Dec 28

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CEFR Levels Explained – Now I Know

CEFR levels are among the first things you read about when you get information about language exams. Also known as A1 – A2 – B1 – B2 – C1 – C2, these letter-number combinations are used to describe your proficiency level in English. But what exactly do they mean? What are you supposed to know at B2 level, for example?


What exactly are CEFR levels?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages abbreviated as (=in short) CEFR or CEF, is a guideline used to describe levels of proficiency in a foreign language. It was developed (=put together) by the Council of Europe as the main part of the project “Language Learning for European Citizenship” between 1989 and 1996 and it is widely used in language teaching and assessment (=testing) across Europe and in English teaching world-wide. This framework (=guidelines), also known as CEFR levels, can be used to refer to all languages.

In this framework there are 6 levels going from beginner to near-native (=almost like a native speaker, proficient). Below you can read the short description of the levels. This will give you an idea of what you should be able to do at each level. The original document which contains all the descriptions is, of course, much longer.







  • Can understand and use familiar (=things you know well), concrete everyday expressions and very basic phrases.
  • Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has.
  • Can interact (=communicate) in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
  • Main grammar points to know: common adjectives & adverbs of frequency, going to, how much/how many, imperatives, I’d like, ‘s – possessive, common prepositions of place and time, present simple & continuous, there is/are



  • Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions  (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment).
  • Can communicate in simple and routine tasks and exchange information on familiar and routine matters.
  • Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
  • Main grammar points to know: countable/uncountable nouns, adverbs of frequency, future will/going to, much/many, present perfect, past simple, past continuous, common phrasal verbs, common modals: can/should





  • Can understand the main points of clear standard input (=language you hear or read) on familiar matters regularly encountered (=met) in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Can deal with most situations while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
  • Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of interest.
  • Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
  • Main grammar points to know: question tags, intensifiers: too/enough, future tenses, past tenses, modals, conditionals, wh-questions in the past




  • Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization.
  • Can interact with fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.
  • Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint (=opinion) on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
  • Main grammar points to know: perfect tenses, mixed conditionals, modals in the present, phrasal verbs, reported speech, wish, relative clauses



  • Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts.
  • Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
  • Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
  • Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices (=words that connect ideas between sentences).
  • Main grammar points to know: inversion, mixed conditionals, modals in the past, all passive forms, phrasal verbs (all patterns), wish/if only for regrets




  • Can understand with ease (=easily) virtually (=almost) everything heard or read.
  • Can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments (=reasons that show that something is correct) and accounts (=description) in a coherent (=making sense) presentation.
  • Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning (=different meanings) even in the most complex situations.



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