How to get your English to C1 level

A man sitting in front of a bookshelf, looking up and smiling

Are you aiming for C1-level English? This article explains what skills to focus on and how to practise.

C1 is the fifth of six levels in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). C1 indicates a 'proficient user'.

Below, we break down the skills of a C1-level user of English, as described by the CEFR. We also share our advice to help you on your way to achieving your learning goal.

1. Understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts and recognise implicit meaning.

It's a good idea to search online and offline to find suitably challenging reading and listening texts, such as novels, professional articles, podcasts, films and lectures. And search widely: go out of your comfort zone and don't always stick to your favourite texts and topics.

Recognising implicit meaning means understanding what writers and speakers intend to communicate, even when it's not expressed literally. For example:

I went to Brighton for the weekend but there was nothing to do.

This speaker probably doesn't mean that there were no activities at all, but that there were no interesting or attractive activities.

Another example:

A: Did Amina get the job? 
B: I'd better not say.

Although it's unsaid, we understand that B does know whether Amina got the job or not, but feels that it is not right or appropriate to tell A.

The best way to pick up on implicit meanings like these is by encountering similar ones, so choose rich and meaningful texts such as novels and podcasts to read and listen to.

2. Express yourself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.

This skill is about putting your thoughts and feelings into words. Talk with other people and speak your mind. You could also try expressing yourself by blogging, making videos or keeping a diary.

In conversations, do you speak spontaneously or spend a long time composing your sentences? Fluency is related to the word 'flow', but too much thinking disrupts your flow. Instead, just speak – even if the words or grammar aren't perfect – so that you can participate and interact more. More practice will help your speaking to become more automatic.

Try to use English for your inner voice too. Switching to thinking in English isn't easy, but you can develop this ability by starting small. Talk to yourself in English while you are planning your day or going shopping, for example, and add more activities when you can.

It's always good to build up your vocabulary, especially for conversation. Observe how other proficient speakers express themselves, and pick up useful words and phrases from them. Noticing new words and phrases, noting them down and then trying to use them in context is a great way to learn.

3. Use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.

Using language flexibly means being able to adapt to different situations. So, vary your speaking practice by speaking with different people, for different purposes, and expressing different ideas.

It's also good to use English for a wide range of purposes in your life, such as for entertainment, work, study or hobbies. Let's say you want to learn a new skill – why not choose an online course taught in English? That will allow you to learn the skill and practise English at the same time. You can also look for opportunities to use English in your studies or workplace.

4. Produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

This is about taking your writing skills to an advanced level. Practise expressing complicated ideas. Look for good examples by other writers, see how they organise their text and take ideas from them. To develop your writing fluency, write a lot and write often.

Ideally, try to write for a real-world purpose, not simply to practise English. Writing a report for your job (for example) is likely to involve much more complex and realistic information than writing a report for an IELTS exam or English lesson.

You should also seek feedback on your writing. Ask friends or colleagues to read it, and gather their opinions. This will help you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own writing and to check whether what you intended to communicate actually comes across.

Good luck on your journey to C1!


Language level

Average: 4.5 (13 votes)

Submitted by Caro1895 on Thu, 18/07/2024 - 05:27


Thanks for all the tips! They are very important to develop new skills. I´m going to use all of them. :) I am looking for some new friends to raise my English level. 

Submitted by thebestinenglishbabe on Sat, 06/07/2024 - 22:24


Thank you for all the tips! They truly are useful! I'm taking the B2 exam really soon and I cannot wait any longer for bringing my english to a next level (as I know I am going to pass it). I'm so grateful!