The CEFR: What It Is and How to Use It Start studying abroad

The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) was developed by the Council of Europe to provide a shared means of teaching, learning, and assessing language skills. It is widely used across Europe as well as in other regions, and is available in 39 languages. The CEFR sets out six levels of language proficiency from beginner to advanced: A1 and A2, B1 and B2, C1 and C2. For each level it describes what language users should be able to do in terms of listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production, and writing, using a series of ‘can do’ statements.

For example, the CEFR describes listening competencies at A2 level as follows:

  • I can recognise familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.
  • I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment).
  • I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.


The CEFR makes it possible to compare standards and assessments across languages, and provides a shared basis for recognising language qualifications. The CEFR is used by language teachers and language schools to design curricula and set assessments, and is also used in teacher training. For language learners, the CEFR is useful as a tool for assessing your current level and determining the level you wish to reach. It is also a widely-understood means of expressing your level of language proficiency to schools, universities and employers.

The summary grid found will help you assess your current language proficiency following CEFR standards. You might also like to try this interactive tool based on the CEFR: Self-evaluate your language skills.

For further information:

Council of Europe CEFR pages:

CEFR summary assessment grid: