Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

What is the CEFR and why should every English Language institute should follow it?

Every English language institute should follow the CEFR levels when designing their courseware. This helps them assess the students precisely and define learning outcomes more effectively. Rosemounts strictly adheres to the international bench-marking system. Whether it be our general English or spoken English course we follow the CEFR levels so that the students can be leveled internationally.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF or CEFR) was put together by the Council of Europe as a way of standardizing 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 levels are often used casually by language learners to explain their ability at speaking, reading, writing and understanding a language. But there are also exams and certificates available to those who want to make their level official.

Talking about the descriptive context of describing the different levels of CEFR, we will begin by talking about the ‘Mastery’ level i.e the C2 level. This level is in particular tested with the capacity to deal with materials which are academically or cognitively demanding and in the use of language to a good effect to a level of performance which in certain respects be more advanced than that of an average native speaker.

At the C2 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  • Understand almost everything read or heard with ease.
  • Summarize information from a variety of sources into a coherent presentation.
  • Express themselves using precise meaning in complex scenarios.

The ‘Effective Operational Proficiency’ level i.e the C1 level is the ability to communicate with emphasis in terms of appropriateness, sensitivity and the capacity to deal with unfamiliar topics. This level includes the dealing of hostile questioning confidently.

At the C1 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  • Understand a wide range of longer and more demanding texts or conversations.
  • Express ideas without too much searching.
  • Effectively use the language for social, academic or professional situations.
  • Create well-structured and detailed texts on complex topics.

Moving on to the B2 level or the ‘Vantage’ level, it is the capacity to achieve most goals and express oneself on a range of topics. It includes the potential to show visitors around and give a detailed description of the place.

At the B2 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  • Understand the main ideas of a complex text such as a technical piece related to their field.
  • Spontaneously interact without too much strain for either the learner or the native speaker.
  • Produce a detailed text on a wide range of subjects.

The B1 or the ‘Threshold’ level is the ability to express oneself in a limited way in familiar situations and to deal in a general way with non routine information.

At the B1 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  • Understand points regarding family, work, school or leisure-related topics.
  • Deal with most travel situations in areas where the language is spoken.
  • Create simple texts on topics of personal interest.
  • Describe experiences, events, dreams, and ambitions, as well as opinions or plans in brief.

The A2 level i.e the ‘Waystage’ level is an ability to deal with simple, straightforward information and the potential to express oneself in familiar contexts. A person who manages an A2 level can easily take part in a routine conversation.

At the A2 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  • Understand frequently used expressions in most intermediate areas such as shopping, family, employment, etc.
  • Complete tasks that are routine and involve a direct exchange of information.
  • Describe matters of immediate need in simple terms.

Lastly the A1 level or the ‘Breakthrough’ level includes a basic ability to communicate and exchange information in a simple way.

At the A1 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  • Understand and use very basic expressions to satisfy concrete needs.
  • Introduce themselves and ask others questions about personal details.
  • Interact simply as long as the other person speaks slowly and clearly.

The CEFR is often used by employers and in academic settings.

You may need a CEFR certificate for:

  • School admissions
  • University course requirements
  • Employment

A CEFR certificate is very handy for your CV or résumé, and they often don’t expire.


These refer to things that a student can do in English. For example,”I can understand short conversations on familiar topics provided they are delivered in slow and clear speech.” In simpler terms Can Do statements are learning objectives that are clear, easily understandable and achievable.

In order to make examination results easier to understand the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) members have developed series of ‘Can Do’ statements for the CEFR level. These statements describe what language users can typically do with the languages at different levels and in different contexts.

CEFR LEVELSListening/SpeakingReadingWriting
C2CAN advise on or talk about complex or sensitive issues, understanding colloquial references and dealing confidently with hostile questions.CAN understand documents, correspondence and reports, including the finer points of complex texts.CAN write letters on any subject and full notes of meetings or seminars with good expression and accuracy.
C1CAN contribute effectively to meetings and seminars within own area of work or keep up a casual conversation with a good degree of fluency, coping with abstract expressions.CAN read quickly enough to cope with an academic course, to read the media for information or to understand non-standard correspondence.CAN prepare/draft professional correspondence, take reasonably accurate notes in meetings or write an essay which shows an ability to communicate.
B2CAN follow or give a talk on a familiar topic or keep up a conversation on a fairly wide range of topics.CAN scan texts for relevant information, and understand detailed instructions or advice.CAN make notes while someone is talking or write a letter including non-standard requests.
B1CAN express opinions on abstract/cultural matters in a limited way or offer advice within a known area, and understand instructions or public announcements.CAN understand routine information and articles, and the general meaning of non-routine information within a familiar area.CAN write letters or make notes on familiar or predictable matters.
A2CAN express simple opinions or requirements in a familiar context.CAN understand straightforward information within a known area, such as on products and signs and simple textbooks or reports on familiar matters.CAN complete forms and write short simple letters or postcards related to personal information.
A1CAN understand basic instructions or take part in a basic factual conversation on a predictable topic.CAN understand basic notices, instructions or information.CAN complete basic forms, and write notes including times, dates and places.

