[Analysis] Is LingQ Intermediate 1 equivalent to CEFR B1 comprehension? A case study in Italian

Is LingQ’s Intermediate 1 equivalent to the comprehension level of CEFR B1? Questions similar to this are common on the forums. I will seek to see if my experience in Italian can provide a case study to help answer this question.

EDIT: This is the old level.

Recently I reached Intermediate 1 in Italian, which is classified as 6,700 known words. This took me about 8.5 months to reach. I have predominately used LingQ as my means of study. I know we’ve had some serious statistics tracking issues, but I’ve best adjusted my data to be as accurate as possible.

LingQ statistics:
Known words 6,700
LingQs 23,633
LingQs learnt 4,958
Hours of listening 227.54
Words of Reading 737,109

On top of this, I’ve done the following activities outside of LingQ:

  • Approximately 18k words of reading offline, bringing the total up to 755k words read.
  • Some pre-made Anki decks when I got bored sometimes. At 789 matured cards, this was 10h 24m.
  • Some speaking practice where I was repeating out loud some beginner Anki sentences. With the listening and speaking, this accounted for 7h 49m.
    The listening is a little bit inflated, because I used to listen to a lot of repetitive audios on increased speed. This is because the beginner content had very slow audio, much slower than the normal speaking speed (eg. the LingQ Mini Stories are about 75 wpm, so half normal speed. At 15x each, that’s 35 hours over-recorded). So to make up for this, I guess it’s probably around 150 hours of listening.

EDIT: In the end I ended up guessing it was 70 hours of overrecording due to slow beginner content. This brings it down to 157 listening hours.

Adding this all up, I imagine I totaled between 300-400 hours to reach Intermediate 1, of which about 90% was on LingQ. This would turn out to be somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half per day on average. Some days were practically the whole day, while others were only the token number of minutes to keep my streak. I even took a two week break somewhere in there too.

EDIT: Sorry. I forgot to mention, but, as a disclaimer, I studied a little bit of Italian in primary school (a long time ago). I didn’t remember much, hence why I forgot to mention it, but this journey was starting from a vocabulary of remembering how to count, the days week, the months of the year, and a few words that in English you just know are Italian like “ciao,” “bella,” “pizza,” and “pasta.” All up this would’ve been <100 LingQ words.

To analyse if LingQ’s level of Intermediate 1 is equivalent to the CEFR level of B1 comprehension (that is, reading and listening) I will look at it from four perspectives:

  1. Self-assessment based on CEFR descriptions
  2. Hours studied
  3. Size of vocabulary
  4. B1 exam

B1 LISTENING: I can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. I can understand the main point of many radio or TV programmes on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.

Yes, I can understand clear standard speech on topics I am familiar with. Some complicated topics are too challenging, but some topics are very understandable.

B1 READING: I can understand texts that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language. I can understand the description of events, feelings and wishes in personal letters.

I have not read any personal letters, but I am confident that I know a lot of high frequency vocabulary and I can understand such texts. I can read transcripts of podcasts aimed at A2/B1 students, know most words, and can understand generally what’s going on. I can also read the news on certain topics.


‘Time with the language’ is arguably the most reliable predictor of competence in the language, at least in the beginner and intermediate stages of the language learning journey. We will compare how long it took me to get to Intermediate 1 with how long other students take to get to B1.

One way to do this is by looking at how long it takes to go through a language school. The following Italian language school has an intensive ‘standard’ language course with 15 hours per week of class. Their course from beginner up to B1 is 28 weeks. Assuming 30 minutes of homework per weekday, this standard intensive language course requires 470 hours from beginner to complete B1.

If we assume some inefficiency by being in a class with up to 13 other students and time dedicated to practising speaking and writing, the 300-400 hours it took me to get to Intermediate 1 is a reasonable amount of time to expect a level of B1.


It was hard to find a decent, free frequency list of lemmas (dictionary head words) in Italian, which didn’t require exorbant editing to be able to use, so I settled on an Anki deck, sourced from a Quizlet deck, sourced from I don’t know where. But going through the list, aside from the rare word, it seemed reasonably accurate based on my experience with Italian.


I went through this list, marking if I could correctly state with reasonable confidence at least one definition of the word. If I got the word wrong, which happened occassionally, and I checked the definition and then remembered that I actually knew the word, I left it as wrong. I treated this more like an exam in a particular moment in time.

There were words, which I guessed wrongly, because I have not seen them outside of a specific context and other verbs, which I had never encountered the infinitive before and so sometimes got wrong. On the other hand there were several words, which I have never met before in my studies, of which some I could correctly guess the meaning due to the knowledge of the cognate, eg. vendetta.

