Background to the CEFR

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: learning, teaching, assessment (henceforth CEFR) was published by the Language Policy Division of the Council of Europe in 2001 after a period of research and piloting that lasted from 1993 to 1999. The CEFR is associated with the European Language Portfolio (ELP), over 100 official versions of which use checklists of CEFR-based descriptors for different levels to set individual learning priorities and track progress.

The CEFR has two broad aims: on the one hand to act as a stimulus for reflection, reform and innovation, and on the other hand to provide Common Reference Levels to assist communication across institutional, regional and linguistic boundaries.

Before the advent of the CEFR, dialogue and discussion about levels of language competence was difficult because each school, institution or testing body described course or test levels and achievement in their own terms. The CEFR helps overcome this problem by providing a common framework for the description of levels, course planning, assessment and certification. It is used for:

  • Specifying content: What is taught and assessed;
  • Stating criteria: How performance is interpreted;

Describing levels of courses & exams: How comparisons can be made

In order to provide a methodology to link certification to the CEFR the Council of Europe published the manual: Relating Language Examinations to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR). The methodology was adopted because it follows classic procedures of quality management such as those applied by Eaquals, which are therefore suitable for language education programmes as well as for language examinations. The accreditation scheme for Eaquals Certificates of CEFR Achievement is based on the following three procedures:

  • Specification: developing curriculum, assessment tasks and reporting statements from CEFR descriptors of what the learner “can co” at the level concerned;
  • Standardisation: training with “illustrative” performance samples and bench-marking “local” performance samples;
  • Moderation & Validation: counteracting subjectivity in assessment and checking results against collateral information.