Principles for teaching and learning

The CEFR has become very important in the framing of language policy and the design of curricula and syllabuses. In practice, the CEFR can provide a straightforward tool for enhancing teaching and learning.


Students at Level C2 demonstrate a degree of precision, appropriateness and ease with the language which typifies the speech of those who have been highly successful learners. They are able to convey finer shades of meaning precisely by using, with reasonable accuracy, a wide range of modification devices. They have a good command of idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms with awareness of connotative level of meaning and can backtrack and restructure around a difficulty so smoothly the interlocutor is hardly aware of it. In the ‘Listening’ section they can understand virtually any kind of spoken language even when delivered at fast native speed and employing a high degree of colloquialism, regional usage of unfamiliar terminology. In the context of ‘Reading’ they can understand with ease virtually all forms of the written language, including abstract, complex texts such as specialized articles and literary works. They can appreciate subtle distinctions of style and implicit as well as explicit meaning. Students at the C2 level can take part effortlessly in any discussion in the category of ‘Spoken Interaction’ They can express themselves fluently and convey finer shades of meaning precisely. They can backtrack and restructure around any difficulty of formulation so smoothly that other people are hardly aware of it. At the stage of ‘Spoken Production’ students can present a clear, smoothly-flowing description or argument in a style appropriate to the context and with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice significant points. Finally in the section of ‘Writing’ students can write clear, smooth-flowing, well-structured text in an appropriate style. They are able to write complex reports or articles which present a case with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice significant points.

Students at the C1 level have good access to a broad range of language, which allows fluent, spontaneous and almost effortless communication. They have a good command of a broad lexical repertoire allowing gaps to be readily overcome with circumlocutions. There is little obvious searching for expressions or avoidance strategies; only a conceptually difficult subject can hinder a natural, smooth flow of language. They are able to select a suitable phrase from a fluent repertoire of discourse functions to preface remarks in order to get the floor, or to gain time and keep it whilst thinking. They can produce clear, smooth flowing, well structured speech, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices. Coming to the first or the ‘Listening’ level Students at this level can understand lectures and discussions on complex topics beyond their own field, though they may need to confirm occasional details, especially if the accent is unfamiliar. At the C1 level of proficiency, students are able to understand long and complex factual and literary texts, appreciating distinctions of style in the context of ‘Reading’ They can understand specialized articles and longer technical instructions, even when they do not relate to their field.

Students can express themselves fluently and spontaneously. They can use language flexibly and effectively for social and professional purposes and can formulate ideas and opinions appropriately and relate contributions skillfully to those of other speakers when it comes to ‘Spoken Interaction’. Coming to the ‘Spoken Production’, At the C1 level, students can present clear, detailed descriptions of complex subjects integrating sub-themes, developing particular points and rounding off with an appropriate conclusion. Finally students are able to write clear, well structured texts and can express points of view in some contexts. They can write detailed expositions of complex subjects in a letter, an essay or a report, underlining the salient issues when it comes to the level in ‘Writing’.

At the B2 level there is a focus on effective argument. Students are able to account for and sustain their opinions in discussion by providing relevant explanations, arguments and comments. They can explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options and can develop an argument giving reasons in support of or against a particular point of view. They can take an active part in informal discussion in familiar contexts, commenting, putting their point of view clearly, evaluating alternative proposals and making and responding to hypotheses. They are able to hold their own effectively in social discourse and understand in detail what is said to them in the standard spoken language even in a noisy environment.

At the B2 level, students should be able to understand the main ideas of complex texts on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialization.