Of the 4,998 high-frequency lemmas in this list, I knew and got correct 3,227 words.

Note: There are some very high-frequency words (words which are in the top 1,000), which I still don’t know! There are some prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections, which I have encountered hundreds if not thousands of times and I still have to look up the word almost every time. Eg. ‘dunque’ which means ‘therefore’, ‘so’, ‘then’.

However, considering I successfully recognised 3,227 of the top 4,998 high-frequency head words, this means I have a decently sized vocabulary. There are many mid- and low-frequency words not in this list, which I also know and have been marked as Known on LingQ.

Even though there is no definite, official vocabulary size recommendation for Italian, we can guess based on various sources, such as the following research paper, that, yes, this vocabulary size is wholly adequate for someone at a B1 level.


  1. B1 EXAM

I found a sample B1 exam online. I completed it as per the instructions and self-marked it.


READING: Giving ½ points to two answers, which were half correct, I scored 18/20 (10/10 for multiple choice and 8/10 for short answer). So, offically a strong pass, but honestly, it felt like guessing. I only half understood it. I knew generally what the two texts were about, but there were definitely a few important words, which I didn’t understand.

LISTENING: In total I scored 14/20 (7/10 multiple choice and 7/10 short answer). It felt a little challenging too, but the second audio was a bit easier than the first one, especially on the second listen.

TL;DR After spending 8.5 months on LingQ learning Italian, averaging a bit over an hour per day, I reached Intermediate 1. On all four measures – CEFR descriptions, hours studied, size of vocabulary, and the B1 exam – I would confidently say my progress is, yes, around the comprehension level of CEFR B1. However, even though B1 sounds like you are actually partially competent in the language (“understand clear standard speech”), it’s such an inadequate level. Having communicated with several Italians just after I reached this level, I can say that there were consistently large amounts of misunderstanding.


Thank you for your thorough analysis and report.


Excellent analysis, nfera!

“it’s such an inadequate level.”
I couldn’t agree more. It’s a limbo between competence and incompetence :slight_smile:


Is LingQ’s Intermediate 1 equivalent to the comprehension level of CEFR B1?

To add my perspective, when I was at the Intermediate-1 level, I don’t believe I could pass the proper B1 exam. If reading and listening were somehow acceptable (not really), speaking and writing were certainly not!

I should mention that my native language Russian is pretty far away from German, so YMMV.


You may not remember, but what were your words-read and hours-listened stats? I can definitely see Intermediate 1 not being equal to B1 in multiple circumstances for several reasons: being extremely liberal with Known Words, marking too many proper nouns as Known Words, not doing as much listening (because there’s no way to increase your Known Words count while listening, so it’s like “out of class study”), doing too much repeating of the same material and not enough new material (building a false confidence and resulting in words being marked as Known), the exam being harder in other languages, or simply the number could be wrong for that particular language.

Personally, I thought you needed a higher level to pass a B1 exam, based on my previous experience, so this surprised me that I was actually able to pass it. I guessed based on my estimated number of hours I should be around to B1 level, but I remember when I passed B1 in German, my level was much higher. Looking back, I realise this is because I did a lot of flashcard drilling for vocab and talking to people outside of class. I do remember people in my class not being very good in German (usually having mother tongues far removed) and it surprised me. Also I’ve met some people who have apparently gotten B2 certificates and you’re like, “Ughh… Really? Are you sure?” So from this test with Italian, I kind of realise that these CEFR levels are actually lower than what I expected than to be.

Regarding the timeframe, I’d say it really depends on how much time you’re allocating to learning the language in terms of the number of hours, rather than the months/years. If you are allocating 4-6 hours per day for a year, you should be able to reach a decent conversational level, depending on your background and the language in question.

Have you seen this video?


When I was at the Intermediate 1 level in Italian, I feel that I would not have passed a B1 exam. Maybe I could have passed the writing and reading portions (that’s a big ‘maybe’), but certainly not the listening and speaking.

I actually took a B1 exam at the Dante Alighieri Society of Seattle in June, and at that point I had roughly 20k known words, 20 hours of speaking, and 175 hours of listening (at least of those I recorded in LingQ - I studied Italian for about a year before using LingQ). With those stats at that point, I got almost perfect scores in all four sections of the B1 exam (25/30 in each section).

With that in mind, having about a third of that vocabulary, speaking, and listening experience would have been much too little to pass, in my opinion.


