C2 Level English Vocabulary
How good is your English? So-so? Pretty good? Almost perfect? Especially if you are supposed to assess your language skills for a specific reason – for example, for a job application or choosing the right English course – these descriptions are too vague. A very precise and generally accepted classification for language skills is provided by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
What is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages?
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages was developed by the Council of Europe to make it easier to compare different language certificates. The CEFR applies not only to the English language, but to all. Nevertheless, much of the subsequent language research on teaching and learning a foreign language comes from the English-speaking world.
What are the language levels in the European Framework of Reference?
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages comprises six levels in language learning that are now standardly used to classify foreign language competence in – and in many cases outside – Europe. For each level, the CEFR describes what learners have already mastered in the four skills of reading, listening, speaking, and writing. The Framework asks in which or in how many areas a learner can already act in a foreign language (quantitative assessment) and how correct his or her language utterances are (qualitative assessment) in order to describe his or her general language competence.
The six language levels are:
A1 – Basic 1 (Breakthrough) A2 – Basic level 2 (Waystage) B1 – Intermediate 1 (Threshold) B2 – Intermediate 2 (Vantage) C1 – Advanced 1 (Effective Operational Proficiency) C2 – Advanced 2 (Mastery)
Level A1 and A2
Level A1 or A2 corresponds to the so-called “elementary language use”. Learners at this level can understand and use everyday words and simple phrases for concrete situations. They are able to talk about themselves, their hometown and their family. They can understand others speaking slowly about these topics, and they can read short, easy texts. When learners have reached A2 level, they can understand and use words that are important to their everyday life, such as from the topics of work, shopping, and hobbies. They can formulate simple sentences on everyday topics. Most language users at this basic level form only short sentences, make numerous mistakes, and do not yet speak very fluently.
Level B1 and B2
Level B1 and B2 correspond to “independent language use”. Learners at level B1 can understand the essentials if you speak to them slowly and in a dialect that is not too pronounced. They can talk about familiar topics and personal interests. Most basic language actions performed while on vacation in the relevant country do not pose a problem. Learners can describe experiences, adventures and dreams, and communicate wishes and opinions. When learners have reached level B2, they can already understand the main points of more complex texts and conversations. They are able to talk about abstract ideas, especially in a professional or academic field with which they are familiar. At this level, normal interaction with native speakers is possible. Learners can express their thoughts on a variety of topics. For example, they can justify an opinion or evaluate an issue. The mistakes that learners at this level make rarely lead to misunderstandings.
Level C1 and C2
Level C1 and C2 correspond to “competent language use”. At the C1 level, learners can use a variety of expressions that enable them to cover a wide range of topics in everyday life, work, or academic situations.
How do I know my English language level?
On the Council of Europe website, you can use the “Global Scale” as a checklist to rank your language proficiency. Optionally, you can also use the “Self-Assessment Grid” to get a more accurate picture regarding your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. Free placement test: At Sprachtest.de, you can have your language level determined within 15 minutes for free. This grid is a table with statements about what you already know in the foreign language. To determine your level, you select the statements that best describe your language competence in the respective area. You should keep in mind that most language learners do not have the same level in all skills (writing, reading, listening, speaking). So it can happen that you are already on level B2 in reading or listening comprehension, but only on level B1 in speaking. This is relatively normal and should not worry you. On the other hand, you will then know in which area you still need to catch up in order to improve your language competence.
Here are a few examples from the self-assessment grid:
A1 Speaking: I can use simple everyday expressions and phrases to describe where I and people I know live. B1 Writing: I can write simple and coherent texts on familiar topics and areas of personal interest. I can write personal letters expressing experiences and impressions. C1 Reading comprehension: I can understand long, complex non-fiction and literary texts and perceive differences in style. I can understand specialized articles and longer technical instructions, even if they are not in my field of expertise.
What certificates can prove my language level?
