Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR)

A transparent, coherent and comprehensive reference instrument

The result of over twenty years of research, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment (CEFR) is exactly what its title says it is: a framework of reference. It was designed to provide a transparent, coherent and comprehensive basis for the elaboration of language syllabuses and curriculum guidelines, the design of teaching and learning materials, and the assessment of foreign language proficiency. It is used in Europe but also in other continents.

The CEFR is available in 40 languages

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment (CEFR) is related to the work of the Education Department which is part of the Directorate of Democratic Participation within the Directorate General of Democracy ("DGII") of the Council of Europe.


Focus Focus
CEFR Companion Volume with New Descriptors (2018) including Sign Languages

It is intended as a complement to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment (CEFR). It represents another important step in a process that has been pursued by the Council of Europe since 1971 and owes much to the contributions of members of the language teaching profession across Europe and beyond. The “Companion Volume” is the Council of Europe’s response to requests that have been made by the groups involved in the field of language education to complement the original illustrative scales with more descriptors. 

Six levels of foreign language proficiency

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 establish learning and teaching objectives
  • to review curricula
  • to design teaching materials and
  • to provide a basis for recognising language qualifications thus facilitating educational and occupational mobility.

A European Indicator of Language Competence

Following a call for action by the Barcelona European Council (March 2002), the European Commission has developed a survey based on the CEFR (see Executive Summary 2012) to measure the foreign / second language proficiency of pupils at the end of compulsory education.

The purpose of the survey was to establish a European Indicator of Language Competence, providing member states with internationally comparable data on the results of foreign language teaching and learning in the European Union

Using the CEFR in specific contexts

The CEFR does not offer ready-made solutions but must always be adapted to the requirements of particular contexts, for example, the teaching and learning of Romani.

There is a particular need for careful interpretation and adaptation is especially acute when the CEFR’s descriptive scheme and proficiency levels are used for example to explore the communicative needs of adult migrants ( and to guide the assessment of their proficiency in the language of their host community (see relevant studies).

The CEFR is much more than proficiency scales

The CEFR’s scales of foreign language proficiency are accompanied by a detailed analysis of communicative contexts, themes, tasks and purposes as well as scaled descriptions of the competences on which we draw when we communicate.

The CEFR is used in teacher education, the reform of foreign language curricula, the development of teaching materials and for the comparability of qualifications.

Language Policy Portal

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is published in English by Cambridge University Press - ISBN Hardback 0521803136 Paperback: 0521005310

The French version is published by Editions Didier: Cadre européen commun de référence pour les langues: apprendre, enseigner, évaluer. ISBN: 9782278058136


The copyright belongs to the Council of Europe. Requests concerning the translation or the reproduction of all or part of the CEFR should be addressed to the Council of Europe.

Important Note

The use of the Council of Europe’s logo or of the European emblem for certification is not authorised. It is not the role of the Council of Europe to verify and validate the quality of the link between language examinations or diplomas and the CEFR's proficiency levels.

Member states are responsible for guaranteeing the quality and fairness of testing and assessment on the basis of the existing guidelines (including tools and illustrations) developed in the frame of the Council of Europe’s  Language Policy Programme (Strasbourg).