I find myself more and more aligned with what user aronald posted here: https://www.lingq.com/en/community/forum/premium-access-forum/intermediate-and-advanced

Speaking (hrs) Listening (hrs) Reading (words)
10 50 250000 A1
20 100 500000 A2
40 200 1000000 B1
80 400 2000000 B2
160 800 4000000 C1
320 1600 8000000 C2
640 3200 16000000 C2+

For French I find myself roughly - I haven’t taken any tests, but based on feeling - around C1 level for reading at 3.5 mil words read, and listening at 600 hours listened (listening not quite as good as reading is apparent though). I feel a big gap with my speaking ability and would estimate at only around the B2 mark at only around 80 hours speaking (but do have experience in classroom setting speaking years ago).

In the end however, they’re all just reference points to pin point yourself somewhere on an imaginary ladder.


If you are living outside of the country that speaks your target language, and don’t have the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the language I agree with you.

On the other hand, I am living in Italy- in an area where few people speak English (my native language)- and before moving here I knew a few nouns and that’s about it. After about 5-6 months I can understand simple speech, and read simple texts with 70-80% comprehension. I have not taken a test to determine my “official” level, and I would not say that I am fluent by any means- there are still a lot of things I don’t understand. I would say that I think that it is possible that I would pass B1 in speaking, listening and reading, not so sure about writing because I struggle to not use American phonetics when I try to spell Italian words.

I started LingQ about 5 months ago, and I use it 1-2 hours just about every day for reading/ taking the quizzes and play my playlist a lot. I also watch TV and movies almost exclusively in Italian and Italian is the most spoken language in my home- my husband occasionally likes to use English to try to improve his English, but mainly we speak Italian. I also do language exchange lessons with several people, usually 30 minutes of each language 3-4 times a week.

Would I pass a B1 right now? I’m not sure, and as I have a little over a year before I am eligible for citizenship and have to pass a B1 level I probably won’t start looking to take a test for at least another 6-8 months. I would not call myself a genius, but having no choice but to use your target language makes it a lot easier to learn.


@EliStronza Take the B1 practice exam in my post! Just try it out. It’ll take less than an hour. It’s simple to do and requires no stress.

With regard to your situation, I think it’s not so much about living in Italy, but rather you live with an Italian. You live in the Little Italy of your flat. :wink:

@rhess Yeah, I wouldn’t pass the speaking or writing portion either, for sure. I’m not sure what you did last year before LingQ, but having a quick squiz at your LingQ stats, in June you would’ve probably had about the 700k words read in June too. 700k words read and 175 hours of listening are very similar to my current stats. But what did you do in the first year, before LingQ?

Before LingQ, I primarily just did Duolingo, then after finishing the Duolingo course, I did Clozemaster and read a few short novels for a few months, then found LingQ.

I would estimate my true words read is something like 150k words more than what LingQ shows, and my listening is probably 30-40 hours more because of the reading and listening I did before I found LingQ. That being said, an extra 150k & 30-40 hours isn’t that crazy of a difference compared to my current stats.

All this to say that, based on my experience and on your experience you described in the post, I think LingQ’s Intermediate 1 level is the bare minimum for passing a B1 exam. I think Intermediate 2 would be the minimum for comfortably passing.


@nfera- little bit of both, it’s Italian at home and Italian when I go places. I have yet to find many places (other than the company I get my cell service through) that there are fluent English speakers, so I have to muddle through with my bad Italian. There are some things I won’t even try yet (like taking to our car insurance agency or the bank), I leave those things to my husband. But can I handle going shopping without him- for the most part yes, although occasionally I do have to look something up on my phone either because I don’t know what it is called in Italian, or Italy doesn’t have what I was specifically looking for (mostly with food) and I am looking for a suitable substitute.

I did save the link and when I have a little extra time. I do intend to try the exam you posted- I’ve found a few written ones when I have searched, but your link was the first listening one I had seen.

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I think you would have to define what you mean by a “decent conversational level” my friend.
I had a “decent” conversation with a romanian guy in an airport with me speaking Spanish and him speaking Romanian and understanding was likely close to 40%. We still managed with effort and a lot of patience.

With a close-to language I think you can definitely have a just-met-a-stranger type of conversation with about 400-500 hours of audio under your belt though you probably could not discuss solyenitsen or philosophy.

With a far-from language, yes forget it. I can more or less understand classroom Russian but speak like a halting 3 year old and on the subway the other day I heard a group of Russians speaking among themselves. I got like 30 percent.



4-6 hours PER DAY for a YEAR?? and only reach “decent” conversation level? If decent conversation level means reading shakespeare then sure. But depending on your mother tongue, at that many hours per day, you should have no problem understanding 50-80% of any newspaper in your target language in about 2-4 months(depending on the language, maybe a month)…unless its chinese in which the written part is the hardest to get even decent at.

