Understanding the CEFR


A question we are asked frequently is What do A1, A2, B1, B2… mean?
These standard codes each stand for a reference level used to assess a learner's achievements and language proficiency. They were defined by the Council of Europe in a document called the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

In an nutshell, these reference levels stand for:

  • level A1: Basic User (Beginner)
  • level A2: Basic User (Elementary)
  • level B1: Independent User (Intermediate)
  • level B2: Independent User (Upper Intermediate)
  • level C1: Proficient User (Advanced)
  • level C2: Proficient User (Proficiency)

You will find more details about the language skills associated with each level in the tables below.

A1-A2: Basic User
Level A1:
  • 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.
Level A2:
  • 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.

B1-B2: Independent User
Level B1:
  • 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.
Level B2:
Upper Intermediate
  • 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.

C1-C2: Proficient User
Level C1:
  • 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.
Level C2:
  • 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.

Source and Copyright: CEFR Global Scale, Council of Europe, 2001.