What is the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)?
What is the CEFR?
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFR, is a reference document published in 2001 by the Council of Europe. It is used in the context of language learning, specifically to help determine the language skill level of a person, on a global scale. It is the most commonly referenced chart for designing language teaching programs and benchmarks.
Assess skills that reflect true ability
The CEFR provides detailed descriptions of each of the main skills (and more) by level: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. It is based on a communicative or “action-oriented” approach, which places successful interaction at the center of language study. Language is seen as purposeful, involving communication of meanings which are important to learners, in order to achieve specific goals, in specific circumstances or environments.
There are 3 main levels of classification which are further divided into 2 sub levels each, forming a total of 6 levels. “A” corresponds to the beginner levels (A1, A2), “B” corresponds to the intermediate levels (B1, B2), and “C” to the advanced levels (C1, C2).
Each level of the framework indicates what a person is able to do using the language. At the lower levels this may be that they are able to introduce themselves, at later levels it may indicate that they are capable of having a structured and nuanced conversation.
CEFR Level Descriptors The following table illustrates the abilities of a candidate by stating what they can do at every CEFR level.
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type (introducing themselves, asking about personal details such as place of residence, acquaintances, etc.). Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (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 understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. 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.
Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their 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 understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects.
Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarize information from different spoken and written sources. Can express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.
To provide our clients with an even greater level of precision and actionable information, Pipplet has further divided each of the 6 standard CEFR levels into 3, for a total of 18 sublevels. Example B2+ High B2 B2 Mid B2 B2- Low B2
B2-, B2 and B2+ are all considered to be B2 on the classic CEFR scale.
Pipplet’s language assessment is simple and transparent. Our examiners use the CEFR levels to directly assess every aspect of the spoken and written productions submitted by the candidate.
They pay particular attention to the following evaluation criteria: • Spoken fluency • Overall writing skills • Listening comprehension • Reading comprehension • Phonological control • Grammatical accuracy • Vocabulary range • Coherence and cohesion
Pipplet’s standard evaluation report provides an overall grade, as well as grades for the skills of speaking and listening, and writing and reading. All skills are positioned on the CEFR grade scale.
For a more in-depth understanding of your candidate’s level, you can upgrade to either the Talent+ or FLEX+. These reports provide CEFR scores for all the additional criteria above, e.g. phonological control, grammatical accuracy, vocabulary range etc., as well as the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. This additional information provides useful and actionable information for both client and candidate. More information on the different evaluation reports.
One Pipplet test campaign can save you up to 20 hours of time per recruit or employee!
How do I choose a cut score?
A “cut score” is the minimum level of proficiency that a recruiter or other party considers necessary to successfully complete the job or task in question. This can vary from client to client, and from job to job.
For jobs where the situations facing the candidate will be relatively short and repetitive a B1 may suffice. This may include some retail or customer service roles. For jobs requiring more in-depth language use, problem-solving, a greater mastery of politeness and register, a B2 minimum level may be more appropriate. At Pipplet, we find that in many cases a candidate with a B2 level is perfectly capable of handling both daily and professional situations in a given language. By filtering for candidates with a C1 level or above, clients indicate a need for candidates who are capable of communicating with an extremely high level of precision and accuracy, using natural expressions and an advanced and appropriate vocabulary.
Depending on what is expected of the candidate, the requirements and minimum cut level can vary. Please do not hesitate to discuss your needs regarding candidate proficiency with a member of our sales team.
How long does it take for a candidate to progress to the next CEFR level?
For motivated adult learners, studies show that they typically need between 100 and 200 hours of guided learning to get from one CEFR level to the next. As you go up the levels, you need more hours to get to the next one. To get from A1 to A2, it typically requires 100-150 hours of guided learning, but it can take 180-260 hours to get from B1 to B2.
Learn more about using Pipplet for assessing learners here.
How do you evaluate native speakers?
Although the CEFR is designed to evaluate non-native speakers, it can be adapted to evaluate native speakers.
We generally expect an educated native speaker to achieve a C2, provided that they have taken the test seriously and responded fully to the questions. We do see cases where native speakers do not achieve these grades, and they may achieve a lower grade if there are noticeable spelling, grammatical or other issues. Errors such as this, will have a negative impact on the final grade, whether the candidate is a native speaker or not. Candidates are not penalized for regional accents or pronunciation as long as they remain easily comprehensible.
In order to achieve a top grade, native-speaking candidates should:
• Display an appropriate level of:
Advanced vocabulary and idiomatic expressions
Correct and varied grammar, appropriate to the situation
Ease and spontaneity in the language
• Give detailed responses, making full use of the time allocated to respond fully to each question
•Proofread written responses before submission
You may wish to share our tips for high-level or native-speakers with your candidates to ensure that they receive the best grade they are capable of.
How do you evaluate candidates who speak regional variants?
Some candidates and clients are concerned that having a specific accent may have a negative effect on their grade. For example, candidates from India or South Africa taking an English test, from Quebec taking a French test, or from Belgium taking a Dutch test. How much does this affect their grade?
Examiners are instructed to: • Grade according to the standard form of the language, particularly for grammar and vocabulary. • Not to penalize specific accents. Perfect native-like pronunciation is not the most important thing, being understood is.
We encourage all native-speaking candidates to remember that this is a language proficiency test, and that they should make an effort to speak clearly in a way that is easily comprehensible for other speakers of the language.