Meaning of English Language Levels (А1, Intermediate, Pre-intermediate, and more)

The CEFR levels of competency developed by the European countries at the late 20 century classifies foreign language learners' knowledge and skills into three major groups, which are further divided into two. Thus, 6 levels are established. Why do we need it and what is the meaning of English language levels?

To build a route, you need to know what are the departure point and the arrival point (just the same as in the problems for children, from the point А to the point В). The same applies to learning English — when you start learning, you need to know at what level of proficiency you are at the moment and where you want to get.

Here are the CEFR levels:


Basic User

Basic User

Independent User

Independent User

Proficient User
Proficiency in Language Elementary Elementary Autonomous Autonomous Fluent
  A1 A2 B1 B2 C1
and Elementary
Pre-Intermediate Intermediate
Intermediate Advanced
Proficiency in Language  survival level pre-threshold threshold advanced

Meaning of English Levels in Practice

The above classification presents a quite accurate description and definition of each position in the table. If you begin learning English, you are at the beginner level, which means that you have the following knowledge and skills:

  • Beginner (or А1) — a vocabulary of up to 1,500 words (basic words) which allows understanding phrases related to satisfaction of basic needs, introducing, asking short questions, replying in simple words, and reading short captions;
  • Elementary (or А2) — an extended vocabulary of up to 2,500 words, one can understand the expressions related to basic aspects; can introduce oneself and tell about family/purchase/simple route, etc. in 2–3 sentences; can communicate in everyday situations, read a short letter composed of simple sentences; can get the general meaning of a TV news only when a video is provided. This is a short answer to the question about the meaning of Pre-Intermediate (pre-threshold) English level.

Levels А1 and А2 correspond to the Cambridge English — an international test format for children of 6–12 years old (YLE and KET respectively); based on the results you will get the Cambridge Certification which is you pass to the best higher schools globally.

A brilliant opportunity to obtain the certification along with full secondary school education

(Russian graduation certificate and Cambridge certificate) is offered for the graduates of the CIS International School that provides learning English with native speaking teachers — learn more about its campuses based in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Tashkent and about admission procedures and teaching terms by calling the CIS (you can also book a tour across the campuses). The students will know English as their second language.

Meaning of English Level Intermediate (В2)

When the student has departed point A and reached point B, it finds itself at the level where they can use the language autonomously. For example, В1 (intermediate or threshold) level assumes a vocabulary of 2,750–3,250 words that allows understanding different expressions within familiar topics, share personal impressions (including in writing), express opinions, state personal needs, and understand ad messages and simple instructions. A tourist who knows English at this level can handle typical situations in an English-speaking country. One can try to watch films in English without a translation making a good guess guided by the film frame as necessary. Next, B2 English level, i.e. pre-advanced, and it gives more significant opportunities.

The person at this level of English has a vocabulary of 3,250–3,750 words which ensures that one can understand complex topics and keep a conversation on any topic (including professional and abstract ones); can accurately compose phrases, compose well-written essays with no reference to a certain topic that demonstrate logic.

The English user at this level can express the essence of and own opinion on various issues and can explain some ways to resolve them; can watch TV shows and films in English without much difficulty.

Proficient User or Fluent English

While previously we were talking about learning English for fun, travel, or getting an education, reaching point C means the proficiency of language at the level of an expert (or higher). In fact, this is further divided into two sub-levels:

  • Effective operational proficiency or advanced;
  • Mastery or proficiency.

С1 (Advanced) means an advanced level with a vocabulary of 3,750–4,500 words, including colloquial and idiomatic expressions; this allows using English flexible and effectively, building networks and doing business or research.

The level of functioning effectively means that one can understand complex texts (including writings with double meaning), state own thoughts and listen with no difficulty (both in everyday life and in videos). The accumulated knowledge ensures that one can conduct business communications, compose articles and essays on various topics using advanced vocabulary, stylistics, and grammar.

English proficiency corresponding to С2 level means an advanced mastery of the language. That is a difficult but achievable task, which can be accomplished with a threshold of 4,500 words learned. Careful and thoughtful development of vocabulary and mastering the nuances of grammar and rules of language usage will allow to:

  • understand everything that is said or written in English and feel the nuances of what one has heard or read;
  • sum up the information from all channel, give arguments, make assessments and put it all in writing demonstrating the knowledge of structure and the ability to use them;
  • express opinion in a conversation at any topic with no difficulty, speak spontaneously with no difficulty of using vocabulary.

To sum up, using English as a Proficient User is something that is not available to all English-speakers and is a reflection of a high level of education and erudition.

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