Interagency Language Roundtable Language Skill Level Descriptions
- Writing

Preface The following proficiency level descriptions characterize written language use. Each of the six "base levels" (coded 00, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50) implies control of any previous "base level's" functions and accuracy. The "plus level" designation (coded 06, 16, 26, etc.) will be assigned when proficiency substantially exceeds one base skill level and does not fully meet the criteria for the next "base level." The "plus level" descriptions are therefore supplementary to the "base level" descriptions. A skill level is assigned to a person through an authorized language examination. Examiners assign a level on a variety of performance criteria exemplified in the descriptive statements. Therefore, the examples given here illustrate, but do not exhaustively describe, either the skills a person may possess or situations in which he/she may function effectively. Statements describing accuracy refer to typical stages in the development of competence in the most commonly taught languages in formal training programs in other languages. Emerging competence parallels these characterizations, but often with different details. Unless otherwise specified, the term "native writer" refers to native writers of a standard dialect. "Well-educated," in the context of these proficiency descriptions, does not necessarily imply formal higher education. However, in cultures where formal higher education is common, the language-use abilities of persons who have had such education is considered the standard. That is, such a person meets contemporary expectations for the formal, careful style of the language, as well as a range of less formal varieties of the language.

Writing 0 (No Proficiency) No functional writing ability. (Has been coded W-0 in some nonautomated applications.)  [Date Code 1]

Writing 0+ (Memorized Proficiency) Writes using memorized material and set expressions. Can produce symbols in an alphabetic or syllabic writing system or 50 of the most common characters. Can write numbers and dates, own name, nationality, address, etc., such as on a hotel registration form. Otherwise, ability to write is limited to simple lists of common items such as a few short sentences. Spelling and even representation of symbols (letters, syllables, characters) may be incorrect. (Has been coded W-0+ in some nonautomated applications.)  [Data Code 06]

Writing 1 (Elementary Proficiency) Has sufficient control of the writing system to meet limited practical needs. Can create by writing statements and questions on topics very familiar to him/her within the scope of his/her very limited language experience. Writing vocabulary is inadequate to express anything but elementary needs; writes in simple sentences making continual errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation but writing can be read and understood by a native reader used to dealing with foreigners attempting to write his/her language. Writing tends to be a loose collection of sentences (or fragments) on a given topic and provides little evidence of conscious organization. While topics which are "very familiar" and elementary needs vary considerably from individual to individual, any person at this level should be able to write simple phone messages, excuses, notes to service people and simple notes to friends. (800-1000 characters controlled.) (Has been coded W-1 in some nonautomated applications.)  [Data Code 10]


Writing 1+ (Elementary Proficiency, Plus) Sufficient control of writing system to meet most survival needs and limited social demands. Can create sentences and short paragraphs related to most survival needs (food, lodging, transportation, immediate surroundings and situations) and limited social demands. Can express fairly accurate present and future time. Can produce some past verb forms but not always accurately or with correct usage. Can relate personal history, discuss topics such as daily life, preferences and very familiar material. Shows good control of elementary vocabulary and some control of basic syntactic patterns but major errors still occur when expressing more complex thoughts. Dictionary usage may still yield incorrect vocabulary or terms, although the individual can use a dictionary to advantage to express simple ideas. Generally cannot use basic cohesive elements of discourse to advantage (such as relative constructions, object pronouns, connectors, etc.). Can take notes in some detail on familiar topics, and respond to personal questions using elementary vocabulary and common structures. Can write simple letters, summaries of biographical data and work experience with fair accuracy. Writing, though faulty, is comprehensible to native speakers used to dealing with foreigners. (Has been coded W-1+ in some nonautomated applications.)  [Data Code16]

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Writing 2 (Limited Working Proficiency) Able to write routine social correspondence and prepare documentary materials required for most limited work requirements. Has writing vocabulary sufficient to express himself/herself simply with some circumlocutions. Can write simply about a very limited number of current events or daily situations. Still makes common errors in spelling and punctuation, but shows some control of the most common formats and punctuation conventions. Good control of morphology of language (in inflected languages) and of the most frequently used syntactic structures. Elementary constructions are usually handled quite accurately and writing is understandable to a native reader not used to reading the writing of foreigners. Uses a limited number of cohesive devices. (Has been coded W2 in some nonautomated applications.)  [Data Code 20]


