It’s a right laugh, this. When I first started teaching ten years ago, leaners went from Beginner (no English) to Elementary (a bit) to Pre-Intermediate (getting there) to Intermdiate (lift off!) to Upper Intermediate (might reasonably try to get an English teacher out on a date) to Advanced. They might then think of the dizzy heights of a high IELTS score or a Proficiency exam.
Either because the world’s become more complicated or because my understanding of it is more sophisticated, this will no longer do.
There’s Skills for Life which ranges from Pre-Entry, through three Entry Levels and onto Level 2 (it goes beyond that, but after Level 2 you’re as near to a native speaker as makes no difference). And there are IELTS scores 0 to 9. And the Common European Framework: Three bands, A-C, each divided into two (why not just A-F I don’t know) and each has a friendly name (from “Breakthrough” to “Mastery”). ...And then City and Guilds International ESOL, from Preliminary to Mastery. And Trinity's Integrated Skills in English - which is at least no-nonsense, going from IES 0 to IES III.
The CEF is the big kid on the block though. Theoretically, Trinity and C&G and everyone else should be providing materials and testing on that framework. I’m spending my days drafting a placement test which fits into its descriptors. Which sounds awkward, and is.