English by Crystal

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What is a Lexile Level anyway?

There are many different ways to measure how easy or difficult a text is to read, and the Lexile Level system is one tool you can use to compare the difficulty of a text with other texts.

Reading is an important skill to have when learning a new language. And reading can be a great way to consume English content while also enjoying yourself. Unfortunately, though, it can be difficult to know what kinds of books are accessible when you’re learning English. You want to choose a text that is interesting and understandable so you can enjoy it. But you don’t want to read something super simple and boring.

Teachers sometimes use the Lexile Level system to help determine a learner’s reading ability and progress throughout a course. Learners can also use Lexile Levels to guide their own learning! This post was written with learners in mind, but teachers might also find some of the information useful.

Let’s get into it!

What is a Lexile Level?

A Lexile Level is a number assigned to a text based on complexity. Sentence length, structure, and the type of vocabulary used in the text impact the Lexile Level. Lower Lexile Level numbers generally mean a text is easier to read than texts with higher Lexile Level numbers.

What is a Lexile Code?

There are also Lexile Level codes that can give you additional information about the type of text. The Lexile Codes are:

AD: Adult Directed: Better when read aloud to a student rather than having the student read independently.
NC: Non-Conforming: Good for high-ability readers who still need age-appropriate content.
HL: High-Low: Content to engage older students who need materials that are less complex and at a lower reading level.
IG: Illustrated Guide: Nonfiction materials often used for reference.
GN: Graphic Novel: Graphic novels or comic books.
BR: Beginning Reader: Appropriate for emerging readers with a Lexile reader measure below 0L.
NP: Non-Prose: Poems, plays, songs, recipes, and text with non-standard or absent punctuation.

These two letter codes will appear before the Lexile Level number, and they can give you a little more information about the type of text you’re about to read.

How are these things useful for English learners?

The HL (High-Low) code might be most useful for teenage or adult English learners because these types of texts have content that is perhaps more interesting for older learners. Often the language used in these types of texts is a bit easier to understand and less complex than texts written at a higher level.

Let’s look at an example. A text with the Lexile Level HL660L would be somewhat easier to read than a text with an HL730L Lexile Level. Teen or adult readers would likely find the themes and content of these books interesting, but the language would be accessible and less complex than texts at a higher level.

Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso has a lower Lexile Level than One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus, but they both have the HL Lexile Code.

Ok, but how can you use this information?

Essentially, these numbers can help you compare how easy or difficult a text is with other texts. As you begin reading more texts, you can get a feel for which level is most comfortable for you.

Not ALL books are listed on the Lexile website, but you can search for titles of texts you want to read using the Find A Book tool. If you search for a title, you can see the Lexile Level as well as other useful information about the text. The image below shows what the Find a Book tool looks like on the website.

Screenshot of the hub.lexile.com search page

Finally, the Lexile Levels assigned to texts sort of align with proficiency levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

The table below gives ranges of Lexile Level numbers that correspond with CEFR levels. The information in the table comes from a research study. The “Student Aggregate Range” is the Lexile Level range that the subjects in the study demonstrated. The “Graded Reader Text Aggregate Range (IQR)” aligns with the Lexile Level of graded readers targeting the different CEFR levels.

Image taken from The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and The Lexile® Framework for Reading

Using the example texts we looked at previously, both Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso (HL660L) and One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus (HL730L) fall within the B2 CEFR band.

Whew! That’s a lot of information to process!

When choosing texts to read, you can look at the Lexile Level and decide whether it will be easy enough for you to read based on your CEFR level. The Lexile Level can be a tool to help you choose texts that are likely to be at the right reading level for you.

Remember! If you don’t know your CEFR level or don’t care about how it relates to what you’re reading, you can use Lexile Levels to compare the texts you are reading, to see how different books, for example, compare to each other.

When choosing something to read in English, you need to choose something that feels right for you. Whether you want to do extensive reading, intensive reading, or reading for fun, it can be useful to consider how difficult a text will be to read.


You can find more information about Lexile Levels on the Lexile Framework for Reading website.

To learn more about CEFR and your language proficiency, you could use the self-assessment on the Council of Europe website. Just choose the language that you want to see the self-assessment grid displayed.

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