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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.

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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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28 Responses to How to Compare the TOEFL and CEFR

  1. Prakhar September 25, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    You mentioned “C1 CEFR level is a 95 or above on the TOEFL”. Does this mean A score of 95 is enough to be considered C1, or are the subscores a hard limit too?
    For example, if a person scores: 26 on the Reading section and a 20 in Listening (and 25 Speaking, and a 24 Writing), will they be C1? If not, what would be the level there?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 1, 2016 at 9:03 am #

      Good question! There’s a couple of ways you could look at this. You could say that the student is a C1 in English overall, but that listening is their weakest skill. Or you could view this as a case where the student has C1 ability in Reading, Speaking, and Writing, but is at B2 (a somewhat high B2) in Listening.

      In other words, it’s possible to look at CEFR in terms of whole-language skill (analogous to a whole test TOEFL score), or in terms of individual language skills (analogous to TOEFL subscores).

  2. Laurence February 9, 2017 at 1:56 am #

    Hi, thanks for the interesting article but you state that ‘The C1 level (proficient) …..’ but I thought it was C2 that is proficient and C1 advanced.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 9, 2017 at 6:20 am #

      Hi Laurence,

      Please note that the CEFR levels range from A1 to C2. C1 represents effective operational proficiency or advanced, and C2 represents mastery or proficiency. Both C1 and C@ represent proficiency, but C2 leans towards mastery. I hope this help! 😀

  3. Valentin June 12, 2017 at 11:59 pm #

    Is it possible with an overall score of 95 (but with different subscores then you mentioned for C1) to inscribe C1 in your CV?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 14, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

      Hi Valentin,

      These are estimates provided by ETS, but it’s not a perfect comparison. I would say that you quality as a C1 based on those scores, especially since a B2 score is so much lower! It would also be a good idea to list your TOEFL scores just in case, however 🙂

  4. Paulo Cesar August 2, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

    Hi! I was hired by an austrian company and I need a B1 or B2 level on the CEFR to be able to get my work Visa. As I currently live in brazil, and there’s no CEFR tests here, I’m going to do the TOEFL test.

    I did some simulations, and I was very well on reading and listening (97% correct answers), but I’m terrible at speaking. Is it possible to get a 42 or 72 on TOEFL if I get low scores on speaking?

    Also, on, they say a B1 is equivalent of score 16 on speaking, but I’m afraid I won’t be scoring that much. Do you think it’s possible to compensate a low score there with a better scoring on other sections?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 4, 2017 at 9:04 pm #

      Hi Paulo,

      I assume a 42 corresponds to a B1 level and a 72 corresponds to a B2 level? (I am not familiar with this conversion, so I am trusting your numbers.) It is possible to get either score with low speaking scores, but you obviously need to do comparatively well in the remaining three skills to guarantee this. You might also want to make sure the company doesn’t mind your speaking score being lower; this is often an important skill for jobs.

      Now, if you need a B1 equivalent in each individual score, then you cannot score below that to meet your requirements. You will need to verify the requirements by the Austrian company and any visa/immigration requirements to make the final call. Good luck!

  5. Michelle September 1, 2017 at 8:32 am #


    I got a score of 100, with the overall score I would qualify for a level C1 CEFR.

    However, I passed with most of the subscores except my reading section which was the weakest score, I only got 21 points, does that drag down my level to B2?

    • David Recine
      David Recine September 7, 2017 at 9:31 am #

      This is where comparisons between whole-test TOEFL scores and CEFR are somewhat imperfect. You are still more or less at C1, but arguably, you could be at level B2 just for the skill of English reading. (While still being at C1 for the other skills.)

  6. Babak November 9, 2017 at 3:08 pm #


    I will be very glad if I know about CEFR level of a person who has got a score of 94 in TOEFL exam with Reading: 25, Listening: 22, Speaking: 23, and Writing: 24.