Writing 2+ (Limited Working Proficiency, Plus) Shows ability to write with some precision and in some detail about most common topics. Can write about concrete topics relating to particular interests and special fields of competence. Often shows surprising fluency and ease of expression but under time constraints and pressure language may be inaccurate and/or incomprehensible. Generally strong in either grammar or vocabulary but not in both. Weaknesses or unevenness in one of the foregoing or in spelling result in occasional miscommunication. Areas of weakness range from simple constructions such as plurals, articles, prepositions and negatives to more complex structures such as tense usage, passive constructions, word order and relative clauses. Normally controls general vocabulary with some misuse of everyday vocabulary evident. Shows a limited ability to use circumlocutions Uses dictionary to advantage to supply unknown words. Can take fairly accurate notes on material presented orally and handle with fair accuracy most social correspondence. Writing is understandable to native speakers not used to dealing with foreigners' attempts to write the language, though style is still obviously foreign. (Has been coded W-2+ in some nonautomated applications.)  [Data Code 26]

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Writing 3 (General Professional Proficiency) Able to use the language effectively in most formal and informal written exchanges on practical, social and professional topics. Can write reports, summaries, short library research papers on current events, on particular areas of interest or on special fields with reasonable ease. Control of structure, spelling and general vocabulary is adequate to convey his/her message accurately but style may be obviously foreign. Errors virtually never interfere with comprehension and rarely disturb the native reader. Punctuation generally controlled Employs a full range of structures. Control of grammar good with only sporadic errors in basic structures, occasional errors in the most complex frequent structures and somewhat more frequent errors in low frequency complex structures. Consistent control of compound and complex sentences. Relationship of ideas is consistently clear. (Has been coded W-3 in some nonautomated applications.)  [Data Code 30]

Writing 3+ (General Professional Proficiency, Plus) Able to write the language in a few prose styles pertinent to professional/educational needs. Not always able to tailor language to suit audience Weaknesses may he in poor control of low frequency complex structures. vocabulary or the ability to express subtleties and nuances. May be able to write on some topics pertinent to professional/educational needs. Organization may suffer due to lack of variety in organizational patterns or in variety of cohesive devices. (Has been coded W-3+ in some nonautomated applications.)  [Data Code 36]

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Writing 4 (Advanced Professional Proficiency) Able to write the language precisely and accurately in a variety of prose styles pertinent to professional/educational needs. Errors of grammar are rare including those in low frequency complex structures. Consistently able to tailor language to suit audience and able to express subtleties and nuances. Expository prose is clearly, consistently and explicitly organized. The writer employs a variety of organizational patterns, uses a wide variety of cohesive devices such as ellipses and parallelisms, and subordinates in a variety of ways. Able to write on all topics normally pertinent to professional and educational needs and on social issues of a general nature. Writing adequate to express all his/her experiences. (Has been coded W-4 in some nonautomated applications.)  [Data Code 40]


Writing 4+ (Advanced Professional Proficiency, Plus) Able to write the language precisely and accurately in a wide variety of prose styles pertinent to professional/educational needs. May have some ability to edit but not in the full range of styles. Has some flexibility within a style and shows some evidence of a use of stylistic devices. (Has been coded W-4+ in some nonautomated applications.)  [Data Code 46]

Writing 5 (Functionally Native Proficiency) Has writing proficiency equal to that of a well educated native. Without non-native errors of structure, spelling, style or vocabulary can write and edit both formal and informal correspondence, official reports and documents, and professional/ educational articles including writing for special purposes which might include legal, technical, educational, literary and colloquial writing. In addition to being clear, explicit and informative, the writing and the ideas are also imaginative. The writer employs a very wide range of stylistic devices. (Has been coded W-5 in some nonautomated applications.)  [Data Code 50]

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