Understanding learner competencies through the Global Scale of English (GSE)

As a teacher at a language school, one of my key interests is monitoring and understanding the journey of my students’ language progress. Sometimes, it can be a little disheartening realising that perhaps my best efforts are still not enough to help students who may not be responding to the coursework. I believe that as a teacher, there must be something I can improve on which can help all my students achieve maximum progress.

Recently, I attended a session held by Pearson on The Global Scale of English. This session discusses The Global Scale of English (GSE), a standard to measure learner’s English competencies, and the GSE Teacher Toolkit. Below, I will tell you what I’ve gained from the session.


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What is GSE?

The Global Scale of English, or GSE for short, is a measurement that helps teachers to measure the competencies of English learners. The GSE’s development has been based on the CEFR model. CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) has been widely used by teachers, students, schools, and publishers to standardise language competency. It can be broken down into three groups of basic users (A), independent users (B), and proficient users (C), with two levels for each ‘user group’. CEFR contains a number of ‘can-do statements’. Each level in CEFR has its own ‘can- do statements’ which learners need to achieve in order to move to the higher level.

Below is CEFR levels and their labels:

CEFR Levels

*source: https://www.english.com/blog/addressing-the-missing-levels-with-gse/

Within schools, learners have a certain amount of time to complete a course and achieve ‘can-do statements’ of a CEFR level. As every learner’s ability and progress in learning is unique, not all learners progress at the same pace. Progress takes time, and each learner needs their own individual time to attain a certain level of competency.

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In the long run, this creates a problem.

A learner who has studied English for a long time may be assumed to belong to a particular level of CEFR (let’s say B1), but there is possibility that the learner belongs to between A2 and B1 instead. However, since the learner is placed in a B1 class, he or she needs to keep up with B1-level expectations. This can lead to difficulties for the learner in reaching maximum progress and obtaining a satisfactory learning result at the end of an English program. Up to this point, I can very much relate this scenario with some of my students.

GSE aims to fill the gap. By quantifying each level of CEFR, GSE gives a more accurate manner of predicting learner’s competency in CEFR model. By having accurate knowledge of learner’s competency, teachers can be more precise in planning their lesson. Therefore, maximum progress of all students can take place.

Below is a comparison between CEFR and GSE:

GSE Tabel

The above presents the GSE measuring table of proficiency in all language skills and levels based on the CEFR model. As we can see, there is a wide range between some CEFR levels (A2 to B1, B1 to B2, B2 to C1). Hence, a class of A2, for example, consists of learners with competency score 30 (near A1) to 42 (almost B1). GSE helps teachers in identifying the minimum and maximum point of learners’ competency, so that they can plan lessons in which no learner is left behind.


Working with GSE

A teacher who is planning a lesson to suit their student’s competency may consult GSE learning objectives by visiting GSE Teacher Toolkit page, https://www.english.com/gse/teacher-toolkit/user/lo . There is a GSE/CEFR scale, where buttons can be moved horizontally based on the score range intended.

For example, if you have a class with A2 level, you can drag the left button on the scale to the minimum A2 score (30) and drag the right button to the maximum A2 score (42). See the picture below for an example:



On the left side there is a box to choose learner type and skill. For example if we chose to combine ‘adult learners’ and ‘reading’, by clicking the ‘show results’ you will get 22 learning objectives based on order of GSE scores.



Besides learning objectives, GSE Teacher Toolkit also provides Grammar and Vocabulary sections.



In the Grammar section, GSE Teacher Toolkit provides downloadable activities based on the chosen grammar category.



In the Vocabulary section, GSE Teacher Toolkit provides pronunciation with American and British accents, definitions, as well as collocation.


All the above facilities are easily accessed and free to use. These conveniences do not only save teacher’s time and energy, but most importantly they help teachers prepare the right course materials so that their learners get opportunities to reach maximum progress.



The Global Scale of English (GSE) provides at least four advantages for both teachers and learners:

  • Teacher obtain a better understanding of students’ individual competency. Therefore, they can prepare and adapt the right course materials in order to suit students’ needs.

  • The GSE Teacher Toolkit makes lesson planning simple, accurate, and easy to use.

  • Learners are given more opportunities to achieve maximum progress in learning English.

  • Recognised globally, GSE helps students to gain confidence in their language ability and competency acceptance.

To learn more about the GSE Teacher’s Toolkit, please visit here.



WINDA HAPSARI is an English teacher and teacher educator at LIA Language School, Indonesia. She has been working with a variety of learners for about two decades. She earned her master’s degree in educational psychology from Universitas Indonesia. Besides teaching, she also conducts classroom / educational research and publishes some of her works. Her recent article, which she co- authored with a colleague, titled Teaching Reading to Encourage Critical Thinking and Collaborative Work is published by Springer in early 2018. Her interest includes areas of teacher professional development, teaching language skills, and motivation.