The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

Learning, Teaching, Assessment

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which aims to promote international and professional mobility, provides a common basis for describing the skills needed to reach different levels of language proficiency. It was created by the Council of Europe between 1989 and 1996 as a guideline to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages.

What is the CEFR?

Aiming to provide a method of learning, teaching and assessing applicable to all languages in Europe, it is now becoming widely accepted as the European standard for grading an individual’s language proficiency.

It presents a reference system that is designed to establish co-relations between various tests and ability levels. This means that test-takers, teachers, and people making decisions based on the results of these tests (universities, employers etc.) can use the CEFR to compare the performance of a test taker against any test in any language.

The CEFR defines skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking. The Framework is broken down into six levels, falling into three main groups:

  • A1 – A2: Basic user
  • B1 – B2: Independent user
  • C1 – C2: Proficient user

ETS regularly carries out correlation studies between its tests and the CEFR to ensure that reliable and precise correlations can be made over time.

Mapping ETS’ tests onto the CEFR

Expert panels were able to successfully co-relate the ETS tests and the CEFR levels:

The TOEIC® Programme

  • Mapping the TOEIC Bridge® test onto the CEFR

The TOEFL® Family of Assessments

  • Mapping the TOEFL iBT® test onto the CEFR
  • Mapping the TOEFL ITP® tests onto the CEFR
  • Mapping the TOEFL Junior® test onto the CEFR
  • Mapping the TOEFL Primary® test onto the CEFR

The TFI test

  • Mapping the TFI test onto the CEFR