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CEFR is a standardized test. It’s just a snapshot of where you are at in Italian at the time. As for Lingq’s comparability to these levels, I would say it depends on the content you use in Lingq. If all I did was watch coding tutorials in spanish, I’d get really good at that one topic because it is my interest. But most people I would think, like myself, don’t expose themselves willingly to a diverse range of topics like these standardized tests do. Which isn’t a con unless the goal is only to take a test.

So it’s nearly impossible to asses YOUR level in Italian because I don’t know what kind of Italian content you listen to. Then again, if all you did was consume practice tests in Italian on Lingq, then you would do better and reach that level. But would you feel like you learned any Italian? Or would you feel more like you just learned a standardized test? This happened a lot in my high school for spanish. Kids would just study a test, and not the actual language. They did better than even the native speakers sometimes lol.

I tend to agree and think that 4-6 hours per day is a chunk of time. The FSI reckons even difficult languages you should get to “competence” within 2,200 hours. 5 hours a day at 365 days in a year is 1,825 hours. That’s pretty close to 2,200 hours.

The devil is in the details though. If you spent those 1,825 hours doing the type of crap they do in high schools you’d still only be able to pass tests and understand nothing and not be able to speak.

If you only read i.e. just read on lingQ and do no listening or attempts to practice speaking you’d like be able to read almost anything at the end. Assuming of course you laddered up from the easiest material and gradually made your way through the next more difficult and the next. Doing material that is too difficult for you won’t work.

If you only listened then you’d probably understand almost everything (same caveat on laddering up).

Speaking is the wierd one: some languages have features in them that make them hard to speak unless you put effort into identifying exactly what the difficulty is and then focusing on it. Examples are Russian and Mandarin.
Russian has certain phonemes that are not found in English so although you can kind of ignore them when listening, the same is not true when speaking. If you munge two similar sounding (but totally different) phonemes together in Russian, you might not be understood. Russian also has grammatical features that you can kind of ignore and get the jist if you are listening but will kill you if you ignore them when speaking. I’m talking about cases.

Mandarin is worse in some aspects. It has phonemes that are radically different (many more than Russian does) and it has tones. Like Russian you can probably ignore the tones and different phonemes and you will be able to understand spoken speech but no way will you be able to speak without paying specific attention to the differences and making sure you get them right.

Likely Arabic is like this too, but with additional complications.

So it depends on the method. There are crappy inefficient methods that are time sinks and there are relatively good, relatively efficient methods.

But if you’re using one of the relatively efficient methods, 4-6 hours a day should get you very close to functional. Way beyond basic conversation. Unless what you mean by “conversational” is “can hold a conversation on ANY topic”.

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“CEFR is a standardized test. […] if all you did was consume practice tests in Italian on Lingq, then you would do better and reach that level. […] This happened a lot in my high school for spanish. Kids would just study a test, and not the actual language. They did better than even the native speakers sometimes”

So are you saying that because CEFR is a standardised test (and people can just game it, as in your example with Spanish) it’s useless? If I told you that this was the first and only language proficiency test I took and looked up, would that mean much?

“So it’s nearly impossible to asses YOUR level in Italian because I don’t know what kind of Italian content you listen to.”

Do you think that correctly identifying, in my case 3,227 out of 4,998, high-frequency vocabulary that it does nothing to assess my level in Italian?

If you passed the test then your level is what the test says and that’s what the OP was asking: is it equivalent? And it appears to be in your case.

As far as what others say? meh.

Folks (including me) tend to give their opinions on here so take other opinions with a pinch of salt.

No its not useless. Companies, govts, and schools need a way to standardize the levels of people attending or working for them. When I wanted to go to german college, they told me I needed to pass a test. But if I just want to watch tv shows and converse with germans, a test isn’t necessary(unless you just want to do one for fun). One gets tested every time they speak with a native, assuming they get corrected.

The frequency vocabulary is a better way of gauging your progress with Italian in general as its directly based on common speech. But depending on the level of the test, as in the higher you are testing for, the less those frequency lists matter because questions are encouraged to test all sorts of topics with varying difficulty.

I’m just not a fan of language tests lol. But I still appreciate the case study. It’s cool to see others progressing. Especially in a language like italian which I hear is one of the more difficult romance languages.

I agree. So much of the “time it takes to learn x language” is highly conflated with what I think is just bad study habits. Too many exercises, grammar, and boring content. I’m so grateful to be alive during the time of this website which is basically automating what I was originally doing of making flashcards and looking at the dictionary for every new word I encountered. It’s seamless.