How to find out your English level

Do you know your English level?

Why is it important to know your level? How often should you take English level tests?

Page 1, lesson 1. Hello, how are you?

If you’re not a beginner you don’t have to start at the beginning of the textbook. There’s nothing worse than repeating stuff you already know, and already feel confident with. If you know your English level you can choose a book/app/course that’s better suited to you.

Do I have to take a test to know my level?

No you don’t have to. You can assess yourself by looking at textbooks and seeing what you know and don’t know. Open the book at the beginning, how do you feel? Open it at the middle, do you know this? Do you feel confident with it? Open it at the end, do you feel like you know it all? Choose another book if so. If not start with a lesson that looks interesting to you.

You don’t need to start at the start of the book!

What’s good and bad about taking tests?

Good points about taking tests are that you have a good idea of your level and what to aim for next. But taking tests might mean you start studying only to pass tests and not because you love English. Taking tests too often takes the fun out of learning. Your results might be different on different tests or on different days. There are a lot of variables in test taking. I recommend only taking a test every 6 months, if you’re actively studying, or only once a year if you’re not doing much study.

The tests

Here are some short, free online tests to find your English level.

These tests will only cover your grammar and vocabulary (and listening if you use EF) so they are not a full picture of your English level. I recommend these tests as they are used by hundreds of students, so they can give a more accurate result.

From the British Council:

This test will take about 10 minutes, and it is 25 questions. You’ll get a result from A1-C2.

From Cambridge English:

This test will take about 10 minutes, and it’s 25 questions. You’ll get a result from A1-C2 and a suggested Cambridge exam that you could take.

From EF

EF has two free tests. Quick Check is 15 mins and will test your reading and listening. EF SET test will take 50 minutes and will also test your reading and listening. You’ll get a EF SET score and result from A1-C2.

What do the results mean?

You’ll see a lot of test results like A1 or B2. This is the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR). Many schools, textbooks, exam boards, teachers and learners use this framework to talk about their language level in any European language.

I have tried to make a comparison of the results, but it’s difficult! this is the CEFR compared to TOEIC (Reading and listening) and the TOEFL IBT score. These are very approximate levels:

  • Beginner pre-A1, under 120 TOEIC, TOEFL iBT 4-12
  • Elementary A1 about 120 in TOEIC, TOEFL iBT 12-27
  • Pre-intermediate A2 about 225 in TOEIC, TOEFL iBT 30-41
  • Intermediate B1 about 550 in TOEIC, TOEFL iBT 42-71
  • Upper-intermediate B2 about 785 in TOEIC, TOEFL iBT 72-94
  • Advanced C1 about 945 in TOEIC, TOEFL iBT 95-100 
  • Proficient C2 990 in TOEIC, TOEFL iBT 100-120.

Because TOEIC is only reading and listening it can’t measure over C1 in the CEFR framework. 

As you can see the CEFR levels are very wide. There is a lot of difference between someone starting A2 level and someone finishing A2. It is useful to look at the descriptions of the levels and see what you feel you can and can’t do.

Here’s a video from teacher Jack about how to test your own English level.

If you’re a mother and your level is around intermediate or higher, come and join us in Mums’ English Circle and speak more English! We have small group conversation lessons 5 times a week and it’s just $20 a month. Find out more here

Published by Abbie

English teacher, coach and writer. Helping English learners and teachers get more confident in their skills.

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