Calibrating the CEFR against the China standards of English for college English vocabulary education in China

Wen ZHAO, Boran WANG, David CONIAM, Bingxue XIE

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) (Council of Europe 2001) has, over the past decade, come to be widely used as a reference tool for teaching, learning and assessment (Alderson 2002; North 2014). The focus of the current study is on scaling the China Standards of English (CSE) vocabulary descriptors for College English education in Mainland China, where College English education refers to English language education for non-English major students at tertiary level. A review of the CEFR and the College English Curriculum Requirements (CECR) (Ministry of Education 2007) indicated that the vocabulary descriptors in both documents were inadequate to describe vocabulary knowledge for College English education in China. Method: On the basis of the CEFR and CECR descriptors, a pool of 39 descriptors were collected and categorized. Twenty-two English teachers from a Mainland China university were invited to participate in the study. They were first given the CEFR and CECR vocabulary descriptors, after which they were asked to scale the descriptors with the CEFR as the reference point. Multi-Faceted Rasch Measurement (MFRM) was used to validate teachers’ scaling of the vocabulary descriptors. Results: The MFRM analysis showed that while the descriptors at C1 level were generally ranked as expected, teachers had difficulties in ranking descriptors at the CEFR B1, B1+ and B2 levels. Conclusion: The study indicates that teacher judgement of the scales provides evidence of the CSE scales, and can be a source of valuable information for the future improvement of the CSE. Copyright © 2017 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalLanguage Testing in Asia
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017



Zhao, W., Wang, B., Coniam, D., & Xie, B. (2017). Calibrating the CEFR against the China standards of English for college English vocabulary education in China. Language Testing in Asia, 7. Retrieved from


  • CEFR
  • Vocabulary descriptors
  • College English
  • China Standards of English
  • Validation