Do you know this feeling? You’ve been working really hard for years to improve your English and you think you know quite a lot; You’ve just got that great new job in an English-speaking environment. You’ve got all the right qualifications and experience – maybe even more than a lot of your colleagues – that’s why they employed YOU, right? So why do you suddenly feel so insecure?

Checking My English‘s tagline is “Be more proficient, be more professional. ”

But what does proficiency mean? Well, a quick look in the dictionary offers many synonyms of proficiency: skilled, competent, expert, capable, accomplished, experienced, to name but a few. You are used to hearing these words in relation to job skills and you know that it takes many years of study, training, experience and practice to attain expert status but yes, the same is true of language.

The second question is, is it possible to ever get to the point where you feel you’ve arrived at such a level of proficiency that you can sit back and relax? Let’s be honest, we all want to feel that we are totally competent so that we can feel secure and confident; that there are no holes in our knowledge; that we’re not going to embarrass ourselves by making a mistake in front of other people. We want to feel safe from criticism and we don’t want to live with that little nagging inner voice that tells us that everyone can see that we’re not perfect.

You might pass a language proficiency test after many years of hard study and yet when you start working in English you find that you still don’t feel confident that your language skills are up to the mark (by the way, this is an idiom for “the required standard”).

In this post I’d like to help you identify where you’re at now and how you can take your English to the next level!

To do that I’m going to reveal the common ways in which language levels are assessed! Ta da!

The Common European Framework is an assessment tool that was developed to identify exactly what is expected from speakers in any language across the 4 skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening and the IELTS descriptors for speaking and writing (public version) provide further detail.

So let’s take a look at how you can assess your own speaking, listening and writing proficiency according to B2, C1 & C2, which are the 3 highest levels.

Try this questionnaire by ticking which statement is true for you

Listening V
I can understand extended speech and lectures
I can follow complex lines of argument provided the topic is reasonably familiar
I can understand most TV news and current affairs programmes and the majority of films in standard dialect.
I can understand extended speech even when it is not clearly structured and when relationships between the speakers are not stated clearly.
I can understand television programmes and films without too much effort.
I have no difficulty in understanding any kind of spoken language, live or broadcast, even when delivered at fast native speed, provided I have some time to get familiar with the accent.
Speaking
I can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible.
I can take an active part in discussion in familiar contexts, accounting for and sustaining my views.
I can present clear, detailed descriptions on a wide range of subjects related to my field of interest.
I can explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options
When I speak I may have to hesitate quite a bit to think of words, I may repeat myself or have to correct myself
My pronunciation is generally good enough to make myself understood although I may mispronounce certain sounds and lose clarity sometimes
I still make quite a few mistakes with grammar and word choices but I am generally understood
I can express myself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
I can use language flexibly and effectively for social and professional purposes.
I can use appropriate stress and intonation flexibly and I am easy to understand
I can formulate ideas and opinions with precision
I can relate my contribution skillfully to those of other speakers
I can present clear, detailed descriptions integrating sub-themes, developing particular points and rounding off with an appropriate conclusion
I can express myself fluently and convey finer shades of meaning precisely. I hardly ever make mistakes except for the occasional “slip”
If I do have a problem I can backtrack and restructure around the difficulty so smoothly that other people are hardly aware of it.
I can present a clear, smoothly-flowing description or argument in a style appropriate to the context and with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points.
My speech is fluently connected with appropriate flexible control of stress and intonation. It takes no effort to understand me.
Writing
I can write clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects related to my interests.
I can write a report passing on information or giving reasons in support of or against a particular point of view.
I can write letters highlighting the significance of events and experiences
I am beginning to have some awareness of natural collocation and have a sufficient range of vocabulary to allow some flexibility
I may still make some errors with spelling word formation or punctuation but they don’t impede communication
I can express myself in clear, well-structured text, expressing points of view at some length
I can write about complex subjects in letters and reports, underlining what I consider to be the salient issues
I can write in a style appropriate to the purpose and the reader
I have a wide range of vocabulary that allows flexibility and precision
I can use a wide range of complex grammar
I have good control of grammar and punctuation but although the majority of my sentences are free from errors, I may still produce occasional mistakes.
I can write clear, smoothly-flowing text in an appropriate style
I can write complex letters, reports or articles which present a case with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points
I can write summaries and reviews of professional or literary works
I can use a wide range of vocabulary with very natural and sophisticated control to fluently convey precise meaning
I can use a wide range of grammatical structures with full flexibility and accuracy
I may make only very occasional errors or inappropriacies

So where are you at?

If you ticked mostly

You are at B2 (equivalent to IELTS 6.5)

You are at C1 Advanced (equivalent to IELTS 7-8)

You are at C2 Proficiency (equivalent to IELTS 8.5 -9)

At the end of the day, what is important is whether you can function adequately in English in relation to what you need to do with it. So…

What do you need to do with your English?

What do you think is the next step for you?

Let me know in the comments below.