The Benchmarks

About the Benchmarks

Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLBs) describe language skills and competencies. There are 12 levels, from very basic to very advanced. We use them as a guide for teaching and assessing a learner's progress. The CLBPT and BTC-NCLC are tests used to assess language skills for placement into language classes.

Below is a brief summary of language skills at each Canadian Language Benchmark. See for full explanations.

Benchmark 1 learners can:

  • greet people and give some information

  • write the alphabet, numbers, name and address

  • read a short sentence with the help of a picture

Benchmark 2 learners can:

  • answer greetings

  • ask for help

  • understand more instructions

  • write complete sentences about themselves and their families

  • read very simple instructions

Benchmark 3 learners can:

  • say a few simple sentences about familiar, everyday topics

  • read words they know in a new context

  • sound out words in English

  • write a short note or message

Benchmark 4 learners can:

  • introduce two people to each other

  • use past tense with common verbs

  • read a simple story of 2-3 paragraphs

  • use a bilingual dictionary

  • spell and punctuate whole sentences with few errors

Benchmark 5 learners can:

  • join in conversations on familiar topics

  • have longer sentences (but sometimes hesitate or pause)

  • have a mostly concrete vocabulary

  • understand main ideas, some details and some inferred meanings

  • write sentences with good control of simple structures and choose language and content appropriate to the occasion

Benchmark 6 learners can:

  • participate in small group discussions

  • express an opinion

  • ask for clarification

  • explain a process or sequence of events

  • write a detailed description or comparison of people, places, routines

  • take a phone message with 5-7 details

  • take notes from a short presentation

Benchmark 7 learners can:

  • talk comfortably about almost any topic

  • speak formally or informally on topics involving decision-making

  • sound fluent when they speak

  • read for information both concrete and abstract

  • begin to read for pleasure

  • write a report comparing two products or describing a process

  • write routine business letters

  • summarize longer text

Benchmark 8 learners can:

  • speak on familiar topics at both concrete and abstract levels for 15-20 minutes

  • provide descriptions, opinions, explanations

  • use an expanded inventory of concrete, idiomatic and conceptual language

  • read popular newspapers, magazine articles, popular easy fiction, as well as academic and business materials

  • demonstrate good control over common sentence patterns

  • write an effective resume and cover letter

Benchmark 9 learners can:

  • participate in business meetings, discussions, debates, etc.

  • understand a broad range of general interest topics and technical topics in my field

  • write a coherent essay or report of 3-5 typed pages

  • use paragraphs

Benchmark 10 learners can:

  • understand 30-60 minute complex discussions, meetings, presentations

  • actively participate in meetings, debates, discussions

  • provide counsel, assess basic needs, evaluate detailed information

  • write effectively for most academic and business tasks and for most audiences