What score on the TOEFL® corresponds to a B2 on the CEFR?


As with many of the standardized English tests out there, the TOEFL maps to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). So how exactly do you know how you did according to the CEFR, and what score would you need to get on the TOEFL for a B2 equivalent?

A comprehensive score between 72 and 94 out of 130 on the TOEFL corresponds to a B2 level on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). If you want to score a B2 level in each of the sections, you would need to get the following minimum scores:

  • Reading – 18
  • Listening – 17
  • Speaking – 20
  • Writing – 17

In this post, we will explore the type of skills you need to get a B2 score on the TOEFL, the various CEFR levels, and how to map other test scores, such as the IELTS, to the CEFR.

The TOEFL and the CEFR

The TOEFL came about in the early 1960s in the United States in order to answer the need of evaluating the English proficiency of prospective college students. The test quickly became a popular way of doing so, and it is now one of the most accepted ways for assessing English language capabilities of test-takers across the globe.

To meet this demand, ETS (the makers of TOEFL) currently administers more than 2 million TOEFL tests a year across more than 4500 testing centers in 160 countries across the globe. Prospective test takers can expect to choose from up to 60 test dates in a given year.  

The CEFR, or Common European Framework of Reference, would be the gold standard of how well a student has learned a European language. Created in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the framework allows one to quickly understand their proficiency in a given European language.

We will explore these levels of proficiency more depth a little later on in this post, but for now, it will suffice to say the CEFR classifies students into three main categories: basic user, independent user, and proficient user.

The B2 level is in the upper part of the category of “independent user,” which is probably why most universities would like to ensure that prospective students are at least at this level of proficiency. This way, admissions departments can be sure that applicants would be able to understand the material and be able to express their understanding through assignments, projects, and exams.

If you are taking the TOEFL and need to get at least a B2 level, that would equate to somewhere between a comprehensive score of 72 and 94 out of a possible 130 points, with a minimum of 18 in reading, a 17 in listening, a 20 in speaking, and a 17 in writing.

Some universities will be satisfied with the comprehensive score, while others will ask for specific scores in each section.

What do you need to do to get a B2 score on the TOEFL?

Here is the breakdown of the type of understanding of the English language you would need to have in order to get the equivalent of a B2 on the TOEFL:

Reading

  • You understand the main ideas and details of a passage, however you may struggle with passages that are more complex. You are able to connect ideas and infer important information.
  • You are able to synthesize most information but struggle with passages that are more complex.
  • You understand most vocabulary, but may struggle with less-commonly used words or less-common meanings of certain words.
  • You understand most of what is written, however, there are some less common words that you may struggle with.

Listening

  • You understand the main ideas and the most important details of what is said.
  • You are able to keep track of the most important information while listening to a long lecture or conversation and are able to see if there are different points of view that arise.
  • You are able to see how the main ideas are connected with other details in the lecture or conversation.
  • You are able to discern the different types of intonation that the person speaking uses in order to communicate (e.g. persuade, emphasize, etc.).
  • You are able to see how parts in a conversation that are close together are connected, however you may have difficulty in connecting parts of the conversation or lecture that are not so close together.

Speaking

  • You are able to communicate clearly on most topics that are of a general nature, or topics that are familiar to you, and you would make yourself understand regarding topics of a more academic nature, or unfamiliar topics
  • You are able to speak using a broad range of vocabulary with clarity and without hesitating, although you may have occasional moments of difficulty which may make it difficult to understand you completely
  • You are able to give summaries and a cohesive opinion regarding a certain topic, however, you may have trouble expressing some ideas

Writing

  • You are able to write well on most general and familiar topics, and you should be able to communicate the main ideas of topics that are unfamiliar to you
  • You are able to make a summary from multiple sources of information, however, you may be missing some of the key ideas or you may express them inaccurately
  • You are able to give your opinion on a matter clearly, however you may have some difficulty in showing how your ideas connect
  • You write well and quite easily, however you make some mistakes that might make the meaning of what you are writing unclear.

What are the levels on the CEFR?

There are six levels on the CEFR, with two of these levels in each of the categories we described earlier: basic user, independent user, and proficient user. Let’s start with the basic user and then go up from there, showing how well you should know the language at each level. 

Basic User

The A1 level, or beginner level, means that you are able to do the following:

  • You are able to understand and use everyday expressions
  • You are able to hold a basic conversation with someone including personal information
  • You are able to have this conversation with a person who speaks slowly and can help you if you need it

The A2 level, or elementary level, means that you are able to do the following

  • You are able to communicate regarding familiar, everyday matters at a basic level. 
  • You are able to express your needs in a simple, direct manner

Independent User

The B1 level, or lower-intermediate level, means that you are able to do the following:

  • You are able to understand and communicate important points in familiar situations without much difficulty and would be able to get by without any major problem while traveling in a country that uses the target language
  • Can describe opinions and future plans and dreams, as well as accompanying them with reasons for having them

The B2 level, or upper-intermediate level, means that you are able to do the following. Notice that the description is a little different from the one above, however the essence is the same.

  • Can understand the main ideas in a conversation or text, even if they are of a technical nature but related to your area of expertise
  • You can interact with native speakers without too much difficulty for either party
  • You can express opinions clearly on a wide range of topics, and are able to give advantages and disadvantages for the options at hand

Proficient User

The C1 level, or advanced level, means that you are able to do the following:

  • Can understand a wide range of complex information, and are able to make inferences
  • You can express yourself clearly and fluently, without having to struggle to find the appropriate expressions
  • You can use language according to the context at hand (e.g. social, academic, or professional)
  • You are able to write well on complex matters, showing your control of various ways of expressing yourself with connectors, transitions, and sentence structures

The C2 level, or proficiency level, means that you are able to do the following:

  • You are able to understand basically anything you hear or read
  • You are able to make summaries and bring together cogent arguments from different sources 
  • You are able to express yourself fluently and spontaneously with precision, even in more complex situations.

How do you map other test scores to the CEFR?

There are several other tests out there, so here is a chart that can help you see how other test scores map out to the TOEFL and the CEFR. Each test creator compiles research to see how their scoring system maps to the CEFR, and the results of this research are recorded in the table below.

CEFR LevelTOEFLIELTSPTEOET
A1N/AN/A10N/A
A2N/A4*30N/A
B1424.0-5.0*43N/A
B2725.5-6.559200
C195+7.0-8.0*76350
C2N/A8.0-9.0*85450
*Note that a 4.0 can be interpreted as an A2 or a B1 and an 8.0 can be interpreted as a C1 or a C2. Since these are borderline grades, each institution will decide how to interpret these grades.

Happy studying!

Ryan

Hey English Learners! I'm Ryan and I have over 4000 hours of English teaching experience. Even though I am now a management consultant in Ireland by day, I have created this blog because I am a teacher at heart and am passionate about the English language! Look forward to help you get your English Exam Passport. Cheers!

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