The Common European Framework of Reference

Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR) is a system which can be used to compare language levels for teaching and testing languages in Europe. It was developed by the Council of Europe in order to try and set a clear, attainable set of standards at different levels of language learning for European languages. Whilst there is an acknowledged limitation to such judgements, we have adopted the descriptors as our reference framework for our teaching of English at both a general EFL standard and at an EAP level. The descriptions below give some indication of the relationship between the CEFR levels and standard levels used in teaching English. Our assessments are made accordingly and we report on these standards to the students who use these judgements to guide them in their application for external accreditation through IELTS or other approved test providers as detailed in UKV&I guidance.

CEFR Levels


Beginners level

Basic knowledge of the language, familiar everyday expressions and simple phrases


Elementary / Pre-Intermediate level

Familiar with frequently used expressions and conversation on routine matters


Intermediate level

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.


Independent User
(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.


Advanced level

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.


Proficient User

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.

CEFR Comparison