Accessing English Level for Adults and Children

The Council of Europe launched an initiative titled Learning Languages for European Citizenship late last century. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) was designed as a unified classification of mastery of European languages (including the English language).

6 levels of command of a foreign language are proposed based on the speaking skills, vocabulary, and grammar knowledge. Today all major international exams, such as IELTS, TOEFL, and Cambridge Tests, are linked to the CEFR levels to help to assess the knowledge of the English language so let us have a closer look into the scale.

  English Mastery Level (CEFR Level)  Vocabulary, knowledge, skills, and practices 
Basic User 



Up to 1.5 thousand words. Can understand basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of basic needs; can introduce him/herself and others; can ask and answer elementary questions; and can read short captions.

Can interact with an English-speaking person provided the other person is prepared to help.   
Basic User  


1.5 to 2.5 thousand words. Can understand expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (I, my family, simple route, shopping, employment); can communicate in simple tasks and understand the meaning of a TV news episode; and can read a short simple letter. 
Independent User 


2.75 to 3.25 thousand words. Can understand the main points of sentences on familiar matters; can deal with standard situations whilst travelling in an English-speaking country; can express wishes/needs, describe experiences, speak up opinions, read an advertisement, a simple instruction, and etc.; and can produce connected text on familiar topics.
Can watch films in English without a translation but where something is unclear have to make a good guess guided by the film frame and settings.     
Independent User 



3.25 to 3.75 thousand words. Can understand complex texts (including discussions on abstract topics); can fluently keep a conversation on professional/abstract topics: and can produce clear, detailed expressions and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the potential ways to resolve it.

Can watch TV shows in English with virtually no limitations; can produce a logical text without errors on an unprepared topic. 
Proficient User 


Pre-advanced (professional) 

3.75 to 4.5 thousand words. Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts and recognise implicit meaning; can use language effectively for social, professional, and academic purposes; can produce detailed texts, showing controlled use of organisational patterns; can maintain business communications.

Can express his/her thoughts fluently without obvious searching for words/expressions and perceive non-adapted films (with idiomatic and colloquial expressions). 
Proficient User 


More than 4.5 thousand words. Can understand with ease virtually everything heard/read; can summarise information, reconstructing arguments in a coherent text; can communicate on any topic with no preliminary preparation, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations. 

International Tests and Exams

Using the above descriptions of the English language levels, an adult will have no difficulty at all to assess independently their point on the scale of language competencies. However, for the entrance for study in a foreign higher school, for changing the place of residence or the employment in an English-speaking country, you have to have an official assessment of English done and that is what various international tests are designed for.

Let us have an overview of most authoritative assessments and see the link between the scores, which one can get in the assessment, and the CEFR scale (the Cambridge exams are assessed under a non-score system of level identification):

CEFR levels  Standard exam - TOEFL test,
in-person, scores   
Standard exam - TOEFL test,
online versions, scores   
IELTS, scores Cambridge English Exam to obtain an international Cambridge certificate 
A1    310-433  0-39    2.0-2.5 YLE 
A2    434-486  40-56    3.0-3.5 KET 
B1    487-566  57-86    4.0-5.0 PET 
B2    567-636  87-109    5.5-6.5 FCE 
C1    637-677  110-120  7.0-8.0 CAE 
C2          CPE 

One has also to keep in mind that, while we speak of assessing the level of the English language mastery of an adult, Cambridge English YLE and KET provide the international exam format for 6-12 years children, and PET is designed to assess adults (training level). The key feature of the Cambridge certificate is its permanency; its results are considered as a life achievement and the certification has no period of validity.

British CIS International School provides a unique benefit to successfully pass the Cambridge English exam across the curriculum in the educational organization of the Cambridge International School status with English-speaking teachers and its campuses are based in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Tashkent (for more details on how to enter and study please contact the CIS by phone or book a dedicated tour across the campuses).

Assessing English Level of a Child - Alternatives

It is natural and rightful to the parents to check the foreign language knowledge of their children from time to time because regular school marks provide no reliable criteria for this matter. However, there is no reason to look for an international assessment right away!

The design of a regular writing test allows one to guess for the right answer so probably the best assessment of a child/student can be done via direct conversation. Of course, the teachers have their methods to make such assessments and the parents can look up the specialised questionnaires assigned to different CEFR levels on the Internet.

The parents whose children study from the professional English-speaking teachers have nothing to worry about and can be assured that their children will speak English as a second language in the final exams.

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