  7. Babak November 9, 2017 at 3:42 pm #


    In my opinion, determining the CEFR level only considering the total TOEFL score does not make sense because language consists of four skills which are Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. For example, let’s consider a person who has got 93 with Reading: 24, Listening: 22, Speaking 23, and Writing: 24. This person is at B2 considering his / her overall score in spite of being at C1 for three skills. On the other hand, take a person getting a score of 95 with Reading: 25, Listening: 23, Speaking 24, and Writing: 23 for instance. Considering his / her total score, he / she is at C1 while he / she is at B2 for two skills. So, what do you think?

    Thank you very much for your attention!

  8. Barnabas M. November 11, 2017 at 12:41 am #

    Hi all,

    I would like to have a question regarding B2+ level. My (hopefully) future university requires B2+ level German. I have intermediate (B2) TELC language exam in German and advanced (C1 – professional in economics) language exam, which was launched by my university (during my bachelor studies).
    My question: do my examination cover B2+ level currently or not? If not, how can I get B2+ level?

    thank you for the answer in advance,

  9. marco May 7, 2018 at 2:33 pm #

    My school requires TOEFL 93 or IELTS 6.5: Wich one should I take? Thank you, Marco

  10. enea July 12, 2018 at 7:06 am #


    if the C1 level starts to 95, which score is the cutoff for a C2 level?


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 13, 2018 at 12:54 pm #

      Hi Enea,

      You can read the full report here, but it doesn’t look like they distinguish between C1 and C2. This might be because most universities who use CEFR for admissions require a C1 (proficient) level or above.

  11. Emilia December 17, 2018 at 6:31 am #

    Hello! I got an overall of 88: reading & writing 20/30; speaking 26/30 & listening 22/30 Does it correspond to B2+ or simply B2? Thanks!

    • David Recine
      David Recine December 18, 2018 at 9:20 am #

      It looks like you’re at a B2 for TOEFL Reading, a B2+ for TOEFL Writing, a C2 for TOEFL Speaking, and a B2+ for Listening. Hope this helps!

  12. Katt January 27, 2019 at 12:11 pm #

    Hello. I have an overall score of 116 in the TOEFL. With a 30 in speaking and listening, a 29 in reading, and a 27 in writing. Will this qualify as a C2 level score? Thank you in advance.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 28, 2019 at 7:52 pm #

      Hi Katt!

      It doesn’t look like they distinguish between C1 and C2, and you can read more about the CEFR and TOEFL comparison here.

      With that said, this PDF has a more comprehensive comparison chart. Looking at that chart, your score would qualify as a C2 level score. 😀

  13. Wael April 2, 2019 at 4:31 pm #

    Hi emma, i got 79 in toefl exam overall, 22 reading 18 listening 18 speaking and 21 writing, am i b2 or b1? Thanks in advance

    • David Recine
      David Recine April 8, 2019 at 5:41 pm #

      You’re definitely at B2 overall. However, you’re at a “higher” B2 (closer to C1) in Reading and Writing, needless to say.

  14. abdulmuhsin November 29, 2019 at 10:03 pm #

    thanks for the info
    but may i ask you something
    how can we really prepare for the TOEFL,I mean really hard
    cause the last time i got 68 from TOEFl preperation exam and i just hadnt prepared for anything

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 7, 2020 at 2:46 pm #

      Hi there,

      I recommend that you check out our Magoosh Premium Program, which offers comprehensive lessons and practice questions along with study schedules to help you prepare for the TOEFL 🙂

  15. Vi August 25, 2020 at 11:47 pm #

    i got a c2 is how much should I expect to score in the toefl? thank you : )

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 28, 2020 at 1:38 pm #

      Hi Vi,

      If you got a C2 then you already have strong English skills. I can’t tell you exactly what you would get on the TOEFL, because there are still strategies and methods that you will need to learn in order to succeed. Some native English speakers even have trouble getting a high score on the TOEFL. What I can say is that you won’t have to study much–you don’t need to improve your overall English skills, but you will need to learn the strategies for the exam.

  16. Ina Cifliku January 21, 2021 at 10:15 pm #

    Hi, I got 73 scores in Toefl. I am B2?
    reading 16, listening 13,speaking 24 and writing 20.
    thanks in advance.

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