Understanding language levels

We hear people talking about different levels: elementary, intermediate, or sometimes level A2 or B1 for example. But what do these levels mean? Here is a little help for understanding level.

You can classify students’ levels in different ways. ECF (Common Eurpean Framework) is a common way to show the level of a student. Here are the ECF levels:

A1: Basic User (Beginner)

  • Students at this level can only understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases. They can, for examle, introduce themselves and others, ask and answer questions about personal details, for example about where they live (I live in Tokyo.), their family members and friends (I have two brothers and a sister. I have a good friend. Her name is Mary.), the things that belong to them (I have a blue car.) etc. They can communicate in a simple way if the other person talks in very simple English, very slowly and very clearly.
  • This level is roughly equivalent to Cambridge Movers, BULATS 0-19, TOEIC 120-224.

A2: Basic User (Elementary)

  • Students at this level can understand sentences and common expressions related to directly related to their lives and their jobs, for example very basic personal and family information, shopping (How much is it?), local geography (I live in the north of Tokyo. My home is 20 minutes from the train station.), employment (I am a scretary. I work for a small company.). They can communicate in simple and routine ways about familiar things.They can also talk in simple English about their background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need. (Could you give me a pen please? Where is the metro station please?)
  • This level is roughly equivalent to Cambridge English Key (KET), PTE (General: Level 1, Academic: 30-42), TOEFL (internet-based: 18-56, computer-based: 60-162, paper-based: 340-486), BULATS (20-35), TOEIC (225-549, 385-789)

B1: Independent User (Lower Intermediate)

  • Students at this level can understand the main points of clear standard discussion on familiar matters related to their work, school, leisure, etc. They can deal with most situations that happen while travellinin English-speaking areas. They can write simple connected text on topics that are familiar or are of personal interest. They can describe their experiences and things that happened in the past, dreams, hopes and ambitions and also give short explanations for opinions and plans.
  • This level is roughly equivalent to Cambridge English Preliminary (PET), IELTS (4-4.5), PTE (General: Level 2, Academic: 43-58), TOEFL (internet-based: 57-78, computer-based: 163-212, paper-based: 487-549), BULATS (36-59), TOEIC (550-784, 790-1094)

B2: Independent User (Upper Intermediate) 

  • Students at this level can understand the main ideas of complex text (on both concrete and abstract topics), including technical discussions in their field of specialisation. They can interact realtively easily and fluently with native speakers. They can write clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain their viewpoint giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
  • This level is roughly equivalent to Cambridge English First (FCE), IELTS (5-6.5), PTE (General: Level 3, Academic: 59-75), TOEFL (internet-based: 87-109, computer-based: 227-269, paper-based: 567-636), BULATS (60-84), TOEIC (785-944, 1095-1304)

C1: Proficient User (Advanced) 

  • Students at this level, can understand a wide range of difficult, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. They can express ideas fluently and spontaneously usually without searching for expressions. They can use English flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. They can write clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects.
  • This level is roughly equivalent to Cambridge English Advanced (CAE), IELTS (7-8), PTE (General: Level 4, Academic: 76-84), TOEFL (internet-based: 110-119, computer-based: 270-299, paper-based: 637-676), BULATS (75-89), TOEIC (945-989; 1305+)

C2: Proficient User (Proficiency) 

  • Students at this level, can understand with ease almost everything they hear and read. They can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. They can express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating fine shades of meaning in very complex situations.
  • This level is roughly equivalent to Cambridge English Proficiency (CPE), IELTS (8.5-9), PTE (General: Level 5, Academic: 85+), TOEFL (?), BULATS (90-100), TOEIC (990?), Michigan ECPE

(If you are a language teacher, please see this page.)

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