ACTFL vs CEFR levels: how do they compare?

Since Spanish Gurus is based in Spain, we usually use CEFR levels. For those of you who are not familiar with this, CEFR stands for Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. It can be applied to all the languages in Europe, as a way to assess the proficiency level of each foreign speaker. It’s also used as a framework for teaching and learning in schools, which is why we also divide our courses according to the CEFR.


CEFR levels


CEFR levels range from A1 to C2, from least to most proficient. A1 is a beginner level, while A2 is elementary. From then we move on to B1, lower intermediate, followed by B2, upper intermediate. A person who achieves the B2 level generally has full working proficiency. Those who advance further reach advanced proficiency (C1) or mastery (C2). The Cervantes Institute also recognizes these levels: B1 was formerly the DELE Inicial, B2 corresponds to the old DELE Intermedio and C2 is roughly the DELE Superior.

But for students in other parts of the world, these levels can be confusing. American students, for example, are used to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language’s (ACTFL) levels. For many years there wasn’t a clear, widely-accepted correlation between ACTFL and CEFR levels, but now that seems to have changed. The ACTFL, the European Center of Modern Languages and the Council of Europe came together in several conferences to which Canadian organizations were also invited to.

Researchers divided languages in two sets of skills: receptive skills (reading and listening) and productive skills (writing and speaking). Many learners display higher proficiency levels in receptive skills, so there are actually two different sets of level equiparation.


ACTFL vs. CEFR levels in Receptive Skills

0, Novice Low, Novice Mid0
Novice HighA1.1
Intermediate LowA1.2
Intermediate MidA2
Intermediate HighB1.1
Advanced LowB1.2
Advanced MidB2
Advanced HighC1.1

The first two levels of the ACTFL can’t be equated to any of the CEFR’s levels. And Novice High only barely makes it to A1 (there’s a subdivision into A1.1). In a language like Spanish, 60 hours is usually enough for an English-speaker to reach A1 level, which means A1.1 would take around 30 hours to achieve. At Spanish Gurus you can purchase packs of 30 hours, so that you can program your course according to the levels you’re using.


ACTFL vs CEFR in productive skills

0, Novice Low, Novice Mid0
Novice HighA1
Intermediate LowA2
Intermediate MidB1.1
Intermediate HighB1.2
Advanced LowB2.1
Advanced MidB2.2
Advanced HighC1

When it comes to productive skills - which some argue are easier to measure - levels walk more hand in hand. Apart from some subdivisions in the B1 and B2 levels, which some universities in Europe also embrace, there’s a great correlation between ACTFLR and CEFR levels.

So… in which course should I enroll?

If you’ve studied according to ACTFL levels and are at different levels in the productive and receptive skills tables, you can always do a level test. This will give you an indication of where you should be placed! But remember: languages are always languages. So, as long as you’re feeling confident, reading and speaking, we guarantee that you’ll be able to take the DIELE and SIELE exams in the end.

ACTFL vs CEFR Comparison table


Want to Learn Spanish?

Spanish Gurus is a Spain-based platform that allows you to learn Spanish online, anytime and anywhere in the world, with professional native teachers.