Tips to choose the right modern language level

If you already have some experience of a modern language, choosing where to begin can be tricky. Do you know enough to start at intermediate level (post beginners' modules L112, L113, L116 or L150), or should you start with a beginners' module (L192, L193, L194, L195), even though you are not an absolute beginner?

If you are not sure about your level, we suggest four steps:

1. Spend a few minutes thinking about the language skills you have already in your chosen modern language. Have you studied it at school or outside school in formal classes? Have you spent any length of time in a country where the language is spoken? How long ago did you study the language? How much have you used the language since then? Do you have a good understanding of basic grammar and vocabulary? Do you feel confident reading and listening to A1/B2 authentic materials? Jot down your thoughts in case you need to discuss your language learning history with an advisor.

2. Go to the website of the ‘europass’ project and check your level of language proficiency as expressed in the Council of Europe Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages. You can either click on the categories ‘Understanding’, ‘Speaking’ and ‘Writing’ or download the pdf with all levels and descriptors on one page. The CEFR has six levels, from complete beginners (A1) via A2, B1, B2, C1 to very competent speaker (C2).

3. Modern language modules in The Open University Language Studies Programme relate to the framework as follows:

Beginners’ modules (L192, L193, L194, L195, L197)

Entry level : No prior knowledge or A1

Exit level : A2

Post beginners’ modules (L112, L113, L116, L150)

Entry level : A2

Exit level : B1

Upper intermediate modules (L211, L203, L204)

Entry level : B1

Exit level : B2

Advanced modules (L310, L313, L314)

Entry level : B2

Exit level : C1

Now read the descriptors for each level and decide whether a description (say B2) broadly applies to you, or whether the descriptions for the level below (B1) or above (C1) more accurately describes your skills

4. You could also go to the OpenLearn pages of the Open University and look for modules that are at the same level as the one you want to study or access them below. These units are there to give you some idea about the language level you will be studying. The content of the actual module may be different from what you studied in OpenLearn.


Food and drink (Beginners' level)

Improve your understanding of spoken French (Intermediate level)


Food and drink (Beginners' level)

Improve your understanding of spoken German (Intermediate level)


Food and drink (Beginners' level)

Describing people (Intermediate level)


Food and drink (Beginners' level)

Improve your understanding of spoken Spanish (Intermediate level)

Some points which may influence your pathway decision

  • Like many other students you may not be equally strong in all language skills: perhaps you are better at reading but not at speaking. Or you are virtually fluent and understand the language well, but have little grammatical knowledge or have not written much in the language. There is nothing wrong with this, but you need to be aware that all our modules require minimum standards in speaking, listening, reading and writing.
  • You may find you are somewhere in between two levels and may want to consider how much time you can devote realistically to your studies. If you are taking a module slightly above your level, you need to factor in the additional time to catch up in those areas that you are weaker in.

Please note that you will have to study at least one module at intermediate level (L112, L113, L116 or L150) as part of your qualification.