CEFR Levels In IELTS: 2024 Guide to CEFR Levels For Language Proficiency Tests

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CEFR Levels in IELTS (Common European Framework of References) is a standardised reference that has been formed by the Council of Europe. This is a part of a project named Language Learning for European Citizenship. Used widely across various European institutions, CEFR levels in IELTS provide a standard that acts as a scale for measuring the proficiency of a candidate in different languages spoken in Europe. 

CEFR levels in the IELTS serve the purpose of assessing a candidate’s ability to communicate in different languages. CEFR levels in IELTS are designed to be language-neutral, which means they are valid for several foreign languages, including German, French, Spanish, English, and more. Introduced in 2001, the use of the CEFR test has spread across Asia and Latin America as a tool to formulate levels for teaching, learning and assessment. 

An Overview Of CEFR Levels In IELTS

CEFR levels in IELTS are a common platform to assess the candidate’s ability to communicate in different languages. CEFR is language-neutral and can be used for several foreign languages, including German, French, Spanish, and English. CEFR levels in IELTS are divided into 3 major levels of proficiency: Basic User, Dependent User, and Proficient User

To understand the different levels of CEFR in IELTS, let’s have a look at the following table:

CEFR Level In IELTS GroupCEFR Level In IELTSDescription of the Level
Basic UserA1- BeginnerCandidates belonging to this CEFR level have a basic understanding of a certain language. They know the commonly used phrases, can introduce themselves and describe where they reside. However, they face difficulty understanding the language unless spoken slower and might require help.
Basic UserA2- ElementaryLearners in the A2 CEFR level can easily communicate and understand daily expressions and answer routine questions without difficulty.
Independent UserB1- IntermediateThose falling in this CEFR level are slightly more advanced than candidates of level A. They can communicate relevantly more easily than those in the previous level. Candidates of the B1 level can travel easily, communicate their needs with ease, and also form well-structured sentences. They can express and communicate their views and opinions in a better manner.
Independent UserB2- Upper-IntermediateAlthough the basic understanding of a foreign language remains the same as that of the B1 level, candidates in this CEFR level show better fluency and spontaneity. They can structure clear sentences independently and communicate with native speakers easily. Those at the B2 level can express their opinions with more convenience. 
Proficient UserC1- Advanced C1 CEFR level means candidates belong to an advanced level of proficiency in a foreign language. The language fluency and vocabulary show a distinctive and remarkable development. Individuals at this level of CEFR can easily and efficiently use the foreign language for academic and professional purposes. Those belonging to the C1 level can speak, read and write in a foreign language easily.
Proficient UserC2- ProficientC2 is the highest level of proficiency in a language wherein a candidate can use a foreign language without any restrictions or difficulties. Those in this CEFR level can conveniently argue or present their opinion and can easily understand the nuances of a language. Candidates in this level become as fluent as a native speaker of the language in question. 

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CEFR Levels In IELTS: 2024 Guide to CEFR Levels For Language Proficiency Tests

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CEFR Levels In IELTS & The Corresponding Scores Secured In Language Tests

Typically, language requirements for admission in a foreign degree course or employment in a foreign country vary from one institution to another. It also varies from one country to another.

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CEFR Levels In IELTS: 2024 Guide to CEFR Levels For Language Proficiency Tests

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Notably, the level of proficiency required in a foreign language can also vary from one course to another. This is usually because different courses require different levels of language understanding. Usually, every candidate needs to secure a minimum score for admission. 

Let’s take a look at the different CEFR levels In IELTS and the corresponding scores secured in some of the popular English language proficiency tests. 

LanguageProficiency TestA1A2B1B2C1C2
EnglishIELTS1.0- 2.03.04.0- 4.55.0-6.57.0-8.08.5-9.0
EnglishTOEFL –10 – 15 42 – 71 72- 9495 – 113114-120
EnglishPTE Academic10-2930-4243-5859-7576-8485-90

To make this simpler, let’s suppose a European university requires a candidate to have at least a B1 CEFR level of proficiency for admission to a particular course. 

This implies that for the English language, one has to secure 4.0 – 4.5 in IELTS, 42 – 71 in TOEFL, and 43 – 58 in PTE Academic. 

Apart from English language proficiency tests, it’s also essential to know the CEFR levels in French and German language proficiency tests for students planning to study or work in France or Germany.

