The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF or CEFR) was put together by the Council of Europe as a way of standardizing the levels of language exams in different regions. It is very widely used internationally, and many exams are mapped to the CEFR.
There are six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. These are described below.
If you want to know what grammar you should know at each level, follow up on these posts.
A basic ability to communicate and exchange information in a simple way.
- 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.
An ability to deal with simple, straightforward information and begin to express oneself in familiar contexts.
- 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, and 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.
The ability to express oneself in a limited way in familiar situations and to deal in a general way with non routine information.
- 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 traveling 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, and ambitions, and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
The capacity to achieve most goals and express oneself on a range of topics.
- Can understand the main idea of complex texts on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization
- Can interact with native speakers quite possibly without strain for either party
- Can produce clear, detailed texts on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
C1 Effective Operational Proficiency
The ability to communicate with the emphasis on how well it is done, accuracy, sensitivity and the capacity to deal with unfamiliar topics.
- Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts and recognize 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 texts on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors, and cohesive devices.
The capacity to deal with material which is academic or cognitively demanding, and to use language to good effect at a level of performance which may in certain respects be more advanced than that of an average native speaker.
- 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 him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.