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Understanding CEFR and IELTS


Understanding CEFR
CEFR stands for ‘The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages’. It is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe and, increasingly, in other countries. Its main aim is to provide a method of learning, teaching and assessing which applies to all languages in Europe. The CEFR is also intended to make it easier for educational institutions and employers to evaluate the language qualifications of candidates to education admission or employment.

The Common European Framework divides learners into three broad divisions that are further divided into six levels; for each level, it describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing. The following table gives an indication of these levels.

*These descriptors can apply to any of the languages spoken in Europe, and there are translations in many languages.

LEVEL GROUP LEVEL GROUP NAME LEVEL LEVEL NAME DESCRIPTION
 A  Basic User
A1
A2
Breakthrough or beginner
Waystage or elementary
• Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type.
• Can introduce themselves and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people they know and things they have.
• Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
• 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 their background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
 B  Independent User
B1
B2
Threshold or intermediate
Vantage or upper intermediate
• 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 while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
• Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
• Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
• Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their 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.
 C  Proficient User
C1
C2
Effective operational proficiency or advanced
Mastery or proficiency
• Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer clauses, and recognize implicit meaning.
• Can express ideas 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.
• Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.
• Can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation.
• Can express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.


IELTS AND THE CEFR
Comparing IELTS and the Common European Framework

The relationship of IELTS with the other tests and with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) is complex; IELTS is designed to stretch across a broad proficiency continuum. When comparing tests and test scores for admissions, it is important to understand that there are differences in test purposes, measurement scales, test formats, test delivery modes and test taker populations.

The figure illustrates how IELTS band scores align with the levels of the Common European Framework of Reference. Note that the IELTS scores referred to are the overall, mean band scores reported on the Test Report Form, and not the band scores for individual modules.

IELTS BAND SCORE CEFR LEVEL
9.0 C2
8.5 C2
8.0 Borderline C2/C1
7.5 C1
7.0 C1
6.5 Borderline C1/B2
6.0 B2
5.5 B2
5.0 Borderline B2/B1
4.5 B1
4.0 B1
3.5 Borderline B1/A2
3.0 A2
2.5 A2
2.0 Borderline A2-A1
1.5 A1
1.0 A1
0.5 Non user
0.0 Did not attempt the test

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