The notion of ‘proficiency’ is generally taken for granted in ELT. It is widely assumed that proficiency is the goal of language learning and teaching, as is suggested, for example, by the title of the Cambridge ‘Certificate of Proficiency in English’ (CPE), now known as ‘Cambridge English: Proficiency’, with its history of over a hundred years ( Weir, Vidakovic, and Galaczi 2013 ). Another assumption is that levels of proficiency can be identified, at least in broad terms, as implied by the typical division of classes or coursebooks into ‘elementary’, ‘intermediate’ (lower and upper), and ‘advanced’ levels.

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Thus, it is worth unpacking the notion of ‘proficiency’, due to the fundamental role it plays in language teaching, learning, and assessment. It is generally recognized that the concept of proficiency in a second or foreign language comprises the aspects of...

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