A1? B2? What is the CEFR?

You may have noticed that many of our English blog posts and English classes have strange combinations of letters and numbers on them: B1, C2, A1. These can tell you some important information about the level of the class or blog post. These codes come from a European system called the Common European Framework for Reference (CEFR).

Although the CEFR is β€œEuropean,” it is used in many countries around the world. Because the CEFR is international, it’s very helpful for language learners and language teachers to talk about levels. There are six levels in the CEFR: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2.

The CEFR doesn't describe language in terms of number of vocabulary words or grammar structures. The CEFR focuses on what students can do with the language. For example, students at level B1 can give descriptions on a variety of familiar subjects related to their interests. C1 students can give clear, well-structured descriptions of complex subjects. That's why the CEFR can be used for any language, not just English. Learning your CEFR level can be really helpful to you as an English student!

Soon Ginseng will have a placement test that will help you learn your CEFR level, so watch for that!

CEFR Levels Table

Here is a table with each level in the Common European Framework, along with a description of students at each level.

Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR) Levels
Level Name Description
PROFICIENT USER C2 Mastery 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 Effective Operational Efficiency Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise 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 organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
INDEPENDENT USER B2 Vantage Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. 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 Threshold 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 Waystage 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 Breakthrough 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.

You can read more about the CEFR at the website of the Council of Europe, which developed the framework between 1989 and 1996.

A chart of CEFR levels with very brief summaries.