Levels Explained
 
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Common European Framework

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF or CEFR) was put together by the Council of Europe as a way of standardising the levels of language exams in different regions. It is very widely used internationally and all important exams are mapped to the CEFR. There are six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2.

The Common European Framework describes what a learner can do at six specific levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2.
· Basic User (A1 and A2)
· Independent User (B1 and B2)
· Proficient User (C1 and C2)

The six reference levels (see below) are becoming widely accepted as the European standard for grading an individual's language proficiency. These levels match general concepts of basic, intermediate, and advanced and are often referred to as the Global Scale which describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing at each level.


Common Reference Levels - The Global Scale

Guided Learning Hours

Cambridge ESOL is often asked about the number of study hours required to reach a certain examination level. It is not possible to give a categorical answer to this, as hours of study required will vary depending upon several factors such as the candidates' language learning background, the intensity of the study, the inclinations and age of the individual as well as the amount of study/exposure outside of lesson times. The following figures are, however, sometimes quoted as an approximate guideline:
Proficient User

C2
Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.
C1
Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning. Can express him/herself 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.
Independent User

B2
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 a degree of 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 on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
B1
Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.  Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
Basic User

A2
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of 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.
A1
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. 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 in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
The Global Scale also helps teachers, academic coordinators, and course book writers to decide on curriculum and syllabus content and to choose appropriate course books, etc.

Cambridge ESOL exams are aligned to the CEF. Their qualifications are plotted against the six levels of the framework:

Common European Framework
Guided Learning Hours
A2
approximately 180-200
B1
approximately 350-400
B2
approximately 500-600
C1
approximately 700-800
C2
approximately 1,000-1,200
This makes it easy for anyone involved in language teaching and testing (learners, teachers, teacher trainers etc.) to see the level of different qualifications. It also means that employers and educational institutions can easily compare qualifications and see how they relate to exams they already know in their own country.

(Sources: Council of Europe; University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations; Person Longman)









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