English Proficiency Levels: How to Make The Most out of Them
When we talk about various ways of learning a language, including movies, books, or lessons with tutors, we usually discuss the materials based on different levels of English. But what does it mean exactly? And is it really important to know your level? Apparently, the answer is yes.
If your goal is to become fluent in English (by the way, fluent – is also a level), you should learn information suitable for your proficiency. And that is why we are here. In this article, you will find everything you need to know about levels of learning a language, the easiest ways to reach them, standard requirements for each level, and much more. So please, make yourself comfortable, and let’s find out your English proficiency!
All you need to know about language speaking levels – in a nutshell
Today, we use the CEFR scale to determine one’s level of any language. According to the well-known Wiki, CEFR is an international system that describes the achievements of those who study a particular foreign language. There are six primary levels of proficiency:
- Levels A0-A2 – basic knowledge primarily refers to those just starting their studies.
- Levels B1-B2 – intermediate knowledge.
- Levels C1-C2 – the highest levels of language proficiency, close to natives.
As we mentioned earlier, all six English levels determine a student’s knowledge, vocabulary, general comprehension, etc. To reach a particular level, learners must earn certain skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. And we’ve done everything possible to make this process easy for you with the tips provided below.
Language Skill Level A1 (Elementary): Comprehensive Guide
Officially, the system of English levels starts with level A1 – Elementary. But there is one level before it, A0 – Beginner. Usually, all students who only begin their studying process have one of those two levels. The difference between them is simple. You have the A0 level if you have never learned English before. You might know some simple phrases and words like hello and goodbye, but nothing more. The Elementary level, on the other hand, has some more requirements. You can start learning if you:
- have studied the language for some time before and have some basic knowledge;
- have a vocabulary of 300-500 words but can’t speak English at all;
- know nothing about grammar rules, tenses, sentence constructions, etc.;
- can understand what you read but can't understand English aurally.
You have an English language level A1 if you recognize yourself in this description. But you don’t have to be upset about it! We’ve all started from the beginning since there is no other way to become fluent in English or any language. So keep reading if your goal is to pass the Elementary exam, as below you can find everything you might need.
Even though A1 is one of the most basic levels of language knowledge, you can’t just say that you have it. There are many requirements in the four primary abilities of learning. You should know some things suitable for your level to pass the Elementary exam. And that is what we are going to discuss next.
- A1 Speaking requirements. You need to be able to talk about yourself, your friends, and your family. You also need to describe your workday and weekends, share your plans, and express your feelings. You don’t have to use complex grammar and vocabulary, but you have to know how to use simple sentences.
- A1 Reading requirements. You have to read and understand simple books suitable for your level (we will share our favorite options later). You must also understand general news, advertisements, street signs, etc.
- A1 Writing requirements. You have to be capable of writing a simple letter or short text on a familiar topic, for example, your family, hobby, pet, etc. Furthermore, you need to be able to fill out a questionnaire with simple questions.
- A1 Listening requirements. Like with reading, you have to be able to understand audio materials suitable for your level. You also need to comprehend the speech of native speakers (if they speak slowly and use the vocabulary you already know).
When you pass the Elementary level, your vocabulary consists of 1000-1300 words (by the way, this is 12% of the C2 level vocabulary). After meeting all these requirements, you can easily move forward to studying the next English level – A2.
What are you going to learn at level A1?
Although it is the first step of your studying journey, you shouldn’t think it will be easy. The Elementary course covers the most important topics essential for further learning. You will acquire a lot of new grammar and lexis when studying at this level. Here are only some of them.
- the verb to be in three tenses;
- Present (Simple, Continuous, Perfect) and Past Simple tenses;
- possessive adjectives (my, your, his, etc.) and object pronouns (me, you, her, him, us, them, etc.);
- comparative and superlative adjectives;
- if and when conditional sentences;
- relative pronouns (who, which, that);
- singular and plural nouns;
- countable and uncountable;
- adverbs of frequency;
- adverbs of the mode of action.
- family and friends;
- countries and nationalities;
- personal preferences;
- domestic routine;
- daily schedule;
- holidays and weather;
- food and beverages;
- movies and music;
- sport and activities;
- human body.
