Levels of English study.

Graph showing different levels.

The European Council recognizes the following levels of English.

These have recently been given new names, (which are written in brackets).
All levels have links to pages with more details.

A0 – Beginners (No English at all)

  • You need to start with vocabulary, learn as many words as you can.
  • Familiarize yourself with the verbs To Be, To Do and To Have.
  • Learn basic phrases such as: Hello; how are you; what is your name; etc.
  • Study various Nouns, Pronouns, Question words, Adjectives, etc.

A1 – Elementary Level (Breakthrough)

  • You need to be able to understand everyday expressions.
  • To be able to introduce yourself to others.
  • To be able to ask and answer basic questions about where you live, what you do etc. For example: Ask about food and drink, and order something to eat in a restaurant.
  • To be able to have a simple conversation as long as the other person speaks slowly and clearly.

A2 – Pre-Intermediate Level (Waystage)

  • You need to be able to understand sentences that are about daily life. For example: family information, shopping, work, leisure etc.
  • You should be able to have a normal conversation about these things even though you don’t have a lot of vocabulary.
  • You should be able to describe what you do and ask questions of the other person.

B1 – Intermediate Level (Threshold)

  • You should be able to do things like rent an apartment, open a bank account, ask for directions, etc.
  • Be able to deal with most situations when traveling in a country where the language is spoken.
  • Be able to talk and write about experiences and events, giving reasons and explanations for the way you think and feel.

B2 – Upper Intermediate Level (Vantage)

  • You should be able to express yourself clearly on most topics, giving detailed descriptions of people and places where necessary.
  • Be able to hold technical discussions in your particular field.
  • Be able to converse normally without any difficulty with native speakers.
  • Be able to write about a wide range of subjects, giving opinions and explaining viewpoints.


C1 – Advanced Level (Effective Operational Proficiency)

  • You must have the ability to communicate well and be able to deal with unfamiliar topics, recognizing specific meaning.
  • Express yourself fluently without spending time trying to remember the correct words and expressions.
  • Be able to communicate within a group of people. For example: In a discussion or an argument where you must hold your own and have your turn to speak.
  • Be able to produce written text on complex subjects.

C2 – Proficiency Level (Mastery)

  • You need to be able to understand easily virtually everything you hear.
  • Speak fluently and spontaneously, as well as a native speaker, in difficult situations.
  • Be able to deal with academic material and summarize information from different sources.
  • Be able to read and understand text as quickly (or more so) than a native speaker.
  • At this stage, it should also be possible to teach the language to others.

These descriptions now refer to levels in all European languages.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR), has been developed by the Language Policy Division of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg) (c) 2001 Council of Europe, Language Policy Division.

The Association of Language Testers of Europe (ALTE), whose members have aligned their language examinations with the CEF, provides guidance on the number of guided teaching hours needed to fulfill the aims of each CEF level:

Guided teaching hours are the hours during which the learner is in a formal learning context such as the classroom.

The number of hours needed for different learners varies greatly, depending on a range of factors such as the amount of prior study and extent of exposure to the language outside the classroom.

A1 – approximately 90 – 100 hrs. A2 – approximately 180 – 200 hrs.
B1 – approximately 350 – 400 hrs. B2 – approximately 500 – 600 hrs.
C1 approximately 700 – 800 hrs. C2 – approximately 1000 – 1200 hrs.

(hrs. is the English abbreviation for ‘hours’).