What is A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2?

The A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 levels refer to the six levels of language proficiency outlined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This framework provides a standardized way of describing language ability through six broad levels, from beginner (A1) to advanced (C2). Understanding these levels can help language learners set learning goals and track their progress.

A Brief History of the CEFR

The CEFR was developed in the 1970s and 80s by the Council of Europe as a way to establish a common basis for describing language proficiency across Europe. The goal was to provide a framework that could be used by various institutions to coordinate language learning, teaching, and assessment.

The CEFR was designed to apply to all European languages and provide a descriptive scheme that would encourage learner mobility between countries. Having a shared framework would allow educational programs, textbooks, and language certificates from different regions to be more easily compared.

The CEFR was finalized in 1996 and has since been translated into over 40 languages. It has been adopted by many countries in Europe and around the world as a basis for their national language education policies. The six reference levels have become widely recognized globally as the standard for grading language proficiency.

The Six CEFR Levels

The CEFR defines six common reference levels for language proficiency, from A1 for beginners up to C2 for those who have mastered a language. The levels are defined as follows:

A1 (Breakthrough)

– Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at satisfying needs of a concrete type.

– Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has.

– Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

A2 (Waystage)

– Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment).

– Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.

– Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

B1 (Threshold)

– Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.

– Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.

– Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.

– Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

B2 (Vantage)

– Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization.

– Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.

– Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

C1 (Effective Operational Proficiency)

– Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning.

– Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.

– Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.

– Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

C2 (Mastery)

– Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.

– Can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation.

– Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.

Key Features of the CEFR Levels

Some of the main characteristics of the CEFR levels are:

  • Each level subsumes the competencies of the levels below it. To reach a C2 level, one must master the competencies of C1, B2, and so on.
  • The levels are defined in broad terms to apply across languages and contexts. They provide a roadmap without prescribing specific content.
  • Progress up the levels represents increased communicative competence and language sophistication.
  • Higher levels do not imply native-level fluency, which is not formally defined in the CEFR.
  • The levels are open ended at the top and bottom. A0 is sometimes used to define those with no language skills, and C3 has been proposed for levels beyond C2.

Using the CEFR Levels

The CEFR levels have many practical applications in the world of language learning and assessment. Here are some of the main ways the levels are used:

Assessing Proficiency

Standardized language tests often report results according to the CEFR levels. This provides meaningful information about a learner’s functional language ability. For example, a candidate achieving a B1 level on a test has conversational language skills for everyday situations.

Setting Learning Goals

Learners use the levels to understand what practical language competencies are involved in reaching each new threshold. An A2 level learner can set the goal of reaching B1 and being able to cope linguistically in an English-speaking country.

Designing Curriculum

Course developers utilize the CEFR to structure language courses and textbooks around the competencies required for mastery of each level. Content and learning objectives are chosen appropriate to the target proficiency level.

Comparing Qualifications

The standard CEFR scale enables comparison of language qualifications from different educational systems. For example, a French DELF B1 certificate can be broadly interpreted as equivalent to a Cambridge PET pass at B1 level.

Planning Policies

At the national level, governments employ the CEFR in developing policies on areas like immigrant language requirements and target language levels for the population.

Typical Language Ability at Each CEFR Level

To further understand what the CEFR levels represent in practical language skills, here is an overview of some typical abilities corresponding to each level:

CEFR Level Listening Reading Spoken Interaction Spoken Production Writing
A1 Understands basic phrases spoken slowly Understands basic notices, instructions, etc. Can interact about simple topics but needs help Can produce basic phrases about self and needs Can write simple isolated phrases
A2 Understands straightforward factual info Understands basic texts, instructions, etc. Can interact on familiar topics but needs repetition Can give a simple description on familiar topics Can write short, basic descriptive texts
B1 Understands main points of clear speech Understands texts for main points Can discuss topics of personal interest Can narrate events and experiences Can write on familiar subjects
B2 Understands complex technical discussions Reads complex texts relating to own interests Can interact fluently and spontaneously Can present and argue a viewpoint Can write detailed expositions and reports
C1 Easily follows all kinds of spoken language Understands long complex texts Expresses self fluently and spontaneously Presents issues in a sophisticated way Writes clear, well-structured texts
C2 No difficulty with any spoken language Fully understands all written texts Interacts effortlessly even in delicate situations Presents complex topics skillfully and precisely Writes fluently, stylistically and precisely


In summary, the A1 to C2 scale of the CEFR provides a roadmap for language learners to orient themselves and measure their progress. The levels broadly describe what functional language competencies a learner has mastered to reach each new threshold. While the framework is European in origin, it has been adopted worldwide as a basis for language education policies, curriculum development, assessment design and academic-professional recognition of language qualifications.

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