English level B2 is the fourth level of English in the Common European Framework of Reference, a definition of different language levels written by the Council of Europe. In everyday speech, this level might be called “confident”, as in “I am a confident English speaker”. The official level descriptor is “upper intermediate”. At this level, students can function independently in a variety of academic and professional environments in English, although with a limited range of nuance and precision.
At this level, you can understand the main ideas of complex text, Standard spoken language, live or broadcast, and, texts with a broad reading vocabulary and a large degree of autonomy
What can you do with a B2 level in English?
A B2 level of English would allow you to function in the workplace in English, and indeed, many non-native English speakers in international workplaces have this level of English. A person working in English at a B2 level will, however, lack nuance particularly outside his field. He may also miss some of the subtleties and implied meanings in conversation.
According to the official CEFR guidelines, someone at the B2 level in English:
- Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization.
- Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.
- Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
B2 level English skills in detail
The official can-do statements are broken down into smaller pieces for teaching purposes. This more detailed skill breakdown can help you assess your own English level, or help a teacher assess a student’s level. For example, a student at the B2 level in English will be able to do all the things that a student in level B1 can do, and besides, he will be able to:
- participate in meetings in your area of expertise, if you have help understanding some points.
- discuss gender issues as they relate to perceptions of rudeness and cultural norms.
- talk about your personal finances and advise friends and colleagues about their finances.
- talk about your personal and professional lifestyle, including a description of your life at work.
- explain your education, experience, strengths, and weaknesses, and discuss your career path.
- talk about mental processes and how you can use them to improve your effectiveness on the job.
- talk about what you like to read and make recommendations about good things to read.
- use appropriate language in social situations, including praising and expressing sympathy.
- discuss leadership qualities and talk about leaders whom you admire.
- deal with relatively complex awkward situations that arise in social and business contexts.
- discuss common political situations and the behavior of politicians.
Although progress will depend on the type of course and the individual student, students can expect to reach the B2 level in English with 600 hours of cumulative instruction.
Intermediate and upper intermediate students have a stronger understanding of more specific or concrete topics than beginners, but there is lots of work to do before you’ll be able to express feelings and understand more complex thoughts. At the intermediate and upper-intermediate levels, you have made great progress with your English, and you may be considering working in an English-speaking setting. But as with any learning process, practice is very important for upper intermediate students who want to be more advanced.
Your goal as an intermediate learner is to surround yourself with English, especially focusing on topics you are interested in or areas that you are planning to work in. Here are some strategies for continuing your English practice even as you reach the upper intermediate level:
Change the settings to English on your email and social media accounts as well as other devices such as your phone. This will force you to use English constantly, without having to make a choice.
Read as much as possible in English especially about subjects you’re interested in. A good place to start is by reading a series for young adults, or the day-to-day news in a newspaper. These should be accessible to upper-intermediate students, although you’ll have to look some words up. If you are studying or working in international finance, start reading the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal in English. Take notes and plan to discuss your opinion or thoughts on the pieces you’re reading.
Listen to audiobooks and podcasts that are of interest to you or within your field of expertise. Pause to note any words or phrases that you do not understand, and especially tune in to the tone of voice and emphasis on certain words. Some books and podcasts are more accessible to intermediate level students than others.