A "rough" guide to ESOL Levels compared to TEFL and CEFR...

I'm often asked how ESOL class levels compare to general teaching levels in TEFL. This is a very "rough" guide based on the classes I teach and my experience of teaching ESOL learners...

Please note that other language schools and organisations may use slightly different terms and their interpretation of levels may vary.[1] [2]

A student’s level

ESOL Level

CEFR Level

What this means:

(in an ESOL context).

Pre-beginner/

Zero beginner

 

 

 

Pre-Entry

A1 (very low)

These students are absolute beginners. 

They may be completely illiterate in their L1 or use a language with a different alphabet like Arabic or Farsi.

Equally, they may have some literacy, but do not know a lot of vocabulary or be able to communicate in English.

 

Beginner

Entry 1

A1

These students have some basic understanding/ experience of English.

At this level students learn basic grammar such as the present simple and continuous tenses.

They will learn to do basic tasks such as write a note, fill in a simple form and phone a friend.

  

Elementary

Entry 2

A2

These students are able to communicate and do simple tasks in English.

At this level students learn grammar such as the past simple and ‘be going to’ for future plans. They will learn about modal verbs such as ‘can’ and ‘must’ and how to make comparisons.

They will learn to do activities such as write a short letter, send an e-mail and have a short discussion.

 

Pre-Intermediate

Entry 3

B1

These students are able to hold a conversation in English and can communicate confidently.

At this level students learn grammar such as the present perfect tense and conditional sentences. They also learn about using ‘will’ for the future, how to use ‘should’ to give advice and how to form indirect questions.

They will learn about formal/ informal language and how to write formal letters and e-mails.

 

Intermediate

Level 1

B1+

These students are able to communicate well and have good reading and writing skills.  

At this level students learn more complex grammar structures such as the active/passive voice, reported speech and question tags.

Students will learn to do activities such as giving a short presentation in English, write magazine and newspaper articles and be able to have long discussions in English.  

 

Upper Intermediate

Level 2

B2

These students are able to communicate very well and have a good grasp of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in English.

At this level students will learn complex grammar structures such as the future perfect tense, gerunds and infinitives and the 3rd conditional.

They will also learn vocabulary such as phrasal verbs, idioms, similes and metaphors. 

If they are studying for ESOL/ Functional skills exams they will need to identify facts, opinion and bias in a text and language features such as sarcasm and use irony.[3]

 

Advanced

-

C1 and C2

At this level students are almost fluent. They will be able to study complex grammar structures and are able to communicate very well.

 

Student exams:

·       ESOL exams: These are exams taken by ESOL students studying adult education centres. These exams are designed for non-English speakers. Students can taking reading, writing, speaking and listening exams separately.

·       Functional Skills exams: These are exams taken by both British English speakers and ESOL students. They are not designed for ESOL learners. Functional Skills at Level 1 is roughly a GCSE grade C-D (4-5) and Level 2 is roughly a GCSE grade B-A (6-9) [4].

·       IELTS exam: This is an exam students will need to take if they want to study at university or to transfer a qualification (e.g. medicine/ engineering) from their country to work in the UK.



[1] This is based on the classes we teach at ODILS and my experience teaching ESOL and Functional Skills English to all levels. https://odils.com/

[2] This website has a good table- including Scottish ESOL Levels http://www.learnesolglasgow.com/esol-levels.html

[3] This is based on the NOCN ESOL and Functional Skills exam syllabus 2020.

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