After learning these topics, you can discuss them with others, read and write about them, and much more. Generally, reaching level A1 takes four to six months, but it depends on one’s abilities, the time they are ready to spend, etc. And to make this process go faster, easier, and funnier, you can use some materials mentioned below.
The best practice materials for A1 English learners
Everyone knows that practice makes perfect. But some people think that the Elementary level is not enough to read books or watch movies in English. Luckily, it is not true. Dozens of materials are available for all levels of fluency in the language, and level A1 is no exception. So what are we going to start from?
Of course, it depends on your needs. For example, if your goal is to expand your vocabulary, the best solution for you is to read easy books. Great options, in our opinion, are the novels Hello Harvest Moon by Ralph Fletcher and The Music of The Dolphins by Karen Hess. Both are written in simple language, primarily using Present Simple, so they will be great even if you're just at the beginning of your study.
To improve listening, you can start watching simple cartoons and movies you’ve already seen in your native language. It will be easier for you to follow the plot and understand the characters when you know what the movie is about. Suitable options for this stage are cartoons Up, Casper, and Frozen. Another great movie for you is The Princess Bride (1987).
Level A2 (Pre-Intermediate) Guide
The next level of proficiency available for you after passing the Elementary one is A2 – Pre-Intermediate. It is also considered beginner level, but now you have more knowledge about basic grammar, vocabulary, speaking and reading skills, etc. You can start your learning process from this level if you:
- understand the general sense of your interlocutor’s speech, can have simple conversations, and ask questions but still use short sentences;
- know basic grammar rules but still face difficulties using them in spontaneous dialogues, make many mistakes;
- learned English at school or university and have solid basic knowledge;
- just finished the Elementary course.
Level A2 is as important as other language levels of fluency since it is another step on your path to success. But as the one mentioned above, the Pre-Intermediate level also has some knowledge requirements that you need to meet.
- A2 Reading requirements. You understand simple advertisement texts, articles in newspapers and magazines, as well as classic and modern literature adapted to the Pre-Intermediate level.
- A2 Speaking requirements. You have proper pronunciation and speak clearly. You can discuss more familiar topics and understand the meaning of most everyday conversations. You know what phrasal verbs are and how to use them.
- A2 Listening requirements. You understand medium pace speech if it contains familiar words. You can watch some movies or TV shows in English, but only with subtitles. You know a bit more about intonations, accents, and particular sounds.
- A2 Writing requirements. You can write a short story about your life, describe a certain picture, explain your thoughts, and express your feelings. You can also create an informal letter, greeting card, etc.
If you want to gain such skills, it is time to start your Pre-Intermediate course. It will help you to learn even more interesting topics, essential rules, and many other things. Let’s see what information will be waiting for you.
What are you going to learn at level A2?
Now, when you reach the Pre-Intermediate level, your vocabulary consists of 1400-1800 words. Therefore, your course now contains more unique subjects. Of course, you will also learn grammar rules and conversational topics. But this time, they will be a little more complicated. Here is what you will learn.
- information and indirect questions;
- Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous tenses;
- quantifiers and comparisons;
- modals of necessity (must, have got to, have to), prohibition (can’t, must not, have not), and permission (can, could, may, might);
- passive voice;
- indefinite pronouns (each, all, any);
- reported speech;
- phrasal verbs.
- personalities and possessions;
- hobbies and personal interests;
- cities and places;
- humor in movies and TV shows;
- habits and activities;
- feelings and emotions;
- risks and opportunities;
- invitations and musical tastes.
After mastering these topics, it will be much easier for you to talk to friends and strangers who speak English. Of course, there is much more information that you will learn in your Pre-Intermediate course. And if you want something more than just dull lessons, let’s look at the best materials to make your studying experience even more fun and beneficial.
The best practice materials for A2 English learners
Now that you know more words and topics, you can try to read more challenging books and watch more complex movies. For example, the novel New Kid by Jerry Kraft will be a great start. It is simple yet interesting, and you will learn something new on every page. In addition to it, you can read beautiful books like This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.
