B2 level English

B2 English : grammar, vocabulary, language skills


From theory to practice, a teachers' and students' guide to "B2" level English

What does B2 English mean?

"B2" is one of six  levels on the scale of foreign language proficiency set up by the Council of Europe. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFR, was established in 2001, after several years of discussion among language teaching experts from different countries. It is now generally accepted as the international yardstick for assessing a learner's level in a second or additional language.
   A level of at least B2 in English is generally required for entry into higher education in English-speaking countries, and is also a prerequisite for many management level jobs worldwide.

According to the Council of Europe

Learners who achieve B2 Upper intermediate level have acquired the skills needed to....
  • understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation.
  • interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.
  • 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.

But in concrete terms, what does that mean?

It means that learners must acquire the essential grammar and vocabulary of a language that will allow them to master these skills.  The CEFR does not lay down a list of grammar and vocabulary for each language; it supposes that teachers and course-writers will know what is needed in order to achieve these goals.

B2 = FCE or First Certificate

It is generally accepted that for English, the B2 level can be certified by achieving at least a grade C score on the Cambridge First Certificate tests, commonly called FCE or B2 First
Other B2 certifications include:
  Intermediate level on the Trinity GESE tests,
   At least 5.5 on the IELTS scale. 
   A TOEFL score of at least 87.

The B2 First examination requires a good grasp of essential English grammar, so here are the principal points of grammar that teachers need to teach, and students need to learn.


  • Present tenses: Simple present,  present continuous.
  • Past tenses: Simple past, past continuous , present perfect, past perfect, used to / would for habits 
  • Future forms: will / shall, going to, use of present tenses to express future time.
  • Conditional clauses (if and unless).
  • Gerunds
  • Passive forms
  • Interrogative forms (questions)
  • Nouns and determiners

  • Count and non-count nouns, formation of nouns, plural nouns, determiners (articles, demonstratives, etc.)
  • Adjectives and adverbs

  • Adjective order, comparatives and superlatives, gradation of adjectives,  use of general adverbs, adverbs of degree
  • Sentences

  • Main clauses and dependent clauses; relative clauses. Coordination and subordination
All of these grammar topics are clearly explained in Rossiter's Descriptive Grammar of English, recommended by LInguapress and available through Amazon, Waterstones (UK), Barnes & Noble (USA) and other good bookstores

How to achieve B2 level in English?

There is no magic answer to this question, but there are a number of pathways to success.
    While some students will want to learn, and some teachers to teach, long lists of vocabulary and grammar rules to be learned by rote, this is not generally the best way to learn a language.  It is often part of the mix, and some students are happy learning words and grammar in this way; but others struggle.
    As far as vocabulary is concerned, mastering English at B2 level normally requires an active vocabulary of at least 2,500 words, though most students will know more than this.
    Languages are learned in a much deeper and more permanent way when they are acquired in context and by example; this means reading in English, which is the best way to acquire vocabulary, listening and talking which familiarise the learner with common expressions, collocations and different aspects of communication, and guided or unguided writing, which allows, or sometimes forces, students to use language creatively.

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Learn English with Linguapress - A selection of free online B2 resources in graded English
Selected texts in British or American English, with vocabulary and exercises
Big red London Buses
with audio
Christmas in England  with audio
Living in the Scottish Highlands
No more Fish 'n' Chips? 
Black taxis going green.
London Fashion
Just who are the English?
Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night :   Interactive text
Dialogue: Talking of fast food  with audio
The story of Coca-Cola.  with audio
Bodie - where the West was once wildest 
Henry Ford the man who made America with audio
Storing electricity - the big challenge
Short Story - The Girl in the Denim Jacketwith audio
Short story - A Few Good Reasons  with audio (USA)  
Short story - Blue Gum Tree -with audio  (New Zealand)
For Elise - a short story -  with audio   (USA)
And more:  More intermediate reading texts  

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