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American and European Rating Scales and Standardized Tests

Self rating and determining your unofficial ACTFL or CEFR ratings:

The Global Language Portfolio checklists provide an unofficial self assessment of your performance by referencing either the American ACTFL / ILR rating scales or the Common European Framework (CEFR) rating scale, each of which is described below. The American national standards established by language-specific associations forming the National Standards Collaborative incorporate 5 language skills rather than 4, and the modes used are presentational (writing and speaking,) interpersonal (speaking,) and interpretive (listening and reading.) Thus you will have an unofficial rating in each of five skills.

Go through each skill separately. After you check off over 80% of the items for a given ACTFL level, you should progress to the next level in that same skill. Keep going through this checklist until you reach the highest level where you checked off at least 4 of the 5 tasks. Record that highest level for either ACTFL (NL, NM, NH, IL, IM, IH, AL, AM, AH, S, or D) or CEFR (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) on your GLP Language Passport. Your unofficial rating for each skill may or may not be the same – you may have B1 in writing and A2 in interpersonal speaking; you may have NH in listening, and IL in reading.

The Language Passport is where you record the summary of your scores on ACTFL-correlated or CEFR-related checklists. You may also record there the standardized test scores that you have listed in your GLP Dossier. An official score from the same time period, if an official test result is available, should be used in place of the unofficial checklist assessment if there is a difference.


American rating scales

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Scale

The American rating scale developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) was known previously as the ACTFL-ETS scale, and has come to be known today as the ACTFL scale. In grant-funded projects of the 1970’s and 1980’s ETS joined with ACTFL to redefine the U.S. Government’s Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale such that 0 became Novice, 1 became Intermediate, 2 became Advanced, 3 became Superior, 4 became Distinguished. Government level 5, an Educated Native Speaker, had no equivalent higher beyond Distinguished in the ACTFL scale.

In the ACTFL scale, the Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced levels break down into Low, Mid, and High, a departure from government ratings that distinguish 0 and 0+, or 1 and 1+, where ACTFL’s “Mid” is the number and ACTFL’s “High” is the number followed by +, but ACTFL’s “Low” does not exist for the government scale. In 1983 the new rating scale was published, and the ACTFL definitions can now be printed in the public domain. You may order a print version or to use the online version at rating.

Skills covered by the ACTFL scale include Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening. Global Language Portfolio divides the Speaking skill into the presentational mode, focusing on one person presenting information to others, and interpersonal speaking, in which one person interacts with one or more other people in a conversation.

ACTFL has developed a series of tests, of which the best known is the Oral Proficiency Interview. Their official site for proficiency testing in over 50 languages is found at http://www.languagetesting.com/ . Other testers also reference the ACTFL scale, often focusing on performance, and sometimes on achievement. Those include but are not limited to:


U. of Minnesota’s testing

The Educational Testing Service also partners with ACTFL on certain tests.


Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Scale

The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) levels of 0 to 5 are still used by the U.S. Government, and their web site provides more up-to-date and detailed information on the higher levels, which are referenced in the Global Language Portfolio checklists. Since there was no official ACTFL Distinguished level for Writing as of Spring 2008, these statements were provisionally developed under the “Distinguished” rubric based on Interagency Language Roundtable descriptions of levels 4 and 4+.

The ILR web site at http://www.govtilr.org/ provides a quick self-assessment checklist by levels to help prospective candidates understand what their ILR level is. Global Language Portfolio checklists are consistent with the ILR short checklist, and they provide added detail for each of five skills. For those who plan to become translators or interpreters, the ILR web site offers added descriptions of what skills are expected for each level.

Government agencies administer tests through different government agencies using these common definitions. Each agency tailors its testing to the job skills required – soldier, translator, diplomat, or spy can have varied expectations, and tests are given according to the position description for which an applicant interviews.

European Rating Scale

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) has replaced most if not all national rating scales in Europe. There are six levels, going from Basic User levels A1 and A2, to Independent User levels B1 and B2, to Proficient User levels C1 and C2.


Joint degree programs in Europe and semester agreements for the transfer of university credits within the European Union or the Council of Europe require a summary of a learner’s ratings on the CEFR scale.

Virtually all official testers in Europe today correlate their language ratings to the CEFR. The web site for the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) is found at http://www.alte.org/. It includes links to both the members of the association and to the EQUALS ALTE electronic European Language Portfolio that this association helped to create.



GLP Home Page Content June 6, 2008. pcummins@vcu.edu