If you want to work or study in an English-speaking country, you will usually need a recognized certificate to prove your language level, normally at least B1. There are several recognized tests available to you, which are chargeable but also internationally recognized. Among the best-known certificates are those issued by the Cambridge English Language Assessment institution. Cambridge language certificates cover the full range of the Common European Framework of Reference and you can choose between general English and business English. There are over 60 Cambridge test centers in Germany. A test costs around 150,- €. Furthermore, there are special English exams if you want to study English at university. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), for example, covers levels B and C of the CEFR. There are numerous institutes in Germany where you can take the IELTS test. The costs are around 200,- €. If you want to study in the USA, you may have to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). This is recognized by most American universities. The TOEFL covers language levels up to C1 and costs around 200,- €. For those who use English in their professional life, the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) and the LCCI test (from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry) may be of interest. The TOEIC costs around €100 and covers all levels of the CEFR. For the LCCI tests, you can choose which subject areas you want to specialize in, such as business English, English for marketing, or finance, and for which level you want to be tested. The prices for these exams range from 30,- € to 250,- €. If you want to grade yourself but do not need a recognized certificate, you can also use materials that are used for the respective language exams. Various publishers offer textbooks or other materials with exercises and mini-tests to prepare for specific exams. Individual testing organizations often make materials from previous exams available on their websites. You can use these to determine your language level.
How are these placement tests structured?
Most of the exams listed above include several parts that test the skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Sometimes skills are combined, such as when you are asked to read a text and then write something about it. For example, in a general English test, a typical reading comprehension test would include questions about an article, email, letter, or report. Exercises could include multiple-choice questions, true-false questions, cloze questions, synonym queries, or matching exercises (i.e., exercises similar to those we used in our Spotlight–Plus-magazine every month). The listening comprehension tests are often very similar in format to the reading comprehension tests, with the difference that they involve a listening text rather than a reading text. For the higher levels, it is very likely that the reading and listening texts are authentic. For the lower levels, the texts are usually adapted and simplified. Here is a sample question as it might appear on an English reading exam for B1: The writing and speaking sections of a language exam usually begin with specific exercises to test error-free use of vocabulary and grammar. The next step is then independent speech production. Special exercises may include sentence conversions, multiple-choice tasks, cloze tests, or answering short interview-type questions. In the speech production section, you may have to write an email, a short story, or an essay. Examiners primarily evaluate freedom from errors, natural flow of language, and connections between parts of the statement or thought processes. Below is a sample sentence transformation task at level B2: Possible topics to write or say something about may include the following:
- write a response to a short email asking for information (A2)
- write a short story to a given headline (B1)
- describe what work in and around the house you like / dislike to do (B1)
- explain how you celebrate special occasions and why (B2)
- explain how you would help people who are in difficult situations – which are shown in photos (B2)
- give your opinion on the advantages and disadvantages of a given topic (C1)
What level of language is required for which professions?
You probably already have a pretty good idea of what language level you need to be proficient in for different professions. With English skills at level A1 and A2, you are limited to jobs where you don’t need to communicate much. Once you reach level B1 or B2, more interesting jobs are open to you. This is probably why B1 level is often required for immigrant visas. Level B1 English allows you to communicate with other people, such as clients in the service industry. Level B2 is usually required to enter an English-language university program. In addition, this level opens many doors for you on a professional level. With B2, you can work in technical professions and office jobs. Specialized professions, especially those that require a lot of writing or where accuracy is of the utmost importance, require at least C1.
What does the European Framework of Reference mean for me?
According to your language goals, the CEFR can give you a good idea of where you are in your learning process. However, what is true for all learning processes, and therefore also for improving your language skills: you should not mainly focus on the result, but have fun while learning. “I’m practically fluent in English!” Have you ever said that and then questioned the statement yourself? What does “practically fluent” actually mean? Does it mean that you are level C2 and have already reached the top of the language learning mountain? Or are you in English exam preparation for an ESOL test and don’t know what language level to aim for? In fact, “fluent English” starts a few levels below C2! We know this thanks to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The CEFR is an international guide to measuring language proficiency that uses a scale from A1 (beginner) to C2 (near-native). There are many free online tests that you can use to check your CEFR level. You can also take official language tests like the IELTS, which provide certified proof of your English skills for employers, colleges, and universities. The following guide will help you compare your skills with each language level and estimate how long it will take you to reach a higher level. You’ll also get useful tips to help you reach your next goal in learning English online. Let’s go!
