English Proficiency Levels: How to Determine Your Level

Thinking about studying or working in an English-speaking country like Canada? You’ll need good language skills—but how “good” are we talking about exactly? 

Is knowing very basic phrases and sentences enough to get by? Or do you need to decipher Shakespearean English before you pass? While you don’t need to channel your inner Bard to live in Canada, you will need to understand everyday conversations and speak clearly. 

The good news is your English language ability can be measured! English levels help you see where you stand and what you need to work on. They also help international students and migrant workers set objectives for learning English in a way that fits their goals.

Want to know more? Keep reading because we’re tackling the ins and outs of English proficiency levels in this article. 

How English Levels Are Measured 

English proficiency levels help you see how well you understand the language in terms of reading, writing, speaking, or listening. Most international colleges, universities, and government institutions use scales to determine an individual’s language proficiency level.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is widely accepted as the global standard for measuring levels of English proficiency, but Canada also uses the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB). Depending on where you are or what you’re doing, you might get assessed using either scale. 

Don’t worry! While the scales differ slightly in the number of levels and descriptors, there are general equivalencies between CLB and CEFR so you don’t necessarily need to stress about which scale is used.

CLB English Levels CEFR English Levels
CLB 1 Pre-A1
CLB 2 A1 – Beginner
CLB 3-4 A2 – Pre-Intermediate or Elementary
CLB 5-7 B1 – Intermediate
CLB 8-9 B2 – Upper-Intermediate
CLB 10-11 C1 – Advanced
CLB 12 C2 – Proficient

What Are the Levels of English? 

As you can see, the English levels used in the CEFR and CLB range from beginner to proficient—but what do they mean exactly? Let’s find out what you can expect from each English language proficiency level:

A1/CLB 2 

At the A1 CEFR level, you have very basic English language proficiency. You can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and simple phrases. For example, you can introduce yourself to your homestay host family and talk about basic personal details.

A2/CLB 3-4 

This level of English represents elementary proficiency, meaning you can speak in full sentences and phrases on simple topics. Your vocabulary and pronunciation are better than in A1, but interactions are still limited to direct exchanges of information. 

To improve your pronunciation, modern English language books and consistent practice are your best friends at this stage!

B1/CLB 5-7 

The intermediate English language level means you can handle everyday situations, express opinions, and discuss familiar topics. You’re more independent in conversations and can understand straightforward texts.

Fun Fact: CLB 7 is the minimum English level for skilled migrant workers coming to Canada. 

B2/CLB 8-9 

At this English Level, you’ll have a more extensive and detailed vocabulary. You’ll likely understand the main ideas of complex text, interact with native speakers with a degree of fluency, and explain a viewpoint on certain topics or complex situations.

C1/CLB 10-11

This level of English proficiency means you can use the language flexibly and effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes. At this stage, you’re basically fluent!

You can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning. You can also express ideas fluently and spontaneously without consciously trying to find words to express yourself.

So, less “Um,” and more “Yes, that one!”

C2/CLB 12 

Way to go! At this English level, you can understand practically everything you hear or read with ease. You can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts coherently.

You’re an English master now and can probably work in any English-speaking profession, including hospitality and digital marketing jobs!

CEFR levels depicted in a bar graph climbing from level A1 to C2Image Source: Shutterstock

ILAC English Levels 

The International Language Academy of Canada is one of the most-awarded English language schools in the world. A big part of our secret sauce is the focus on personalized learning based on a student’s English level.

Here’s how it works:

A table showing ILAC’s English levels with their corresponding suggested courses

Ways to Determine Your English Levels 

Now that we know the levels of English proficiency, it’s time to get yours! You can find your English levels using the following methods:

Self-Assessment Tests 

Many online resources offer free self-assessment tests to measure your English language levels. While not official evaluations, these can provide a general idea of where your current skills stand.

Placement Tests 

Universities, colleges, and language schools in Canada often have placement tests that can help determine the most suitable English language program for you. These are often free and can be taken online or in person.

Standardized Tests 

Standardized tests are widely accepted for academic and immigration purposes in Canada. These tests are administered under controlled conditions and fully assess all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening).

Climb up the English Proficiency Ladder With ILAC 

English levels are like steps on a ladder, and at ILAC, we’ll ensure you have a firm foothold on each one as you climb toward fluency. We’ll be your personal sherpas, guiding you up the English levels one fun step at a time.

Our English language programs are specially designed to meet you wherever you are—from total beginner to highly proficient. We’ll check your current abilities and then create a learning path just for you. 

What’s more, learning at ILAC isn’t just textbooks and grammar drills. Our classes are full of games, activities, and real conversations that make practicing English feel like playtime rather than hard work.

So, what are you waiting for? Raise your English levels in just four weeks—apply now!

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