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Guide to Business English Levels & Assessments
19 May, 2020
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This short guide outlines the main English assessment frameworks and how to use them. We also explain The Language Grid matrix for measuring business English skills. Our proprietary assessment framework drives our 100% success rate, and helps students use English more effectively in their everyday working lives.

What are the main frameworks for assessing business English?

Reputable English language training companies based in Europe (The Language Grid included) follow the CEF, which stands for the Central European Framework. The Council of Europe devised this comprehensive framework. Its 6 levels – from A1 (basic user) through to C2 (proficient user) – are widely used by businesses and training companies as a guideline for grading language proficiency. 

While the CEF is prolific across Europe, you may also come across:

  • Language Testing International this is a framework used in the US. It measures language proficiency with a scale that moves from novice through to advanced. US-based multinationals often base their assessments on this system.
  • International English Language Testing System prolific throughout Asia, this framework is used to measure English language proficiency for people who want to study or work in an area where English is spoken. It uses a 9-band scale.
  • TESOL international association (formerly Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) – based in the US, this is the largest professional organisation for teachers of English as a second language. It’s affiliated with language education around the world

What are the CEF grading levels?

The CEF assessment grid covers reading, speaking and understanding – and breaks down as follows:

  • A1 basic user – can understand and use simple words and basic phrases 
  • A2 basic user can understand and use phrases and high-frequency vocabulary
  • B1 independent user can understand clear, standard speech and text, and deal with travelling situations
  • B2 independent user – can understand extended speech and lectures and interact with a degree of fluency
  • C1 proficient user – can understand more complex speech and texts and communicate clearly
  • C2 proficient user – can read virtually anything and participate effortlessly in discussions

What assessment framework does The Language Grid use?

As part of our initial student assessment, we grade students according to CEF guidelines. (If a company uses a US system, we translate these to the CEF so you have a common European benchmark.)

However, the CEF is primarily an academic assessment – and academic strength doesn’t necessarily translate to an ability to use English effectively in everyday working life (which is the overarching aim of The Language Grid courses). That’s why we have our own assessment matrix, which we use to measure students’ initial level and ongoing progress.

Our matrix starts at elementary and progresses through intermediate, advanced and proficient. Unlike the CEF levels, our grades relate to skills within the context of a working environment rather than academic language acquisition. 

At every level, our grading process cover 3 main areas:

  • Grammatical accuracy and vocabulary
  • Delivery and fluency
  • Coherence and structure

The type of questions we consider during assessments are:

  • Is the student able to run a meeting, involving all participants?
  • Can the student draw up an effective agenda?
  • Is the student suitable to work abroad?

When your employees train with The Language Grid, you’re provided with their CEF grade, as well as a detailed grading for different aspects of their skills – presentations, meetings, emails and conference calls, for example. Ultimately, it’s about effectiveness. We don’t mark students down for bad grammar as long as they’re communicating effectively to achieve their goal. 

As a result, you’re able to gain an accurate and detailed understanding of employees’ abilities, so you can make informed decisions about responsibilities in a work context.

How does The Language Grid measure progress? 

At The Language Grid, everything students do is graded and ranked to motivate and drive continuous improvement. Our evaluation process is as follows:

  • Entrance test that provides the CEF grade and The Language Grid grade
  • 1 theory test every 4 lessons
  • Weekly grades and feedback every speaking lesson
  • Annual CEF exam
  • Annual exam in line with The Language Grid framework

The annual assessment weighs 20% passive skills and 80% active skills. Passive skills relate to grammar, writing and reading; active skills focus on speaking and listening. Active skills are more directly correlated to effectiveness in a business, whereas passive skills usually dominate in an academic context.

And it’s not just about standardised assessments and formal testing. We film and record students to challenge them throughout. Plus, we motivate them using The Language Grid leaderboard, where they can track their progress at all times. 

  • Lessons replicate real-life scenarios – for example, in conference call lessons, they’ll need to prepare an agenda and conduct the call as they would at work 
  • Leaderboard rankings are based on commitment, not just results – if a student misses a lesson, their grade goes down
  • Fluency isn’t always enough – if a student doesn’t know what they’re talking about, they won’t score well even if they sound eloquent

Enhance business outcomes with effective English language training 

At The Language Grid, our focus is on helping business and finance professionals use English to communicate effectively. Our 100% success rate means we’re able to maximise your return on investment in language training – and help improve business results. 

As Alessandro Mercuri, Managing Partner at Deloitte Consulting Italy, said: “Over the last 8 years, many Deloitte professionals have attended TLG courses, and our business with foreign companies has more than tripled. TLG is not only a partner, TLG is part of the Deloitte value chain.”

Zoe Flaherty, Founding Director of The Language Grid

Find out more about our business English language training.

Companies we've helped
Deloitte Consulting Italy
Triberti, Colombo & Associati
SEA Milano
Ferrovie dello Stato