As for movies, there are also more options for you. You can try the beautiful romantic comedy The Holiday starring Jude Law, Jack Black, Cameron Dias, and Kate Winslet. This movie is great for relaxing, having fun, and learning wonderful British and American accents. You can also watch Disney movies like Beauty and the Beast or famous romantic comedies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Level B1 (Intermediate) Guide
Congratulations! You’ve successfully passed both beginner English language fluency levels and reached the middle of your studying journey. B1 Intermediate level is excellent – you already know enough to talk to natives, keep up a conversation, and discuss various topics, but there is still room for improvement. Here is what you already know if you think that your proficiency level is B1:
- how to discuss your personal and professional future;
- how to conduct a job interview;
- share your thoughts about your favorite movies and shows;
- visit restaurants, order food, talk during dinner;
- discuss the rules of etiquette.
As you can see, there are more options than in previous levels of language fluency. Yet, there are also some requirements that you need to meet to pass the exam and prove your Intermediate level. Again, they are divided into four categories.
- B1 Reading requirements. You should understand key information from all letters and articles. You also have to read adapted literature easily.
- B1 Speaking requirements. You need to maintain simple conversations in foreign countries during your travels. You should also easily express your thoughts and shortly argue your perspective.
- B1 Listening requirements. You need to understand the point of conversation from the context, even if you hear some unknown words. You can also fully understand adapted audio materials.
- B1 Writing requirements. You should be able to easily write a short story or essay on familiar topics, an informal letter to your friends, or a basic formal letter.
At this point, your vocabulary consists of 1500-2000 words. It is enough to stay in an English-speaking environment for a while and chat with native speakers on some simple topics. And now you can study even more exciting subjects.
What are you going to learn at level B1
The Intermediate level is based on your previous knowledge but with the addition of new grammar and conversational topics. Now you can feel more confident speaking with other people, and your general outlook is much broader. Here are the subjects you will learn in the B1 Intermediate course.
- Simple and Continuous tenses review and comparison;
- stative and dynamic verbs;
- real conditional sentences;
- modifying comparisons;
- modals of speculation;
- subject and object relative clauses.
- personal qualities;
- social situations;
- time and money;
- food and recipes;
- apologies and explanations;
- communication and social media.
And that’s not all! There are many more things that you can now discuss thanks to your Intermediate level. With B1, you can easily find a job in an English-speaking country because usually, this level is more than enough to communicate with your colleagues or clients (yet, we are not talking about specialized work). And now, let’s see what else you can do!
The best practice materials for B1 English learners
Now you can easily access a lot of literature, movies, TV shows, and many more interesting things. For reading practice, we recommend such brilliant novels as Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and The Seventh Son written by Orson Scott Card.
With the Intermediate level, you can watch more movies and TV shows. For example, famous sitcoms like Friends or How I Met Your Mother would be a perfect choice. In addition, you can watch Indiana Jones movies, if you feel adventurous, or romantic comedies like Love Actually.
Level B2 (Upper-Intermediate) Guide
The Upper-Intermediate English level is the one that allows you to live in an English-speaking environment, constantly speak with natives, and easily understand most information. There is still room for growth, but at this point, you can feel confident when talking to others, discussing complex topics, etc. Here are the main characteristics of the B2 English level:
- you can have long conversations on various subjects;
- you can write long texts almost without mistakes and easily understand almost all written information;
- you understand most grammar rules and know how to use them;
- easily watch movies, shows, and any other video materials (except specialized ones if you are unaware of the subject).
As you can see, the Upper-Intermediate level is almost fluent. We say almost because there still might be mistakes and misunderstandings, and you still have to learn some new materials on your B2 studying course. Here are the requirements you need to meet to reach this high:
- B2 Reading requirements. You can easily understand the meaning of any complex text on various topics. You should also be able to read non-adapted modern literature (sometimes consulting the dictionary).
- B2 Speaking requirements. You can easily and quickly use English in your conversations and maintain spontaneous dialogues on various (even unknown) topics.
- B2 Listening requirements. You can understand almost every native speaker.
- B2 Writing requirements. You can write formal and informal letters and long texts on various topics using complex sentences, grammar constructions, etc.
Your vocabulary now consists of 2800-4000 words, and it is enough to do a lot of things. The Upper-Intermediate level allows you to study more diverse subjects and discuss them with native speakers.
What are you going to learn at level B2
As we’ve just said, there are plenty of exciting topics that you will learn during the course. Most of them are connected to the repetition of previous lessons with more depth. Here is what you are going to learn.
- comparative and superlative structures;
- relative pronouns and reduced relative clauses;
- present participles;
- real and mixed conditionals;
- reported speech with modal verbs;
- modal-like expressions with to be.