CEFR levels in French and German Language:

LanguageProficiency TestA1A2B1B2C1C2
FrenchCIEP / Alliance Française DiplomasTCF A1 / DELFA1TCF A2 / DELFA2TCF B1 / DELF B1TCF B2 / DELF B2TCF C1 / DALF C1TCF C2 / DALF C2
GermanTestDaF–––TDN 3- TDN 4TDN 4 – TDN 5–

Different Language Proficiency Tests

Students seeking to study or work in foreign countries need to appear for foreign language proficiency tests compulsorily. Many international institutions require students to secure a minimum score to get admission. 

Here are some of the popular foreign language tests that you should know for studying abroad:

1. English

To work or study in countries with English as the primary medium of communication, a student has to sit for any of the following English language proficiency tests:

IELTS

The International English Language Testing System is another popular English language proficiency test. It is accepted in universities of all English-speaking nations like the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the US. The British Council jointly conducts it with IDP Education Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment. 

IELTS has two types: academic and general tests. Students can opt for either the computer-based online test or pen and paper-based. The registration fee for IELTS is INR 16,250.

IELTS tests consist of 4 parts: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking section. The Reading section comprises 3 paragraphs, basically excerpts from magazines, books, newspapers or journals. Candidates have to answer 40 questions within 60 minutes based on these passages. In the Writing section, students need to write 1 essay of 150 words and the other of 250 words within 60 minutes. 

The Listening section requires students to answer 40 questions based on pre-recorded conversations and monologues. The speaking section is an 11-14 minute test where candidates have to go through a face-to-face interview with the examiner. 

TOEFL

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a widely popular and accepted language proficiency test. It is accepted in almost all universities and colleges in the USA and Canada. This test is conducted by ETS (Educational Testing Service). 

This test consists of 4 sections: Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking. Candidates can opt for this language test either online or through pen and paper. The registration fee for the TOEFL  exam is INR 16,900.

The internet-based test is the most popular and preferred mode of TOEFL. In the Reading section, students need to read 3-5 passages and answer 12-14 questions from each paragraph. 

The Listening section comes with 3-4 lectures with 6 questions each and 2-3 conversations with 5 questions each. For the Writing test, candidates must write 2 essays within 50 minutes. As for the Speaking section, one has to answer 4 questions within 17 minutes. 

Also Read: Countries Accepting TOEFL

PTE Academic

PTE Academic is a computer-based English language proficiency test accepted worldwide. Pearson PLC Group conducts it. PTE Academic assesses the ability of a student to understand English as spoken regularly.

The registration fee for PTE Academic is INR 13,700. This 3-hour long test consists of 4 sections where a candidate has to answer 20 question types. PTE Academic also consists of Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing sections like other English language tests. The results are declared within 2 days and are valid for 2 years. 

Also, Read PTE to IELTS Conversion

2. French

Students aiming to pursue higher studies in France have to appear for French language tests. Here are some of the most renowned French language tests:

DELF

The Diplôme d’études en langue française, or DELF is an important foreign language proficiency test. This test helps students secure a job in France or admission to any French educational institution.

DELF comes with different levels, each designed for students with specific requirements and goals. 

TCF

TCF or Test de Connaissance du Français, another popular French language proficiency test, is conducted by the French Ministry of Education. Individuals can take this language assessment test for personal, professional or academic purposes. 

This test follows the standards the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages set forward. TCF includes a compulsory and an optional section. In the compulsory section, students have to answer 76 multiple-choice questions based on listening, reading, and using language structure. 

Candidates can appear for the optional test only after clearing the compulsory one. The optional test consists of writing and speaking sections. However, since this is an optional section, students can choose to avoid it altogether. 

3. German

Germany is another preferred destination among students for international higher education due to lower costs and acclaimed institutions. TestDaF, or DSH, is a highly renowned German language test accepted in all universities across Germany.

TestDaF or DSH

TestDaF is a standardised test for learners of the German language. The test is usually conducted in designated test centres around the country and lasts for around 3.5 hours.

It is conducted and managed by the TestDaF Institute in Germany. However, in India, it is organised by Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan. 

The test fee to register for TestDaF is INR 9,205. TestDaF includes 4 sections: Reading Comprehension, Listening Comprehension, Writing and Speaking. Each of these sections is graded in 5 points, making the total score 20.

Why Compare CEFR With IELTS?

When students apply to European universities and institutions accepting CEFR levels, they often need to compare their IELTS scores with the CEFR levels. The CEFR is a framework used for reference and communication to empower students. 

Comparing IELTS and CEFR scores is not difficult. It’s a quick guide to consider an IELTS 7.5 band score equivalent to a C1 level in the CEFR. Similarly, an IELTS 4.5 band score would equate to a B1 level in the CEFR. 

