ACTFL Level Descriptions

You will receive a rating on each of the tests that you take. These ratings have been determined by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The pyramid and descriptions below show the range of possible ACTFL ratings that you might receive.

Novice (Low, Mid, High) 

Speaking: These speakers can be hard to understand. They produce speech that is a combination of phrases and sentences. They function mainly by using memorized language.

Reading:  Readers at the Novice level may rely heavily on their own background knowledge and extralinguistic support (such as the imagery on the weather map or the format of a credit card bill) to derive meaning.

Listening: Can understand keywords and formulaic expressions that are highly contextualized and highly predictable, such as those found in introductions and basic courtesies.  

ACTFL Proficiency Levels

Intermediate (Low, Mid, High)

Speaking: These speakers can create with the language when talking about familiar topics. They can ask questions and handle simple survival situations (getting a room at a hotel, ordering food, arranging travel etc). They can communicate with listeners who are used to the speech of non-native learners of the language.

Reading: These readers can understand information conveyed in simple, predictable, loosely connected texts. Readers rely heavily on contextual clues. They can most easily understand information if the format of the text is familiar, such as in a weather report or a social announcement.

Listening: These listeners can understand information conveyed in simple, sentence-length speech on familiar or everyday topics. They understand speech that contains basic information.

Advanced (Low, Mid, High)

Speaking: These speakers are able to communicate as an equal partner in a conversation on personal topics as well as general topics of interest. They are able to speak in paragraphs, with listeners who are unaccustomed to the speech of nonnative speakers.

Reading: These readers can understand the main idea and supporting details of authentic narrative and descriptive texts. Readers are able to compensate for limitations in their lexical and structural knowledge by using contextual clues.

Listening: These listeners can understand the main ideas and most supporting details in connected discourse on a variety of general interest topics, such as news stories, explanations, instructions, anecdotes, or travelogue descriptions. Listeners are able to compensate for limitations in their lexical and structural control of the language by using real-world knowledge and contextual clues. Listeners may also derive some meaning from oral texts at higher levels if they possess significant familiarity with the topic or context.


Speaking: These speakers are able to communicate with accuracy and fluency on a wide variety of topics. They are able to use extended discourse to discuss both concrete and abstract topics. They display no pattern of errors in basic structures.

Reading: These readers are able to understand texts from many genres dealing with a wide range of subjects, both familiar and unfamiliar. Comprehension is no longer limited to the reader’s familiarity with the subject matter, but also comes from a command of the language that is supported by a broad vocabulary, an understanding of complex structures, and knowledge of the target culture. They can draw inferences from textual and extralinguistic clues.

Listening: These listeners can follow extended, complex discourse on a wide variety of topics, including those in academic and professional settings. They can infer meaning when listening to simple and complex language.  

Taken and abbreviated from the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, 2012.