English language levels: A brief overview
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1. beginner: CEFR level A1
“I am Groot” – Groot, Guardian of the Galaxy, English level A1
What you should know about English at A1 level
Also known as a “complete beginner,” at A1 level you have very limited knowledge of the English language. However, you will be able to get by in everyday situations using common expressions and elementary vocabulary, as long as the circumstances are familiar. This means you can find your way around London, Vancouver, or Los Angeles, but probably rely on Google Translate a lot! A1 learners speak slowly and with pauses while their brains search for the right word, so it may take a little patience from native speakers to have a proper conversation. The vocabulary at this level includes about 700 words. That may sound like a lot, but it’s a surprisingly limited amount to express yourself in different situations. To pass the Cambridge exam for A1, you need about 100 hours with the English language is required.
What you can do with A1 level
English learners at A1 level can:
- Introduce themselves in a simple way and use simple greetings and conversation starters (e.g., about the weather).
- Understand very basic geographical descriptions and directions given by locals.
- Find their way around cities by reading simple signs, posters, and notices.
- Write very simple descriptions of their hobbies and interests.
Tips for reaching A1 level
The best way to reach A1 level is to start learning and stick with it! When it comes to learning something new, everyone has to start from scratch. One of the biggest challenges is staying on task and maintaining motivation. At first, you’ll be embarrassed and guaranteed to make mistakes. But you have to accept that if you want to improve your English skills. At this point, you should also check out popular language learning apps like Duolingo or Babbel (in English), which are designed for complete beginners and are not quite as helpful once you reach A2 level. You can use the vocabulary from the apps to make lists in notebooks or flashcards.
2. Basic knowledge: CEFR level A2
“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, Jedi Master, English level A2
What you should know about English at A2 level
At A2 or “Elementary” level, you can engage in everyday small talk and express your opinion, but still in a very basic way and only on familiar topics. At this stage, you begin to really understand the past and future tenses and start talking about your past (“Before I came here, I lived in Italy”) and ambitions (“In the next 5 years, I am going to start my own company”). That said, you usually only have short conversations and rely on a native speaker to carry the conversation. However, it is much easier for native speakers to talk to you than to an A1 user! When you reach level A2, you should have an active vocabulary of approx. 1500 words and a solid understanding of grammar. To pass the Cambridge A2 exam, you need about 180-200 hours of English study are required.
What you can do at A2 level
English learners at A2 level can:
- Converse and network with English speakers and colleagues on familiar topics.
- Understand slowly spoken, frequently used expressions on topics such as shopping, family, and work.
- Write in simple terms about matters of immediate need and write basic descriptions of family and friends.
- Read short, simple texts containing frequently used words and internationally known expressions.
Tips for reaching A2 level
Although A2 is technically still a “beginner” level, it takes a while to reach this level. This is where you should start having (uncomplicated) conversations! A good tip: Practice with conversation topics that can occur in everyday life – “Survival English” so to speak (articles in English). Another effective way to learn is to prepare a “cheat sheet” or diary with everything you might need for a basic conversation, e.g. background information about yourself, your hobbies, which restaurants you recommend, etc. At this stage you should also get serious about verb conjugation and past and future tenses.
3. Intermediate: CEFR level B1
“Grey Worm’ gives me pride, it is a lucky name. The name this was born with was cursed” – Grey Worm, Warrior of the Unsullied (Game of Thrones), English level B1 (at the end of season 8).
What you should know about English at B1 level
There is a big step between A2 and B1, as this level means that you have reached a certain level of confidence in English. You can go to clothing stores and restaurants and have no trouble expressing requests to the staff. However, when you talk about a topic you are not familiar with, you still have difficulty. At this level, learners know more than the basics of the language, but are not yet able to work or study exclusively in English. You can deal with problems in everyday life, such as conversations you haven’t prepared for or problems that arise when traveling. When you reach B1, you should have a vocabulary of about 2500 words of which you should be able to recall about half quickly. In order to pass the Cambridge B1 exam, you need about 350-400 hours with the language.
