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CEFR Journal - Research and Practice


Volume: CEFR Journal - Research and Practice Volume 3 (
Date: October 20, 2020
Title: Interpretation of the CEFR Companion Volume for developing rating scales in Cuban higher education
Author: Claudia Harsch (University of Bremen), Ivonne de la Caridad Collada Peña (University of Informatics Sciences, Havana), Tamara Gutiérrez Baffil (University of Pinar del Río), Pedro Castro Álvarez (Univeristy of Informatics Sciences, Havana), & Ioani García Fernández (University of Cienfuegos)
This article is open access and licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license.
Abstract: Considering the need for improving English proficiency among Cuban university graduates, the Ministry of Higher Education (MES) implemented a new policy for teaching, learning and assessment of English proficiency. The policy adopted the CEFR (Council of Europe [CoE] 2001) as a proficiency framework, with the level B1 as the targeted attainment level. The CEFR needed to be adapted to suit the local context while operating within an internationally recognised framework. In 2017, the development of a valid and reliable proficiency exam was initiated. This work has been carried out by a network of Cuban teachers of English within the MES, coordinated by the University of Informatics Sciences, Havana, in collaboration with the University of Bremen, Germany. This article is a practice report of the process of developing rating scales for writing as part of the new exam. We explore the feasibility of using the CEFR Companion Volume (CEFR/CV; CoE 2018) descriptors as a basis for developing localised rating scales. Moreover, we describe the challenges faced during the process, which included creating more specific descriptors for the CEFR ‘plus’ levels (CoE 2001: 32, 181). Our insights show how the CEFR/CV (CoE 2018) descriptors can be adapted and how adaptation challenges can be overcome.

Keywords: rating scales, CEFR-based assessment, standardised testing, descriptor development, adaptation of the CEFR/CV for rating purposes

This online toolkit is supported by KAKEN Grant-in-Aid project no. 20K00759, no. 19K00808 and no. 16K02835 and aims to support teachers of all foreign languages in Japan in using the CEFR and CEFR/CV efficiently.