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CEFR Levels

CEFR stands for the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and is an international standard for describing someone’s proficiency in a language they are learning. It categorizes language ability into 6 levels, ranging from A1 for beginners up to C2 for fluent speakers. You can use these levels to check your progress, and some people take exams to demonstrate their CEFR level of English for work or study. You can read more about what a language learner at each of these levels can typically do in the table below.

When studying a new language, it’s important to know which words are most important to focus on for your level. To help with this, Collins COBUILD have added a CEFR level to every sense in our COBUILD dictionary for Advanced Learners. We have output the levels from A1 (beginner) to B2 (upper intermediate); all words and meanings that are not marked with a CEFR level are level C (proficient). Here is the entry for ‘sentence’:

Example CEFR level

As you can see, sense 1 is at A1 level and sense 2 is B2. This means that the A1 sense is a beginner-level word, and is probably more common than the B2 level meaning. It’s therefore important to learn the meaning of the lower level words first, and how to use them properly when you speak and write. As your vocabulary grows, you can build on this foundation by learning higher level words and meanings, like this B2 meaning of ‘sentence’. Sometimes you might find that you only need to understand words with higher CEFR levels, rather than know how to use them actively. For example, you could also choose not to learn a B2 level word if the context isn’t relevant to you, and you could then focus your time on learning the words that are more important for you to understand and know how to use correctly.

The tables below describe what a learner can do at each of the CEFR levels.

Proficient User

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.
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.

Independent User

B2 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.
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.

Basic User

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.
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.

Global scale – Table 1 (CEFR 3.3): Common Reference levels © Council of Europe. Please note that the Council of Europe was not involved in assigning CEFR levels to the COBUILD dictionary. For more information on the CEFR, and the updated CEFR Companion Volume, please visit: