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When you take an English test, you get a score. Often, you'll also get some indication of what that score means, expressed as an English level or label, for example "beginner" or "advanced". There are many different English leveling systems in use around the world, and an even wider variety of English tests, which have implicit or explicit leveling systems built into their scoring. Some English levelling schemes are built into a particular English test, while others are theoretical frameworks without any associated test.

What is the CEFR? 

The CEFR, Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, is one of many frameworks that describe your language proficiency. There are several frameworks with similar aims including the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Proficiency Guidelines (ACTFL), the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB), and the Interagency Language Roundtable scale (ILR).

 While the CEFR is a European scale and specifically designed to apply to any European language, it is now becoming a worldwide standard framework for language abilities, especially European languages, including English. The CEFR is not tied to any specific language test - and most standardized language tests now provide CEFR level equivalents.

The CEFR and Top English Academy

The Top English Academy has been designed to align to full CEFR spectrum from the very beginning. The CEFR sets out six levels of foreign language mastery, and Top English Academy is aligned as such:

Where did the CEFR come from?

The CEFR was put together by the Council of Europe in the 1990’s as part of a wider effort to promote collaboration between language teachers across all European countries. The Council of Europe also wanted to improve clarity for employers and educational institutions who needed to evaluate candidates’ language proficiency. The framework is intended to be used in both teaching and assessment.

Rather than being tied to a particular test, the CEFR is a collection of can-do statements that list the functions you will be able to perform using a foreign language at any given level of proficiency. For example, one of the level B1 can-do statements is “Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.” A teacher of any foreign language can use these can-do statements to evaluate you and design lessons to address the gaps in your knowledge.

Why is the CEFR important?

In Europe, the CEFR is increasingly the standard way of describing your proficiency level in a foreign language, particularly in an academic setting. If you have studied more than one language, as most Europeans have, the CEFR is a conveniently standardized way to present two or more languages on your CV. In school or university, the CEFR is the standard framework across Europe and can be used without reservation.

However, in a corporate setting, the CEFR is not as widely understood. If you decide to use the CEFR on your CV for professional reasons, it is still best practice to include a level descriptor, a standardized test score, and examples of instances in which you used your language skills (study abroad, work abroad, etc.).