Set a goal of taking a C1-C2 exam in one year or less (even if you don’t actually take it, pretend like you are). Go through B2 and C1 preparation and take practice exams at the end of every month to check your progress.
Here’s how we recommend to do it:
Start with the level you feel you are at and schedule a practice test, B1. Find a tutor or a program that can help you by giving you the oral part and grading your written component. You might need someone at home to time you and help you with the listening comprehension. Be strict with yourself. For all portions of the exam except the oral, do it all at once as if you were taking the test.
You must stick to the time limits. If you pass well, then you are good to go! Next, start working on the B2 material. If you do not pass B1 or if you just barely pass it, then you have an excellent evaluation of where you need to put most of your effort. If you pass, then you can start working on the material for the next level. Give yourself regular practice tests (every two weeks or so) but omit the oral part because you should be doing those 3 minute monologues from B2.
It’s difficult, it’s hard work, and it’s humbling, but it gets results.
There is a reason such a phrase exists in the language learning field:
“If it hurts, do it until it doesn’t hurt any more.”
What that means is that we frequently avoid doing the things that would provide us the most benefit because they are hard for us to do. People will use every excuse they can. “That’s not how I like to learn.” or “I’m just not good at that.” or “I don’t have time to write unit tests because I’m too busy with my own things.” But all those are excuses we use to keep us from having to do the things that we find most disagreeable – and they are disagreeable because we are not good at them. But we are not good at them because we don’t do them frequently.
If you are not breaking into B2, it’s because you are not forcing yourself to perform at a higher level than what you are now. These suggestions force you to perform activities in the language. They aren’t focused on learning about the language, you’ll still need to do that, but instead they get you to do things in the language: write a summary, give a monologue, listen to a one minute recording and respond to questions about what you heard. In doing all that, you will constantly be reminded of how hard it actually is, until one day it just isn’t any more. You can’t get there simply by learning about the language, you have to use it.
If you decide to follow these recommendations, do it in what we call “sprints”. Take two or three months and plan it out and then give yourself some time to relax. Still use the language every day, but you will simply burn out if you try doing this kind of intensive work for more than 90 days.