It’s important to note that the IELTS scores used for comparison are the mean band scores reported on the Test Report Form, not the band scores for individual modules.

Importance Of A Language Proficiency Test

Language tests come with a specific framework that enables students to learn a foreign language as per their skill level. It tests the language skills that would be essential for living and studying in a foreign country. 

Receiving a useful and accurate indicator of students’ foreign language skills enables a candidate to understand where they stand in their journey toward learning a new language. It helps them to figure out their weaknesses and drawbacks and provides them with an opportunity for improvement. 

Since the score secured on language proficiency tests is vital for studying or working in a foreign nation, a language test plays a crucial role in one’s career. CEFR is a highly essential framework for students seeking to migrate to European countries for higher education. Aspiring candidates should know the CEFR levels and the corresponding scores required in language tests to reach the desired levels.

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Final Thoughts

Language proficiency tests like IELTS, TOEFL, TestDaF and TCF are highly essential for students aspiring to pursue higher education abroad. These tests not only assess a candidate’s language skills but also provide a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. 

CEFR Levels in IELTS serve as a crucial framework for students seeking to migrate to European countries for higher education. 

Pursuing higher education abroad can be made easier with Leap Scholar’s help, which guides Indian students in achieving their dreams of studying abroad. Researching and understanding the language test requirements of the universities and countries you plan to apply to is essential. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q. Is the CEFR level in IELTS available outside of Europe?

    A. CEFR levels in IELTS were initially formed for the European Union in 2001, have now been translated into 37 languages, and are used widely in West Asia and Latin America alongside Europe.

  • Q. Do American universities accept CEFR levels in IELTS?

    A. Usually, the universities in the US look for IELTS, TOEFL, PTE or other English language tests for admission. However, admission criteria are quite university-specific. So, it is recommended that the requirements for each institution be checked carefully. 

  • Q. What language tests do I need to appear for in order to study in Spain?

    A. You can appear for Spanish proficiency tests like DELE (Diplomas de Español Como Lengua Extranjera) to study or work in Spain. This test is conducted 5 times yearly in over 800 test centres across 100 countries.

  • Q. How is JLPT conducted?

    A. Japan Educational Exchanges and Services conduct the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. It is conducted only twice a year and consists of 5 levels. While N1 is the most proficient level, N5 is the basic level. It has a reading, writing, and listening section. There isn’t any speaking section in this test.

  • Q. What are the CEFR-accepted countries?

    A. The CEFR accepted countries are:
    -Germany
    -France
    -Spain
    -Italy
    -Canada
    -Australia
    -New Zealand
    -India

  • Q. What is CEFR B2 level in IELTS?

    A. CEFR B2 level in IELTS refers to an intermediate level of language proficiency. In IELTS, a score of 5.0 to 6.5 corresponds to a CEFR B2 level. It means that a candidate can understand and communicate in the English language.

  • Q. What is CEFR level in IELTS?

    A. CEFR level in IELTS refers to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. It is a framework used to evaluate a person’s language proficiency in a foreign language, such as English. The IELTS test is scored according to the CEFR levels, which range from A1 (beginner) to C2 (advanced). 

  • Q. What is CEFR level C1 in IELTS?

    A. CEFR level C1 in IELTS is considered an advanced level of English proficiency. It means that you can confidently understand difficult texts and express yourself fluently in various situations. People who achieve this level are usually able to communicate easily in both personal and professional environments.

  • Q. Which CEFR level is good for IELTS in Canada?

    A. In Canada, a CEFR level of B2 or higher is generally considered good for IELTS. This level indicates intermediate to advanced language proficiency. However, admission criteria may vary depending on the university or program, so it’s advisable to check the specific requirements.

  • Q. Are CEFR level in IELTS accepted in the UK?

    A. Yes, the CEFR level in IELTS is accepted in the UK. The IELTS test is scored according to the CEFR levels, which range from A1 (beginner) to C2 (advanced). The IELTS test is one of the most commonly accepted English language tests in the UK and is used for various purposes, including immigration, work, and study.

  • Q. Which CEFR level in the IELTS is the highest?

    A. The highest CEFR level in the IELTS is C2, which is considered a proficient level of English. It means that candidates have a complete command of the language and can communicate effectively in any situation. Achieving a C2 level requires advanced language skills and knowledge of vocabulary and grammar.

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Manisha Angre

Experienced IELTS prep trainer and education management industry veteran. Specializes in public speaking, international education, market research, mentoring, and management.

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