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  5. Understanding different types of English tests

Understanding different types of English tests

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a commonly used framework for describing achievements in learning a foreign language, including English. It classifies language proficiency into six levels:
A1 Beginner
A2 Elementary
B1 Intermediate
B2 Upper intermediate
C1 Advanced proficiency
C2 Near-native mastery

Education institutions often set English language entry requirements in terms of CEFR levels. For example, high schools and universities normally admit students at B2 level or above. There is a range of English proficiency tests students can take to meet the requirements.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is the mainstream test in the US. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), developed by the University of Cambridge and the British Council, is prevalent in the UK. The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) was developed in the US mainly for Japanese people. Online tests such as Duolingo and LanguageCert are also available. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, TOEFL and IELTS are also offering an online version.

Each test has a distinct grading scale – for example TOEFL has a score range of 0-120 while IELTS scores are between 0 and 9 – but all are convertible into CEFR levels. Different institutions accept different tests, so always remember to check with those you are applying to.