What CEFR levels are GCSE and A-Level languages?

What is CEFR and how is it used?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is designed to provide a common platform for reflection and communication among different stakeholders in the field, such as those involved in teacher education and the development of language syllabuses, curriculum guidelines, textbooks, and examinations across Council of Europe member states.

The CEFR is used by most universities and international organisations to assess language proficiency. The CEFR does not directly correlate to GCSEs and A Levels because it aims to compare language levels across different countries’ school systems, so it’s important to read a description of the different CEFR levels.

What languages can you do at GCSE and A-level?

French, Spanish, and German are the most commonly offered languages.

Aside from that, the UK exam boards offer exams and qualifications in Arabic, Biblical Hebrew, Chinese, Greek, Gujarati, Italian, Japanese, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu, with the majority of these languages also available at A level. 

There are others available at both GCSE and A-Level, including non-English languages native to the British Isles. 

Of course, the CEFR only relates to European languages. 

This table shows the approximate equivalent qualifications:

CEFR level Tradtional Level Approximate GCSE and A-level equivalence
A1 Beginner  
A2 Elementary GCSE A*-C
B1 Lower Intermediate AS Level A*-C
B2 Upper Intermediate A Level A*-C
C1 Advanced  
C2 Advanced Plus Near-native fluency


If you apply to study abroad at a university that teaches in a different language, you must be willing to demonstrate your language proficiency to the Study Abroad Office as part of the application process. You will be asked to do the following as part of the online application:

  • State your CEFR level (as a self-assessment) 
  • Upload evidence of your language level in the form of GCSE, A-Level, AS Level Certificates or equivalent.Universities often accept certificates confirming you have completed a language course at a private language provider.
  • Give details of your plans to improve your language competency before departure.  

You will also have the opportunity to provide any additional information that you would like us to consider when evaluating your language level on the online application form (for example, you are bilingual).


There are a variety of ways to improve your language skills in advance of your study abroad year, whether you’re studying in another language and want to boost your confidence and academic vocabulary, or you’ll be taught in English but want to brush up on the basics.


An internet search will bring up companies offering private language tuition. Charges will vary. Spires Online Tutors is the best, The Profs and Tavistock Tutors are also well known for good quality tutors. 


Intensive pre-sessional language courses are available at many universities for new international students. The price of these items varies. Summer courses usually last two to six weeks and are held during the summer.

An intensive language course at your future host university (or with a private provider in your future host city) can give you time to get to know the city, look for housing (if necessary), and possibly meet other exchange students who will be attending.


Many international students seek native speakers with whom they can improve their conversational skills. You can find an exchange partner in a variety of ways online; apps designed specifically for language learners are a good place to start.

Students who are native speakers lead Local Language Groups, which facilitate friendly, relaxed conversation sessions on a variety of topics.f