Concepts and Levels of Proficiency

There is no term that captures all concepts and contexts associated with language use in higher education, so this project has used ‘English language proficiency’ as an umbrella term. It is intended to incorporate concepts such as ‘academic literacies’ and ‘language skills’, to include general, academic and professional domains of use, and to apply to all English language users, whatever their first language backgrounds.

There are too many conceptual models, theoretical positions, frameworks, taxonomies and scales relating to English language to include on a single website, particularly given the complexity of the content. The Research and Links page of this website provides a starting point for further information in this area.

English Language Proficiency Levels

Australian universities have many means whereby students may meet the minimum set English language entry requirements. These include successful completion of an approved English language program, successful completion of an academic course delivered in English, or achievement of a particular grade or mark in an English language test. These entry requirements indicate minimum acceptable levels, with the expectation that students will continue to develop their language capabilities over the duration of their courses – i.e. that students’ English levels at graduation will be higher than at entry.
International English language tests recognised for use in many of Australia’s universities include IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson Test of English and the Cambridge Advanced and Proficiency tests.

Feedback from users of this website indicates that many people would like to have an idea of what certain ‘levels’, as described by test results, mean in terms of actual language use, particularly for students who have English as an additional language. For information, examples of candidate performance assessed at certain IELTS levels are presented below, with permission from IELTS. The inclusion of this material should not be taken as implying that IELTS as a test is preferable to any of the others listed above.

Writing Speaking
IELTS Writing Band 5 Example 1
IELTS Writing Band 6.5 Example 2
IELTS Writing Band 7 Example 3
Examiner comments