How is the CEFR Test Structured?
At its core, the CEFR test is designed to test your language skills in listening, reading, writing and speaking. The format of the test will depend on who is administering it, as the CEFR itself is not a test administrative body but rather a system for measuring fluency.
What are the CEFR Proficiency Levels?
The CEFR measures language proficiency across six different levels. Each level is divided into three categories. These levels are based on what are called “can-do” statements. For example, according to the CEFR, an A1 level student can:
- Understand and extract basic information from simple, everyday conversations or announcements
- Engage in basic conversations by asking and answering simple questions or introducing themselves.
- Comprehend simple texts such as basic notices, signs or simple sentences in familiar contexts
- Write basic information about themselves such as personal details, simple descriptions or short messages and notes.
Conversely, a C2 level student, which is near-native fluency, can:
- Understand complex and abstract spoken language including lectures, speeches, interviews and discussions
- Express themselves fluently, spontaneously and precisely in any situation
- Comprehend a wide variety of complex texts including specialized materials
- Write clear, well-structured and detailed texts on various topics.
As you can see, there’s a huge difference between the accuracy and ability that takes one from A1 to C2. Here is how each level in the CEFR framework breaks down:
Basic User (A1 and A2)
These levels are language beginners. At A1 they can use basic phrases and expressions and at A2 understand how to handle basic, everyday tasks.
Independent User (B1 and B2)
These levels are designated for intermediate users. At a B1 level users can communicate familiar situations and understand the gist of clear texts. At B2, users have a better command of the language and express themselves more fluently although they may still make mistakes.
Proficient User (C1 and C2)
At C1, users can have in-depth conversations and detailed discussions whereas at C2, they’re at near-native fluency and can understand and produce nearly flawless language including nuances and idioms.
Although the structure of the test depends on the organization administering it and the language being tested, the CEFR test generally looks at:
The listening section evaluates your ability to understand spoken language including dialogues, monologues and recording and answering questions based on what you’ve heard.
The reading section provides you with written texts or articles and then asks questions in different formats to test your inference and understanding of what you’ve read.
In the writing section, you’re asked to produce essays, reports or emails based on prompts or given topics. You’re evaluated on how coherent your vocabulary and grammar are, as well as your overall writing proficiency.
During the speaking part of the text, you may engage in role-playing, one-on-one conversations, presentations or respond to prompts with an examiner or other takers of the CEFR test.
Does the CEFR Test Measure Readability?
In and of itself, the CEFR test does not measure readability per se, but it does measure your ability to read and understand passages in the language you are being tested in. In order to measure readability, there are many other factors beyond language comprehension that come into play, including things like sentence structure, complexity of vocabulary and the overall coherence of the text.
With the CEFR test, reading comprehension measures your ability to read and understand what you’re reading at the level you’re testing at. The CEFR itself is a framework meant to evaluate that level or proficiency rather than grading readability itself.
Understanding Your CEFR Test Results
Once you complete the test, you’ll get a score report that indicates your proficiency level. You can use this certification as part of your job application, academic admission and much more. If you’re interested in better understanding the structure of your specific test, you’ll want to search for CEFR tests in the language you are studying as different tests may have different requirements.
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