Students can understand standard speech spoken at a normal rate and follow even complex lines of argument provided the topic is reasonably familiar. They can understand the essentials of lectures and most TV news and current affairs programmes and can understand the majority of films in standard dialect when it comes to ‘Listening’ At the ‘Reading’ level, students can understand articles and reports concerned with contemporary problems in which the writers adopt particular stances or viewpoints. They can understand contemporary literary prose and can adapt style and speed of reading to different texts and purposes. Students can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible in the level of ‘Spoken Interaction’. Students are able to present clear, detailed descriptions on a wide range of subjects related to their field of interest, expanding and supporting ideas with subsidiary points and relevant examples in the field of ‘Spoken Production’. Finally when it comes to ,’Writing’ Students are able to write clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects related to their interests. They can write an essay or report, passing on information or giving reasons in support of or against a particular point of view. They can write letters highlighting the personal significance of events and experiences.

At level B1 students are able to maintain interaction and get across what they want to express in a range of contexts and follow the main points of extended discussion around them, provided that speech is clearly articulated in standard dialect. They can express the main point they want to make comprehensibly and keep going comprehensibly, even though they may have to pause for grammatical and lexical planning and repair, especially in longer stretches of free production. The second feature is the ability to cope flexibly with problems in everyday life, for example coping with less routine situations on public transport; dealing with most situations likely to arise when making travel arrangements through an agent or when actually travelling; entering unprepared into conversations on familiar topics.

In the context of ‘Listening’ They are able to understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. They can understand the main point of many radio or TV programmes on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear. When it comes to ‘Reading’ Students are able to understand factual texts on subjects related to their interests that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language. They can recognise significant points in straightforward newspaper articles on familiar subjects and can understand the description of events feelings and wishes. Students in the ‘Spoken Interaction’ level can exploit a wide range of simple language to deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling. They can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life. They can keep going comprehensibly in order to describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and can briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. They are able to narrate a story or relate the plot of a book or film and describe reactions in the field of ‘Spoken Production’ Students at the level of ‘Writing’can write simple texts on topics which are familiar or of personal interest by linking a series of shorter discrete elements into a linear sequence. They can write personal letters describing events, experiences and impressions.

At the A2 level students are beginning to be able to function in social situations. They are able to use simple everyday polite forms of greeting and address; greet people, ask how they are and react to news; handle very short social exchanges; ask and answer questions about what they do at work and in their free time; make and respond to invitations; discuss what to do, where to go and make arrangements to meet; make and accept offers. They can also function ‘out and about’. They can make simple transactions in shops, post offices or banks; get simple information about travel; use public transport, ask for basic information, ask and give directions, and buy tickets. They can understand clear, slow, standard speech related to areas of most immediate personal relevance in the context of ‘Listening’. Students are able to understand short, simple texts containing high frequency vocabulary and shared international expressions. They can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses and timetables in the field of ‘Reading’ At A2 level, of ‘Social Interaction’ students can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. They can handle very short social exchanges, even though they cannot usually keep the conversation going of their own accord. Students are able to use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms family and other people, living conditions, educational background and present or most recent job when it comes to ‘Spoken Production’ Lastly in ‘Writing’ They can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate need, linking a series of simple phrases and sentences with simple connectors like ‘and’ , ‘but’ and ‘because’. They can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something

Level A1 is the lowest level of generative language use – the point at which the learner can interact in a simple way, ask and answer simple questions about themselves, where they live, people they know, and things they have, initiate and respond to simple statements in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics, rather than relying purely on a very finite rehearsed, lexically-organised repertoire of situation-specific phrases. Students are able to understand simple, standard speech which is very slow and is carefully articulated and can recognise familiar words and very basic phrases concerning themselves, their family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly when it comes to ‘Listening’. In the field of ‘Reading’ Students can understand very short, simple texts, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues, picking up familiar names and basic phrases one at a time and rereading as required. Students in the ‘Spoken Interaction’ can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help with formulation. When it comes to ‘Spoken Production’, students can use simple phrases and sentences to describe what they do, where they live and people they know. Finally in the A1 level of ‘Writing’ students can write a short, simple message or postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. They can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
At Rosemounts all our English language courses are bench marked according to CEFR levels. This provides an international approach to learning and teaching. The teachers adhere to the learning outcomes at each level thereby helping them to chart the students’ progress accurately. Our spoken English courses too follow the same methodology. This helps students achieve better fluency and scale themselves internationally.