What are the differences between B1, B2 and C1?

B1 B2 C1 Progress

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

How to build your vocabulary in 5 steps

Reach the next level: build your vocabulary

You’re an intermediate.  So now what? 

Have you heard of the plateau that happens in learning a language? It’s the zone of intermediates. You can understand and be understood. Can follow basic directions and give them.  And with over dependency on online translators, you just may remain in the “Intermediate Valley” forever. You know enough to get by and it works. 
 
And that’s the problem.  You start to feel comfortable.  You stop trying to push your limits. You’re no longer feeling put on the spot.  And you may know how to avoid situations that no longer require you to step out of your comfort zone.  

So how do we keep pushing ourselves? 

New goals can work like magic. And especially those that have more at stake.  The two that come to mind?  1) a better job 2) attending university.  Both require higher level writing skills.  And to write better, we’ve just got to read more.  One doesn’t come without the other. 
 
I would like to share with you my 5-step learning cycle I use with my students to increase their vocabulary one topic at a time.   (FYI – I am using this for myself to improve my German.)
 

 1) Choose reading material that you’re interested in learning about. 

Pick an article where you will be slightly challenged.  For example: with 10-20 unknown words to learn

      2) Create a vocabulary list based on the text. Save it where it works!

Looking up new words and writing them down is time consuming.  But it is a crucial step.  Writing them on flashcards or even better yet adding them to an online app like Quizlet, will turn learning new words into a game.  And later, this is going to come in handy!

      3) Read through the text again to ensure you can summarize it yourself

Often words have several meanings.  It is important to read through the text again to make sure you’ve chosen the right definition that fits its context. 

Be sure to make any necessary corrections to your wordlist before you start memorizing them.  Write down a summary of the text.  It’ll do wonders for your confidence!

For those at a pre-fluency level learning English (B1 or lower) – feel free to do this in your own language.  For those at a B2 level, you should be able to learn new English words through definitions in English. 

In our blog posts, we create links to a bilingual dictionary such as linguee to help you comprehend the text.

     4) Play memory games repeatedly to help you learn new words 

Now that you are sure you have the write definitions for the words – start memorizing.  Quizlet will mix them up for you, keep track of which words you still need to focus on and create fun games and quizzes. When you can recall them to Quizlet’s satisfaction, you are doing well!

      5) Find another article in English about the same subject and summarize!

To reinforce your learning, it is important you see the same words again in context.  The best way to do this is to choose an article with the same subject.  Google is great for that.  Identify which words from your list have reappeared.

Can you understand the text without looking up the words?  If not – go look them up again.  And if you can understand the text without that step – then bravo! 

You’re ready to write a summary about this article using the words you’ve been studying to help you.

The Boston School would be happy to help you with this 5th and final step. It’s where a teacher’s feedback can really come in handy.

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