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How to Compare the TOEFL and CEFR

Europe on the world map

Photo by Ssolbergj

There are a lot of different tests and scales out there to assess your language skills — the TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC, the Pearson Test of English. The list goes on! For our students in Europe, you are all probably very familiar with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (or, CEFR for short). According to the Council of Europe, the CEFR describes foreign language proficiency at six levels:

A1 and A2, B1 and B2, C1 and C2. It also defines three ‘plus’ levels (A2+, B1+, B2+). Based on empirical research and widespread consultation, this scheme makes it possible to compare tests and examinations across languages and national boundaries… It also provides a basis for recognising language qualifications and thus facilitating educational and occupational mobility.

A TOEFL and CEFR Comparison: What does it mean?

European students likely already know what CEFR “level” they are when it comes to communicating in English. But, if you’re currently studying for the TOEFL, what does this mean? What score can you expect on the TOEFL and how does your CEFR level compare? Below is a comparison to help you estimate how well you’ll do on the TOEFL, according to your CEFR level.

TOEFL and C1 or C2

The C1 level (proficient) is important for studying at a university, so we’ll start there. According to ETS, a C1 CEFR level is a 95 or above on the TOEFL. More specifically, a C1 or above translates to a 24 on the Reading section, a 22 Listening, a 25 Speaking, and a 24 Writing.

If you’re at this level or above (C2), you likely won’t need to study extensively for the TOEFL. But you should definitely still familiarize yourself with the format of the exam and take a few practice tests to guarantee you’re on track to hit your target score. If you’re not, then you’ll need to study just like everyone else. 🙂

TOEFL and B1 or B2

B1 and B2 students can interact with native speakers, but potentially not at a level of fluency needed for undertaking a masters or a PhD at an English-speaking university.

A B2 level is about a 72 on the TOEFL. Most universities require a TOEFL score that is much higher than this (more info on minimum scores here), so you will need to study for the TOEFL. Using a study plan is a good place to start.

A B1 level is about a 42 on the TOEFL. Studying for the TOEFL will also be extremely necessary at this level. However, you’ll need to determine if you’re ready to start studying the actual contents of the exam, or if you’d be better off improving your general English skills first.

TOEFL and A1 or A2

There are no TOEFL score comparisons for the A-level. This is because this is a very “basic” level, and speakers at this level are probably just starting their language-learning journey. 🙂

For more information on score comparisons, you can check out these charts on ETS’s site.

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