Language certificates

All about language certificates

As you may notice during the application process, some universities require you to submit an official language certificate before the start of your semester abroad. This is a standard procedure and a proven method to start a free mover semester safely: a language certificate can assure both you and the hosting university that you won’t have any problem following lessons during your free mover experience. Please note that language certificates are also asked for organized mobility and degree-seeking international students, so this is not a peculiarity or a disadvantage of free mover mobility.

The destinations’ academic offer on wearefreemovers is available in 5 languages: English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. So, while using the university finder, you can select universities’ courses by their language.

Nevertheless, if you want to follow courses in languages that are different from the five ones covered by this website, just stick to the university finder, select the native country of your preferred language, and click on the links provided. Usually, you will find courses in many local languages, such as Italian, Russian, Japanese, and many more. If you don’t find them, just email the pinned contact of the university you are interested in, asking for available courses in your preferred language (just don’t ask for Japanese courses at an Italian university; stick to the native country of that language).

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

But hey, I really want to go to Australia! Why are you proposing a European framework of reference?

The “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages” (CEFR) is a standard framework developed by the Council of Europe that nowadays is utilized all over the world to measure the level of language proficiency. It distinguishes learners among three categories: Basic users (A), Independent users (B), and Proficient users (C).

Basic users (A)

Basic users, defined by the letter A, represent the lowest level of language proficiency among the three categories. They are further divided into two subcategories: A1 and A2.

A1 users are named “Breakthrough users” or “Beginner users”. They are able to interact with another person in a foreign language in a very basic way, provided that the interlocutor talks in a very slow and paced way. A1 users represent the lowest proficient users of the A group.

A2 users are called “Waystage users” or “Elementary users”. They are proficient enough to understand common sentences and communicate routine-related topics.

Independent users (B)

Independent users, defined by the letter B, represent the medium level of language proficiency among the three categories. As with the A category, they are split into two subcategories: B1 and B2.

B1 users are called “Threshold users” or “Intermediate users”. They have a clear understanding of the majority of the common topics, such as the ones related to personal interests and travel.

B2 users are the “Vantage” or “Upper Intermediate” ones. They are more skilled than B1 users. As such, they possess the ability to understand the main ideas of a complex text and discuss technical topics.

Proficient users (C)

Proficient users, defined by the letter C, represent the highest level of language proficiency among the three categories. CEFR divides C users into C1 and C2 users, with the C2 ones being the highest category in the C classification and in the whole CEFR standard.

C1 users are called “Effective Operational Proficiency users” or “Advanced users”. They have a full working language proficiency, and hence, they are able to conduct the vast majority of the conversations on a wide range of topics, including academic ones.

C2 users are defined as the “Mastery” or “Proficiency” ones. They have the highest proficiency, so they do not encounter any problems while using the analyzed foreign language.

Bottom line

Having said that, universities, most of the time, ask for a B2/C1 level. It is an acceptable level for both the applicant and the hosting universities, and it could be considered a sweet spot between full proficiency and inadequate ability to follow courses in a foreign language. Pro tip: if you are reading what I have written on this site without many problems, you should already be at a B2/C1 level for the English language. Hence, you only need to take a test to certify your level and start your next free mover semester abroad!

Most common certificates by language


Two tests are predominantly accepted worldwide for the English language: the IELTS and the TOEFL.

The IELTS, an acronym for “International English Language Testing System”, is an English language proficiency test developed by the British Council, IDP Education and Cambridge Assessment English. It was launched in the 1980s, and it is now one of the two most accepted English language proficiency certificates worldwide, with millions of test takers every year.

The TOEFL, on the other hand, is a test developed by Educational Testing Service in the 1960s. They are very similar, with four parts making up the test: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Their difference resides in the homeland of the organizer and, hence, in the preferred recognition among institutions: the IELTS is more recognized in British English institutions, while the TOEFL is more American English-oriented. I took the TOEFL test several years ago and I got a full C1 score, and you certainly could as well. It’s not that difficult!


For the French certificate, you have two options: the DELF and the DALF, both given by the International Centre for French Studies. The DELF covers language proficiency levels up to the B2 one, while the DALF gives either C1 or C2 certifications.


German proficiency is mostly certified by four entities: Goethe Institut, Telc, TestDaF Institut, and DSH. They all offer CEFR-compliant certifications, that can be useful if you want to follow German-taught courses all over the globe (even though the Goethe Institut’s certification is the most recognized worldwide).


Portuguese learners can assess their CEFR level with the CAPLE test, issued by the University of Lisbon and the Instituto Camões on behalf of the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


DELE diplomas are the way to go. They are issued by the Spanish Instituto Cervantes on behalf of the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science and are adherent to the CEFR classification. A DELE test taker can count on an impressively extensive network of more than 800 centers in over 100 countries.