CEFR Common European Framework


The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment, abbreviated as CEFR or CEF, is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe and, increasingly, in other countries. It was put together by the Council of Europe as the main part of the project “Language Learning for European Citizenship” between 1989 and 1996. Its main aim is to provide a method of learning, teaching and assessing which applies to all languages in Europe. In November 2001 a European Union Council Resolution recommended using the CEFR to set up systems of validation of language ability. The six reference levels (see below) are becoming widely accepted as the European standard for grading an individual’s language proficiency.


Common reference levels

The Common European Framework divides learners into three broad divisions that can be divided into six levels; for each level, it describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing. These levels are:



level grouplevel group namelevellevel nameDescription
ABasic UserA1Breakthrough or beginner
  • 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.
A2Way stage or elementary
  • 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.
BIndependent UserB1Threshold or intermediate
  • 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 that 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.
B2Vantage or upper intermediate
  • Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization.
  • 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.
CProficient UserC1Effective Operational Proficiency or advanced
  • Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning.
  • Can express ideas 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 organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.
C2Mastery or proficiency
  • 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 the most complex situations.


Relationship with duration of learning process

Cambridge ESOL said that each level is reached with the following guided learning hours: A2, 180–200; B1, 350–400; B2, 500–600; C1, 700–800, and C2, 1,000–1,200.


Source: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. (2015, April 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:57, April 14, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages&oldid=655652810


Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

Comparison table:

CEFRL LevelGuided learning time (hours)Hours per weekLevelCambridge ESOLIELTSGESETOEFLTOEIC
1 year2 years
C21000 – 120040hrs20hrsProficiencyCPE8.012
C1700 – 80027hrs13hrsAdvancedCAE7.010110 – 120945 – 990** 490 – 495 points (listening)
455 – 495 points (reading)
B2500 – 60020hrs10hrsUpper-IntermediateFCE6.0787 – 109785 – 990
B1350 – 40013hrs6hrsIntermediatePET5.0657 – 86550 – 780
A2180 – 2007hrs4hrsPre-IntermediateKET4.04225 – 545
A190 – 1004hrsElementary2120 – 220
Please note: Guided learning time is the estimated time to progress in proficiency from one level to the next, e.g. from A2 to B1 takes 350 – 400 guided learning hours.Cambridge ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages):

  • CPE = Certificate of Proficiency in English
  • CAE = Certificate in Advanced English
  • FCE = First Certificate in English
  • PET = Preliminary English Test
  • KET = Key English Test

IELTS = International English Language Testing System

GESE = (Trinity College London) Graded Examinations in Spoken English

TOEFL = Test of English as a Foreign Language

TOEIC = Test of English for International Communication


CEFRL Table by Matt Bury is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


CEFR Common European Framework for Languages