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Language Levels

What do the terms beginner, intermediate, and advanced really mean? Unfortunately the definitions vary among institutions. The following guide for oral communication ability, though subjective, may be useful if your program does not have its own definitions of performance standards:

The Canadian College of Business and Language has developed the following series of ESL level descriptors that encompass reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

Your volunteer program may or may not have its own system for assessing student language levels. If you work with a student one-on-one, knowing the 'level' is not as critical as knowing the student; you will soon discover strengths and weaknesses and develop a sense of what your student can or can't handle. However, if you work with more than one learner, your task will be much easier if they are all near the same language level. For this reason, many programs test language levels for all new students for placement purposes. The following is a sample intake test based on the above performance descriptions. Testing instructions are found on page two. An accompanying page of drawings has not been included due to copyright.

Two standardized language assessment systems widely used in adult education are the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System (CASAS) and the Basic English Skills Test (BEST). More information on these is available below.