What you can do at B1 level
English learners at B1 level can:
- Describe experiences and desires and support your opinions with evidence.
- Understand television series in English with English subtitles.
- Read simple books in English and understand the main ideas of newspaper articles.
- Write simple texts on familiar topics and topics of personal interest.
Tips for reaching B1 level
To reach intermediate level in English learning, the most important tip is to take learning seriously and plan a regular, dedicated learning routine. 10 minutes a day is good, but 30 minutes is much better! This way you’ll see faster and more satisfying results. To cross the threshold from beginner to intermediate, you should also look at your recurring mistakes and try to eliminate them little by little. An online English teacher can help you point out common mistakes and create a plan to eliminate them. To expand your vocabulary, you should also start adding more phrases to your vocabulary. Make conversations easier by learning “blocks” of English, such as whole sentences, collocations, or phrasal verbs, rather than individual words.
4. Upper Intermediate: CEFR Level B2
“Offend Dobby? Dobby has heard of your greatness, sir… but never has he been asked to sit down by a wizard, like an equal.” – Dobby, house elf, English level B2
What you should know about English at B2 level
Welcome to the first level we can call “fluent English”! With B2 level English, you have confidence and control in speaking, writing, and reading. This is enough to work or study in English. You can now form more complex sentences to express ideas. You still make mistakes and are certainly not the most experienced or nuanced speaker. However, you now have the language skills necessary to live in an English-speaking country and work in an English-speaking office. If you want to reach level B2, your vocabulary should be around 4000 words words. In order to pass the Cambridge exam for B2, you need about 500-600 hours of of language study are required.
What you can do at B2 level
English learners at B2 level can:
- Participate actively in discussions in familiar contexts and contribute relevant explanations and arguments.
- Understand standard language spoken at a normal speed, provided the topic is reasonably familiar.
- Understand main ideas in complex texts and contemporary literary prose, articles, and reports.
- Write clear, detailed texts on topics related to your interests or area of expertise.
Tips for reaching level B2
To reach B2 level, you should start taking more risks. This means talking about unfamiliar topics, writing articles in English, and forcing yourself to explain complicated concepts. As you take these risks, your vocabulary will grow and you’ll start to filter out your recurring mistakes. At this stage, pay attention to how native speakers construct sentences and pick up some little tricks to improve your pronunciation and imitate the flow of speech. At this level of language, it often feels like your progress is slowing down. However, the most important thing is to pay close attention to what you’re doing wrong. If you need help reaching this level, it’s best to find a native English teacher who can help you practice and correct your mistakes.
5. Advanced: CEFR level C1
“Confident people have a way of carrying themselves that makes others more attracted to them.” – Sofia Vergara, actress, English level C1
What you should know about C1 level English
C1 is an advanced level of English. With English level C1 you can speak English effortlessly and understand the language in its (almost!) full complexity. At this point you are able to hold longer conversations, even on unfamiliar topics. You also understand longer texts. At this level, you can use English in everyday life for business and academic purposes. If B2 is what many consider “fluent,” then C1 is “fluent with more nuance and understanding.” At C1 level, you can understand subtle jokes in the language and use nuanced native expressions. If you want to reach level C1, your vocabulary should be about 8000 words twice as many as for B2! To pass the Cambridge exam for C1 you will need about 700-800 hours with the language are required.
What you can do at C1 level
English learners at C1 level can:
- Express ideas fluently and give presentations in the language.
- Understand subtle jokes and implicit meanings within a conversation.
- Understand a wide range of challenging, longer texts.
- Write in detail about a variety of topics and handle unfamiliar topics with ease.
Tips for reaching C1 level
A great way to make the leap to C1 is to learn new information using English as a tool. For example, you can take an online course in English and further your education for your professional or personal goals, while improving your English skills at the same time. This way, you’ll not only learn a new skill, but also lots of vocabulary on a topic relevant to you. At the same time, you’ll incorporate the phrases used there into your active vocabulary. To learn actively, write down 5 of the phrases you hear or read in class in a notebook or flashcard app. Then practice using each of these expressions or phrases in 5 different ways.
