English Language Class Levels

IH Manchester classroom


English Language Levels

Our way of describing English language levels at IH Manchester is based on the CEFR.


What is the CEFR?

CEFR means the “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment”.

The CEFR is a global scale of language level. It describes what people can actually do in the language. These abilities start from knowing just a few words, to knowing and using the language almost perfectly.


The “Global scales” have three levels, and each level is divided into two:

Level Descriptors

Proficient user


Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise 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 more complex situations.


Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself 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 organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.


Independent user


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


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 whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.


Basic user


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.


Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of 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.

The IH Manchester Classes are named after colours and correspond to the CEFR:

For each level, the CEFR describes what a learner can do in reading, listening, speaking and writing.

For example, at the end of level A1, the learner:

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

Compare this with C2:

“Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.”

Against this Framework, any formal exam, certificate or syllabus can be matched. In other words, any aspect of learning, teaching or testing a language can be put somewhere on this table.

Making Progress

Individual learners will progress differently depending on many factors, such as exposure to the language and culture, knowledge of other languages, motivation etc.

As a rough guide, Cambridge exams estimate that each level is reached with the following guided learning hours:

A2, 180–200

B1, 350–400

B2, 500–600

C1, 700–800

C2, 1,000–1,200

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Tel: +44 1452 619021
Email : marketing@ihmanchester.com

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