versions, and it describes the things that a language learner Can Do at each of these six levels. It focuses on the skills mentioned above – speaking, listening, reading and writing. It isn’t only for English – it describes ability across the languages of the European Union. Interestingly, the CEFR is also being used in foreign language learning in other parts of the world, from Japan to Chile; it is seen as a practical tool that can help to organise the content and development of classes and study. All Cambridge English exams are related to this framework.
Listening: I can understand familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.
Reading: I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
Speaking: I 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 me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics. I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Writing: I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Listening: I 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). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.
Reading: I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
Speaking: I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself. I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Writing: I can write short, simple notes and messages. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Listening: I can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. I can understand the main point of many radio or TV programmes on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.
Reading: I can understand texts that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language. I can understand the description of events, feelings and wishes in personal letters.
Speaking: I can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. I 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). I can connect phrases in a simple way in order to describe experiences and events, my dreams, hopes and ambitions. I can briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. I can narrate a story or relate the plot of a book or film and describe my reactions.
Writing: I can write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. I can write personal letters describing experiences and impressions.
Listening: I can understand extended speech and lectures and follow even complex lines of argument provided the topic is reasonably familiar. I can understand most TV news and current affairs programmes. I can understand the majority of films in standard dialect.
Reading: I can read articles and reports concerned with contemporary problems in which the writers adopt particular attitudes or viewpoints. I can understand contemporary literary prose.
Speaking: I can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible. I can take an active part in discussion in familiar contexts, accounting for and sustaining my views. I can present clear, detailed descriptions on a wide range of subjects related to my field of interest. I can explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
Writing: I can write clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects related to my interests. I can write an essay or report, passing on information or giving reasons in support of or against a particular point of view. I can write letters highlighting the personal significance of events and experiences.
Listening: I can understand extended speech even when it is not clearly structured and when relationships are only implied and not signalled explicitly. I can understand television programmes and films without too much effort.
Reading: I can understand long and complex factual and literary texts, appreciating distinctions of style. I can understand specialised articles and longer technical instructions, even when they do not relate to my field.
Speaking: I can express myself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. I can use language flexibly and effectively for social and professional purposes. I can formulate ideas and opinions with precision and relate my contribution skilfully to those of other speakers. I can present clear, detailed descriptions of complex subjects integrating sub-themes, developing particular points and rounding off with an appropriate conclusion.
Writing: I can express myself in clear, well-structured text, expressing points of view at some length. I can write about complex subjects in a letter, an essay or a report, underlining what I consider to be the salient issues. I can select a style appropriate to the reader in mind.
Listening: I have no difficulty in understanding any kind of spoken language, whether live or broadcast, even when delivered at fast native speed, provided I have some time to get familiar with the accent.
Reading: I 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: I can take part effortlessly in any conversation or discussion and have a good familiarity with idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms. I can express myself fluently and convey finer shades of meaning precisely. If I do have a problem I can backtrack and restructure around the difficulty so smoothly that other people are hardly aware of it. I 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: I can write clear, smoothly-flowing text in an appropriate style. I 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. I can write summaries and reviews of professional or literary works
We at GI adopted the best practice of Cambridge English Scale
The Cambridge English Scale is an exam results reporting scale in use from January 2015. This is a new way of reporting results from Cambridge English exams. The scale is designed so as to complement the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages by providing more detailed information on candidate exam performance. Candidates receive a score for overall exam performance as well as individual scale scores for each language skill (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking) plus a score for Use of English in certain exams. Results from the different exams are reported on the same scale which allows for easy and straightforward performance comparison and gives a clearer insight into candidate progression from one exam to the next.
Cambridge English Scale:
The Cambridge English exams which are mapped to the scale are: Cambridge English: Key, Cambridge English: Preliminary, Cambridge English: First, Cambridge English: Advanced, Cambridge English: Proficiency and Cambridge English: Business.
Cambridge English exams are focused on different levels of the CEFR and correspond to different partially overlapping point ranges on the scale. Whichever the exam, the same level of ability is represented by the same score (e.g. a score of 185 is still 185 both on First and Advanced).
Cambridge English First:
Cambridge English: First is an exam at level B2 of the CEFR, which corresponds to a score between 160 and 179 on the Cambridge English Scale. In case of an excellent grade (А), the score reaches up to 190, which
partly overlaps good result (С) at the higher level Cambridge English: Advanced, and the candidate receives a certificate for level C1.
All candidates receive a Statement of Results – an exam result document, including a Cambridge English Scale score reported to everyone taking Cambridge English: First who gets a score between 122 and 190. Candidates with scores between 122 and 139 do not receive a certificate, and those with a score between 140 and 159 receive a certificate for level B1.
Cambridge English Advanced:
Cambridge English: Advanced is an exam at level C1 of the CEFR, which corresponds to a score between 180 and 199 on the Cambridge English Scale. In case of an excellent grade (А), the score reaches up to 210, which partly overlaps good result (С) at the higher level Cambridge English: Proficiency, and the candidate receives a certificate for level C2.
All candidates receive a Statement of Results – an exam result document, including a Cambridge English Scale score reported to everyone taking Cambridge English: Advanced who gets a score between 142 and 210. Candidates with scores between 142 and 159 do not receive a certificate, and those with a score between 160 and 179 receive a certificate for level B2.
Cambridge English Proficiency:
Cambridge English: Proficiency is an exam at level C2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and corresponds to a score of 200 to 230 on the Cambridge English Scale. This is the highest level of Cambridge English exams.
All candidates receive a Statement of Results – an exam result document, including a Cambridge English Scale score reported to everyone taking Cambridge English: Proficiency who gets a score between 162 and 230. Candidates with scores between 162 and 179 do not receive a certificate, and those with a score between 180 and 199 receive a certificate for level C1.
IELTS is mapped to but is not reported on the Cambridge English Scale, nor are results from any of the other exams officially aligned to IELTS.
TOEFL has not been mapped to the scale. Sometimes, however, it may be useful to have a reliable, though unofficial, comparison of different exams and scores, since various universities and organisations may accept results from different exams.