What are the differences between B1, B2 and C1?

You’re an intermediate learner.  What now?

It is clear that to move from one language level to the next, learners need to expand their vocabulary. They also need to be able to apply increasingly difficult grammar rules correctly to progress from one level to the next. 

But what are these specific differences?  How can we know when we have finally progressed to the next level without taking an official exam? 

There are two main ways in which I would like to address this issue.

First, by showing specific examples of different vocabulary and grammar levels. 

And secondlythrough giving examples of communication skills learners can achieve through their ongoing process of gaining knowledge of the language. 

 Firstly, let’s look at the smallest elements to every language: vocabulary and grammar and see how these relate to the 4 skills: the “passive or comprehension skills” of reading and listening and the “active skills” of speaking and writing where learners apply their knowledge to express themselves. 

 VOCABULARY: Which words are B1, B2 or C1? 

For vocabulary level, there is a convenient online tool that uses AI to quickly assess the vocabulary level of each word of a text.   Let me show it to you here: (http://englishprofile.org/index.php/wordlists/text-inspector

It’s called English Profile Text Inspector, developed by the University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment.  

 We’ll analyse the text found in the first 2 paragraphs of “Crisis Communication Tips for Customer Service Teams” written by Matthew Patterson and referenced in a previous blog on The Boston School website, demonstrating the power of this AI tool. 

English Profile Inspector : Sample Input 

English Profile Inspector Screenshot
 

Overview of Word Analysis by CEFR level 

Text Inspector CEFR Analysis

Here, you can see the categorizing of each word by level: 

Text Inspector Analysis per Word

Conclusion

Based on this instant analysis of vocabulary level of each word, we can see that it should be relatively easy for a reader with a B2 vocabulary should be able to understand this text without much effort but could be a slight challenge for a B1 level learner.  And a great challenge for an A2 level learner.

 So we can say that vocabulary level of knowledge is an important factor in determining a learner’s reading comprehension level.   

 But at what level would the learner need to be to be able to write such a text as this?  

If you answered C1 or above.  I agree with you!  One’s writing level is not just about comprehension but being able to apply what has been learned to one’s own communication needs.  This requires critical thinking and not just memorization techniques.   

And what about grammar?

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 GRAMMAR: Which points are B1, B2 or C1? 

There are many grammar points that students need to learn to progress from one level to the next. However, I would like to focus on 3 key grammar topics that seem to stand out amongst them all as progress indicators: 

  • Verb tenses and voices 
  • Conjunctions and connectors  
  • Sentence structure complexity 

What learners need to be aware of is that being able to use more complex forms when writing and speaker requires a much higher level than when talking about reading or listening comprehension skills. 

Just as a child needs to understand words before they begin to speak, so does anyone learning a new language.  One must follow the natural process: 

The Natural Law of Learning – 3 Steps

1: Comprehend:  understanding when listening or reading 

2: Learn:  studying and exposing oneself to the language in context repetitively so that learners turn understanding from short-term to long-term memory 

3: Know:  when you apply knowledge actively through speaking and writing, only then can the outside world know we understand and can use our knowledge properly 

Therefore, it is very common that someone with a B2 level knowledge of vocabulary and grammar, can speak and/or write at a B1 level only.  if they have not had the chance to use words and grammar points to express themselves, then their comprehension skills may never turn into proven active knowledge

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