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An important language standardscale that candidates sitting for English tests need to know is CEFR. CEFR stands for the Common European Framework of Reference. It is an international standard used widely for describing language ability. There is a need for a common framework because there are many language tests out there which have their own assessment scales, each differing from the other.

Different English language tests (such as OET, TOEFLPTE, and IELTS) use different scales to measure student results. CEFR thus provides a common standard for everyone to gauge international equivalence of a particular result. For instance, IELTS is scored from bands 1-9, PTE is scored from 0-90, TOEFL is scored from 0-120 and OET is scored from 0-500. So, if a person receives a score of 6.5 in IELTS, another gets 50 in PTE and yet another gets 360 in OET, who has done better?

This is where CEFR comes in. CEFR provides a universal scale of 6 levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2) and this scale serves as a yardstick which all test takers can use to compare their results (see Table 1). The levels start with A1 at the bottom and goes up to the highest level of language proficiency at C2.

Table 1: CEFR – Common Reference Levels

C2 Proficient User
B2 Independent User
A2 Basic User

In the earlier example, an IELTS band 6.5 is a B2 level in CEFR, a PTE 50 is a B1, and an OET 360 is a C1.This information can be derived from the individual test providers’ guides and there are corresponding tables of comparison for each test. For OET, in particular, a new report has summarised how OET scores compare against CEFR levels (see Table 2)

Table 2: OET and CEFR

OET Score (from September 2018) CEFR level
450-500 C2
350-440 C1
300-340 B2

Now that OET has been benchmarked against the CEFR, test takers can see where they stand on a global scale. For the full article, go to https://www.occupationalenglishtest.org/oet-benchmarked-to-cefr/

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