China’s Standards of English Language Ability

  In 2014, the State Council of China decreed that a new assessment framework of foreign languages should be developed to generate a comprehensive reform in foreign language education in China. The People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Education appointed the National Education Examinations Authority to develop the framework. As an important part of the proposed framework, the development of the China’s standards of foreign languages commenced in 2014 and, since English was the foreign language with the largest population of learners in China, China’s Standards of English Language Ability (CSE) became the initial focus.

  The CSE is the first full-range English proficiency scale in China, and is intended to support examination reforms with a sound basis for test development and quality control. It is a consistent and informative way for test providers to communicate test results to test users and a common, comparative reference for different tests. It’s expected that the CSE can become a useful tool for learners and their teachers to measure where they are and know where they can go according to their needs. Overall, the CSE is intended to provide a set of transparent and consistent standards of English proficiency to enhance the communication between English teaching, learning and assessment, and to enrich the existing body of language proficiency scales for alignment initiatives on a global basis in the future.

  The CSE adopts a use-oriented theoretical framework and has a multi-tiered descriptive scheme. Nearly 3000 “can-do” descriptors have been categorised into 9 proficiency levels with 3 stages depicting the development of language ability. The CSE was released in the form of national language standards by the Ministry of Education and National Language Commission on February 12th, 2018 and came into effect from June 1st, 2018. The CSE will also set an example for the development of standards for other foreign languages.

  The CSE’s revision and validation is an on-going process. The CSE will be improved and enriched as the foreign language education continues to develop in China.



  China’s Standards of English Language Ability is a result of collective efforts from many individual. It represents a great deal of work from academic and practitioner communities in language education and assessment. We would like to take this opportunities to acknowledge their contributions.

  First of all, we would like to express our thanks to the 152 CSE team members for the efforts they put in during the four years’ CSE development process. Their expertise, collaboration and hard work played an essential role in completing CSE project,

  We are grateful to the CSE consultant group home and abroad. Special thanks must goes to the late Professor Gui Shichun from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Professor Yang Huizhong from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Professor Chen Lin from Beijing Foreign Studies University, Professor John de Jong from VU University Amsterdam, Professor Michael Milanovic from Cambridge Assessment. Their guidance were instrumental in completing the CSE project.

  We are also grateful to the many external reviewers from Chinese universities, education research institutions, education presses, and relevant departments of the Ministry of Education and provincial educational departments, for their invaluable comments. Their advice has contributed significantly to the quality of the CSE.

  We are also thankful to 160,000 students and teachers from primary schools, Secondary schools, universities, and vocational schools, for their enthusiasm to participate in the CSE empirical study.

  Sincere appreciation also goes to Sheryl Cooke and her team from the British Council, as well as Sara Miller from the United States. We are grateful to them for help with the CSE English version proofreading.

  To all of the above, we extend our sincerest thanks and appreciation.


  National Education Examinations Authority

  Ministry of Education, People’s Republic of China



  China's Standards of English Language Ability.pdf