Here I explain the official levels of language learning with examples of each level. There is also a quick test you can do to see what your real level of English is.
This is the Common European Framework. Although not all schools or countries use it, I think it is the most accurate system and the easiest to use. There are 6 levels.
Level A1: Beginner
- Understands and communicates using basic vocabulary (e.g. food, names of countries, numbers).
- Frequent errors in grammar and pronunciation.
Example Text “Mark is 12 years old. He has red hair and green eyes. His favourite sport is football.”
- Can complete routine tasks such as asking where the bathroom is in a restaurant.
- Can describe very simply where they are from, their likes and dislikes etc.
- Can use all simple tenses (I go, I went, I will go)
- Frequent errors in grammar and pronunciation
Example Text: “Sarah and Tom went to the lake. It was a warm day and they took a picnic. There were lots of ducks swimming in the lake. The children decided to give the ducks some bread.”
- Students can use all simple tenses as well as continuous and perfect tenses. Students know the 1st conditional and some modal verbs. They can recognize the most common phrasal verbs (e.g. to get on with, to look after etc)
- Students can communicate any idea that they have, but may have errors in grammar and pronunciation.
- Can deal with any situation that arises while travelling (e.g. telling someone they’ve lost their passport and asking what to do).
Example text: “Antarctica has had a powerful effect on both explorers and scientists. In 1994 I discovered why, when I spend 7 months there collecting material for my travel book. It simply isn’t like anywhere else on this planet. It is one-and-a-half times bigger than the United States, but it is very peaceful.”
B2: Upper Intermediate
- Can use all tenses without error including 1st, 2nd and 3rd conditionals and all modal verbs
- Can express ideas clearly and fluently and errors do not impede understanding
- Has a wide range of vocabulary, can use phrasal verbs and some idiomatic language (e.g. to throw someone in at the deep end) with ease.
Example Text: “Medicine isn’t quite like other degrees. I spent the first three years studying and attending lectures on general anatomy and following that, I was then allowed to pursue a specialist interest. It was a very time-intensive degree. However, being thrown in at the deep end of some of the most challenging situations I have ever been in, and having to deal with patients from all walks of life, was extremely inspirational and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
- Understands complex texts and has the ability to interpret meaning and read between the lines. Could read a broadsheet newspaper with no difficulty.
- Can use all grammar structures correctly, including mixed conditionals.
- Expresses themselves fluently and spontaneously without having to search for expressions. Can use idiomatic expressions with ease.
- Would be able to study academically or work professionally in the language without much difficulty
Example text: “The author raises important, if familiar, questions concerning the quest for beauty in architecture, or its rejection or denial. Yet one is left with the feeling that he needed the help and support of earlier authors on the subject to walk him across the daunting threshold of Architecture itself. And he is given to making extraordinary claims: ‘Architecture is perplexing … in how inconsistent is its capacity to generate the happiness on which its claim to our attention is founded.’ If architecture’s capacity to generate happiness is inconsistent, this might be because happiness has rarely been its foundation.
- Often considered ‘native’ ability. However, not all native speakers would be able to pass a C2 level exam.
- Can understand any document, including academic journals and legal documents with ease. Can identify nuances in language and distinguish between finer shades of meaning even in the most complex of texts.
- Can express themselves articulately, spontaneously and fluently without any grammatical or pronunciation errors.
Example text: “Member States shall refrain from introducing between themselves any new customs duties on imports or exports or any charges having equivalent effect, and from increasing those which they already apply in their trade with each other. Charges having an effect equivalent to customs duties on imports, in force between Member States, shall be progressively abolished during the transitional period. The Commission shall determine by means of directives the timetable for such abolition. It shall be guided by the rules contained in Article 14(2) and (3) and by the directives issued by the Council pursuant to Article 14(2).”
The sample texts were taken from English textbooks. The Proficiency example is an extract from the EU Treaty of Rome.
What is your level? Take this test to find out