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European language proficiency requirements and tests for exchange program applicants

This solution details the European language proficiency assessment scheme referred to as CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages), and addresses the issue of language proficiency requirements for students willing to apply for an academic exchange program with a non-English-speaking European university. The solution explains why the required level is most often level B2 and how this level translates in terms of skills. It also gives practical information on how to find the institution or organization that is in charge of setting up and grading language proficiency tests for a particular language, with a view to helping students register for such a test.

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If you are going to a non-English-speaking European university, you will be asked to prove that your proficiency in the language used in class is sufficient to follow what is being said by native speakers of the language, to take notes, to do your assignments, to participate in discussions, and to take your exams. European universities now have a common assessment scheme for language-related issues: the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (or CEFR).

The CEFR is divided into 3 cycles:
- Cycle A, which corresponds to the beginner and breakthrough levels;
- Cycle B, which corresponds to the lower and upper intermediate levels;
- Cycle C, which corresponds to the advanced and near-native levels.

Each CEFR cycle is also divided into 2 levels. All the levels therefore are, in order of increasing proficiency:
A1 -> A2 -> B1 -> B2 -> C1 -> C2

A1 is the level where absolute beginners would be placed. At such level, the focus is on learning words and phrases that will help you get by in an ...

Solution Summary

Students who want to participate in an academic exchange program with a European university will be asked to show proof of language proficiency (usually at B2 level). The solution below explains what is implied by level B2 within the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (or CEFR). Due to the fact that language proficiency assessment is not centralized, but relies on various institutions or organizations, the solution also provides practical information on how to find the institution or organization that is in charge of setting up and grading language proficiency tests for a particular language, with a view to helping students register for such a test.

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