By IELTS Expert

22 May 2024 - 12:00

A group of students and a teacher in an English classroom.

In this article, we’ll explore the CEFR framework, how it measures language level, and how it can help to improve your English for the IELTS test.

There are billions of English speakers worldwide. So, being able to communicate in English and - importantly - prove your language skills can provide some important advantages in today’s globalised world. 

Knowing your English level can help you identify which skills you need to improve, and whether you’re ready to sit an English test and get the score you need.

Learn more about IELTS 

 

How CEFR can help improve English for the IELTS test?

The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) is a set of standards you can use to measure any language in different contexts. 

The CEFR describes the general levels of proficiency a person has in a second language. 

It has six levels with guidelines for grammar and vocabulary plus the four skills, reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Each level shows what learners should and shouldn’t be able to do at that stage. The CEFR emphasises communication over the ability to remember language. 

Once you know your English level, you can map this against IELTS bands and see if you’re ready to get the score you need. If not, you’ll be able to see what you need to improve English for the IELTS test. 

Now, let’s look at some other reasons it’s important to measure your level of English.  

Why is it important to measure and improve your English level? 

Learning English can give you access to more opportunities and make certain tasks easier. If you know your level and how to improve it, you can reap further benefits. 

Here are three essential reasons why you should measure and improve your English level:

1. Access professional opportunities

Becoming proficient in any global language can be helpful when it comes to accessing professional opportunities, allowing you to apply for more jobs and courses, both in your home country and abroad.

When you know your English level, you can share this with recruiters and increase your chances of getting the job. If you’re not at the right level, you can see where to improve. 

Once you’ve got the job, keeping track of your English level can help you excel and apply for promotions. 

Good communication is an important skill in almost every workplace. When you are able to speak in English with your colleagues, you can learn from their skills and experience, and be more effective in your role. You'll also be able to build friendships with colleagues from diverse backgrounds.

2. Travel to new countries

If you’re planning to get a work or study visa, you may need to prove you can speak English by sitting an internationally recognised test. 

Different systems like the CEFR can tell you whether you’re at the right level to get the score you need. For example, you might see that you’ll need to improve your English for the IELTS test in order to get the score required for your visa. 

Many visas require only an intermediate level of English. However, strong language skills will make the immigration process much smoother.

3. Work or study abroad

If your aim is to work or study abroad, knowing your English level, and working to improve it, can help you to achieve this aim. The minimum English level you need depends on your goal, but strong language skills will make the journey easier. 

Once you arrive in a new country, having a high level of English can help you to adapt to your new surroundings more quickly. It makes it easier to integrate into an English-speaking society, helping you to participate in activities and become part of your local community. You can also practise your language skills and become more fluent as you spend more time with the local people.

How can I know my English CEFR level?

The CEFR can function as a useful guide while you study and improve your English for the IELTS test. It has six levels which are in pairs:

  • A1 and A2 (basic language users)
  • B1 and B2 (independent language users)
  • C1 and C2 (expert language users)

Let’s explore the different levels in more detail: 

A1 and A2 levels

Individuals with a basic understanding of the language are in these two categories; they can only communicate in controlled situations. A1 is the starting point of the CEFR and other measuring systems.

A1 or beginner:

  • The speaker understands everyday expressions and constructs basic sentences to meet specific needs. 
  • They can introduce themselves and others, and answer questions about personal details, such as where they live or people they know.
  • They can make simple descriptions.
  • They are able to interact, as long as the other speaker speaks slowly and clearly.

A2 or elementary:

  • This person understands common expressions about matters that interest them, such as personal information, work, family, etc.
  • They can exchange simple and straightforward information on familiar and routine matters. 
  • They express aspects of their past and of their immediate environment in simple words, as well as others related to their immediate needs.

B1 and B2 levels

Learners at these levels have more language skills but can still be limited. They can communicate in familiar situations as long as they don’t have to make complex points.

B1 or Intermediate:

  • The speaker understands the main points of clear, everyday information on common issues at work, school, etc. 
  • They can cope with most of the situations they encounter on a trip to an area where they speak the language. 
  • They can produce simple and coherent texts on familiar topics or topics of personal interest. 
  • They describe experiences, expectations and ambitions, and can briefly explain their views and projects.

B2 or Upper Intermediate:

  • This speaker understands the main ideas of complex texts on concrete or abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of expertise. 
  • They interact with some fluency and spontaneity with native speakers, without strain for either party. 
  • They can produce clear and detailed texts on a wide range of topics and explain their point of view on them, pointing out advantages and disadvantages.

C1 and C2 levels

Speakers at this level have a high level of control over what they are saying. They can successfully navigate most situations, even if they’re unfamiliar, and make complex arguments.

C1 or Advanced:

  • This speaker is able to understand a wide variety of long and demanding texts and recognise their implicit meaning. 
  • They express ideas fluently and spontaneously, with no difficulty using idiomatic expressions. 
  • They use the language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. 
  • They create clear, structured and detailed texts on complex topics, demonstrating organisational skills and good use of language connectors and linguistic cohesion resources.

C2 or Proficient:

  • This speaker easily understands virtually everything they hear or read. 
  • They can summarise information from different oral and written sources, and reconstruct arguments and explanations in a coherent presentation. 
  • They can express themselves spontaneously, with obvious fluency and precision, differentiating shades of meaning even in highly complex situations.

What are the equivalent CEFR and IELTS scores?

As the CEFR applies to so many different situations and languages, it doesn’t have an exact match with international test scores. However, you can map CEFR levels against IELTS band scores as a useful way of finding out what you might score in the test. Take a look at the table below for approximate correlations: 

CEFR Level

IELTS Band

Description

A1 3.0 You can have very simple conversations, for example, ordering at a restaurant or buying items from a shop.
A2 3.5 You can talk about topics that you’re very familiar with and begin to understand media like TV shows, magazines, and radio shows.
B1 4.0 - 5.0 You can have brief conversations and write short messages about topics you’re familiar with.
B2 5.5 - 6.5 You can cope with unfamiliar and unexpected situations as well as demanding work environments.
C1 7.0 - 8.0 You can navigate most personal and professional situations with confidence.
C2 58.5 - 9 You can communicate on the level of a native speaker. Now you can speak and write comfortably on almost any topic. 

 

Everything you need to know about your English level

By learning your CEFR level, you can understand your English abilities and how to improve English for the IELTS test. Knowing your English level helps you see what scores you expect to achieve by comparing them with the IELTS band scores. 

To make sure you’re on target to get the score you need in IELTS, check out the British Council’s range of IELTS preparation resources. You can take mock tests and get expert advice on how to improve English for the IELTS test. 

Learn more about IELTS