6. Approximate native language proficiency: CEFR level C2
“‘Supposedly, or so I have heard, some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment.'” – Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, English level C2
What you should know about C2 level English
The C2 level is the highest level there is, and therefore deserves the title “Mastery”. It implies that the language user is at a similar level to a native speaker (but not quite “native”), with full confidence and control over the language. English at C2 level means being able to write or speak about any kind of topic, with nuanced expression and coherent presentation. It also means being able to read and understand language without barriers. C2 means that you have very few, if any, limitations in managing your daily life in English and that you are extremely comfortable in an academic or professional setting. If you want to reach level C2, your vocabulary should be around 16,000 words words. To pass the Cambridge exam for C2, you need about 1000-1200 hours of language study are required.
What you can do at C2 level
English learners at C2 level can:
- Express themselves spontaneously and fluently and deal confidently with confrontational questions.
- Write coherently and concisely, with the ability to summarize information to construct comprehensive arguments.
- Understand everything they hear in the language with ease.
- Read complex, technical texts at high speed.
Tips for reaching C2 level
The key to speaking English at C2 level is to incorporate the language into your life as much as possible. Daily use and conversation with native speakers will speed up the process and get you to C2 faster. Get outside your comfort zone and into situations where you need to use the language spontaneously. With time, you won’t need to think about conversations in advance. One way to reach this level is to move to an English-speaking country where you can’t use your native language. That way, you’ll have to adapt quickly. However, if you’re looking for a slightly less radical approach, it’s also worth practicing regularly with a native speaker teacher.
Achieve your English learning goals
The CEFR language levels are a great tool for measuring your current language skills. Note, however, that many of the numbers mentioned in this article – hours and vocabulary size – are based on averages. Depending on how much you’re exposed to the language and how much time you devote to learning, you’ll see faster or slower progress. Whatever your circumstances, you will need time, a precise plan, and effective learning resources to improve your English skills. There are no shortcuts. If you need help, a Preply teacher can help you create a personalized plan and provide guidance and practice to help you make faster progress. Before your first lesson, you can even take a 30-minute test to check your current English level. This will help your teacher personalize the lesson and help you reach your goals. Although it may seem difficult, the journey of English learning truly exciting. It will broaden your horizons in many ways… You will exercise your memory, gain a life skill for a career, and learn about the richness of different cultures. Ready to get started?
Frequently Asked Questions about English Language Levels
What are the 3 levels of language learning?
The three levels of language learning are commonly referred to as beginner, intermediate, and advanced. One of the most widely used English language standards in the world is the CEFR standard, which divides language proficiency into 3 broader levels (A, B, and C) and 6 more specific levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2).
|Beginner||A1||You can use simple phrases for your basic needs. At level A1, you can carry on simple conversations if the person you are talking to speaks slowly and clearly.|
|Basic knowledge||A2||You can use English for everyday tasks and activities. You also understand common expressions related to topics such as information about yourself and your occupation.|
|Intermediate||B1||You can carry on simple conversations on familiar topics At B1 level you can describe experiences, events and different situations such as travel.|
|Upper Intermediate||B2||You can communicate confidently on many topics. At B2 level, you can converse with native speakers without difficulty and with a certain degree of spontaneity. You can also understand the main ideas of texts within your field.|
|Advanced||C1||You can express yourself fluently in almost any situation without having to search for words. You are able to perform complex tasks related to work and study. You can write clear, detailed texts on demanding topics.|
|Approximately native||C2||You have a complete command of the language. You can read, speak, and write about any topic, emotion, or opinion. You can differentiate finer shades of meaning in the language even in complex situations.|
What level is fluent English?
Fluency generally begins at the B2 level, with full fluency achieved at the C2 level.
How can I assess my level of English?
The easiest way to assess your English level is to take a fluency test that covers basic general areas such as reading, vocabulary, and grammar. Take an online test to better understand what your current English level is. C2 Level English Vocabulary.
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