- positive experiences and aspirations;
- differences in personality;
- ability and performance;
- basic marketing and market trends;
- problems and challenges in daily life;
- the natural world and life forms in different habitats.
With such knowledge, you can now study almost every subject you want. There are plenty of options available, and you might choose the ones you like the most. The same thing is with the practice materials – the Upper-Intermediate level is enough to watch most movies, read classic and modern literature, etc.
The best practice materials for B2 English learners
When you are one step before the Advanced level, you can take most of the practice materials and really enjoy them. For reading options, we recommend trying Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings – both books are perfect for level B2. In addition, you can check The Road by Cormac McCarthy or Maids and Ladies by Kathryn Stockett. You can also pick movies or series depending on your preferences. Forrest Gamp, The Matrix, The Hunger Games, and thousands of others – the choices are almost endless.
You’ve done an impressive job, and now you’ve reached the highest levels of English proficiency. Levels C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency are similar, so we’ve combined them into one section. Proficiency, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is the fact of having the skill and experience of doing something. English Proficiency level means that you have knowledge of native speakers (and sometimes even better). Here is what it means:
- you can understand idioms, proverbs, and common expressions and use them in your speech;
- succinctly express your thoughts;
- discuss complex topics, even if they are new to you;
- easily understand written and audio materials regardless of their quantity.
Sometimes, it might take a lot of work to reach these levels. But with enough practice, you will be able to achieve this goal even faster than you thought at the beginning of the journey. All you need to do is spend enough time learning, which will bring you the best results.
In the C1 course, you will learn many in-depth grammar and conversational topics, including Future Continuous and Perfect tenses, unreal conditions, lexical subjects about Artificial Intelligence, emotions, assumptions, and more. The C2 course will teach you how to master nuanced speech, spontaneously express ideas, teach others, and much more.
With this knowledge, you can watch and read everything you like. But if you need some advice, we recommend paying attention to David Fincher movies, like Fight Club or the Panic Room. As for books, the variations are endless – from classical novels like Jane Air and A Tale of Two Cities to modern stories written by Chuck Palahniuk or Stephen King.
Mastering language learning levels with Promova
Now you know everything about English proficiency levels. But how can you go through them all and reach the cherished C2? We have a solution for students of every level, from A1 to C1. Promova is a modern online language-learning platform created for people around the globe. It doesn’t matter what English level you have right now. In a few months, it will be twice better with the Promova.
Our team of professional tutors will be happy to create a curriculum based on your knowledge. You can access personal or group lessons, join the Conversation Club, or install the Promova app to study on the go. Just try, and you will see how quickly you will get to the Proficiency level!
Currently, you might think it is impossible to go through all those levels and become fluent in English. Luckily, it’s not! Just don’t waste your time; find your level and start practicing. It might take some time, of course, to learn all the rules and implement them in your daily conversation. But it is absolutely possible, and we will be happy to help you see it yourself.
What are the primary English language levels?
According to CEFR (the Common European Framework of Reference), there are six English proficiency levels – A1 (Elementary), A2 (Pre-Intermediate), B1 (Intermediate), B2 (Upper-Intermediate), C1 (Advanced), and C2 (Proficiency). Informally, there is one more – A0 level (Beginner) that references the ones who’ve never learned English before and don’t have even basic knowledge yet.
What are the main characteristics of basic English levels?
Basic (beginner) English Levels A1-A2 are characterized by limited vocabulary, lack of grammar rules knowledge, limited diversity of discussion topics, and much more. These are the first levels students pass during their studying journey and contain much important information necessary for further learning.
What are the main characteristics of intermediate English levels?
The B1-B2 English proficiency levels are mostly characterized by extensive vocabulary (Intermediate 1500-2000 words, Upper-Intermediate 2800-4000). Students with these levels can easily express their thoughts, argue their opinions, describe their feelings, and discuss various topics. They can also understand the speech of native speakers, watch movies and TV shows, read some adapted books, etc.
How to become fluent in English?
The main goal is to practice as much as you can. Some people think that to go from A1 to C2 you need to study for two and a half years, taking two English lessons per week. But the more you practice, the faster you will see the results. Read books, watch movies, and try to speak English as much as you can. Do everything possible to spend at least 10 minutes a day practicing the language.