There are two types of leveling in Skyrim: character leveling and skill leveling.
Each time the player's character level increases, they are provided the opportunity to make key choices about their abilities. This means the player may choose to increase either Health, Magicka or Stamina by 10 points, and is also given one new perk point to invest in one of 18 different skills (listed below). Each time the player increases a particular skill level, they move closer to gaining a character level. This increases the general effectiveness of that skill, and a certain skill level is usually a prerequisite for many perks to become obtainable.
 Gaining Levels
Leveling your character is not the same as it was in Oblivion - instead, it is based on an experience system related to skills.
As you use a skill, you automatically gain a small amount of experience in that skill (which we will call "Skill XP"), eventually causing that skill to level up. Skill level-ups can also be acquired instantly by training or reading skill books. (Note that each skill book can only be used once.) Every time you level up a skill, you also gain experience toward a character level up (which we call "Character XP", or simply "XP"). Further, increasing the levels of your skills is the only way you are able to increase your character XP. However, leveling up low-level skills offers only a low amount of character XP toward your next level, while leveling up high-level skills offers more. The required amount of character XP needed to gain a character level up increases with your character level.
Unlike in Morrowind and Oblivion, you are not penalized with a lack of attribute bonuses at the time of 'leveling-up' because there are no attributes nor major/minor skills, so accidentally gaining levels before distributing 'points' (skill perks) will have no negative effect. Most content is still leveled (primarily enemy gear), and some players may choose their perks and attribute increases unwisely, so it is still possible to create a character too weak to keep up.
The amount of skill XP you receive from using a skill in a specific way is constant. However, as you increase in skill level, the amount of skill XP required for the next skill level up increases. This is why blocking a few attacks from an Ice Wolf may give you a level up in Block at the beginning of the game when your skill levels are low, but when your Block skill is very high it will take a lot more attacks to level up. In this instance, your Block would level up faster if you blocked an attack from a Giant. Keep in mind that some skills are much easier to level up than others. For instance, you may quickly level the Smithing skill to 100 by crafting nothing but jewelry; it will take a very long time, however, to level One-handed to 100 solely by attacking Skeevers with a specific one-handed weapon. Further, successfully using your skill yields more skill XP than unsuccessfully using it. For example, successfully picking a lock gives you more Lockpicking XP than does breaking your lockpick in the attempt.
Some skills will only increase when there is an active component associated with them:
- Sneak will only increase if you are within range of and are avoiding detection by an entity that would otherwise be aware of your presence, or escaping from one that has detected you. You do not need to move for the skill to increase, though completing actions that are more difficult increase the skill faster, such as moving and, more notably, completing sneak attacks.
- Conjuration derived from Raise Zombie or similar will only increase if the minion engages in combat. Conjuring Bound weapons in combat will increase the skill as well, as will using soul trap on a target that is dead.
- Restoration will only increase if it is replenishing lost life/stamina (with a few exceptions) and will level up faster when in combat.
- Alteration derived from Detect Life will only increase if you are actually detecting life forms with the spell. The more life forms you detect, the faster your skill will go up.
- Destruction from runes will only increase if the runes are triggered. Other destruction spells require a valid target, either a creature or an NPC.
- Pickpocketing increases proportionally to the total value of lifted goods, assuming you are not caught.
- Lockpicking will gain a small increase for every broken pick, and a substantial increase that varies based on lock level versus skill and perk level for every successfully-picked lock.
- Crafting of items, potions and enchantments gives skill increases depending on the result.
Note: Over-training will still grant you level ups even if the progress bar is stuck at 100% (for example: If you start training Illusion from level 1 to Illusion level 44 you will be level 6 once you choose to level up).
 Level and Skill XP Formulae
Level XP is the experience points put towards raising your character's level. Skill XP is the experience points put towards raising your level in a particular skill.
 Level XP
The formula for character leveling is as follows:
- Character XP gained = Skill level acquired
Example: Training Alchemy from 20 to 21 gives 21 Character XP points
- XP required to level up your character = (Current level + 3) * 25
Example: 100 XP is required to advance from level 1 to level 2, and 1300 XP is required to advance from level 49 to 50. This is consistent across all levels. (70→71 follows the same formula as 3→4)
 Skill XP
The skill XP needed for the next skill level is almost proportional to the square of the skill level:
Skill Improve Mult * skill level1.95 + Skill Improve Offset
Using a skill gives XP according to
Skill Use Mult * base XP + Skill Use Offset (?)
Values are given in the following table: [verification needed — values don't match with values found in the CK]
|Skill||Skill Use Mult||Skill Use Offset||Skill Improve Mult||Skill Improve Offset||Total base XP from 15 -> 100||Sources of XP|
"Base Magicka" refers to the base cost of the spell. "Raw damage" refers to the damage before armor is taken into account.
 Leveling Decisions
You are notified when you are eligible to level up. When you accept the new level—which updates to the highest level you have currently earned—your character is fully healed, regaining any Health, Magicka, and Stamina that was depleted. You can choose whether to do this immediately, or whether to use the level-up strategically to take maximum advantage of the healing bonuses. In addition, you can level up anywhere; unlike in Oblivion or Morrowind, sleeping is not necessary. Note that when you do choose to level, you will be raised to the highest level earned through skill progression; so if you have progressed four levels since you last chose to level up, you will gain all four of those levels the next time you open the skills tab.
When leveling up, you are able to make two permanent character changes:
- One attribute (Health, Magicka, Stamina) can be increased by 10 points. This choice is prompted for upon going to the perk and skill screen and leveling; if you gained 4 levels you will be prompted to make 4 choices in succession.
- One skill perk can be unlocked. Skill Perks do NOT need to be used when leveling and may be saved for a later time. This allows you to either utilize perk choices for immediate benefit in skills for which you meet the minimum or to upgrade other paths once those requirements are met.
It should be emphasized that the attribute choice is permanent barring future modification of the game or additional content, or use of the developer console on the PC version of the game. Perks can be reset by reaching 100 in the appropriate skill and making it legendary (see Patch 1.9). Since skill gain contributes to the earning of perks as general choices, it is possible to utilize a gain in unrelated skills to progress through other perk paths should that be desirable.
- With the Dragonborn expansion installed, it is possible to reset your perks after you have completed the main Dragonborn questline. Doing so will consume one dragon soul, and will allow you to clear all perks from one skill tree, refunding them to you. This process can be repeated as many times as desired, provided you have the dragon souls.
Enter the skill screen by pressing Tab and selecting "Skills" (2x Up-Arrow or W-key), or alternately by hitting the ?/-key. Once on the screen, you can navigate through skills either by using the movement keys (A, D, W, S) or clicking with your mouse.
Make sure the skill to which you would like to add a perk is centered on the screen and the constellation is visible. This brings up the perk tree for that skill. Navigate to the perk you wish to add. To add the perk, click directly on the star below the text. This will bring up a pop-up screen that you can answer with "Yes" (Enter) to add the perk or "No" (Tab) to cancel.
 Maximum Level
At higher levels, leveling up happens much more slowly. Level increases in Skyrim follow a formula (detailed above in the Gaining Levels section). Prior to Patch 1.9 the maximum level was 81, since there was no way to gain any more experience once every skill reached its maximum value of 100.
With Patch 1.9, individual skills can be made "Legendary", denoting them with an Imperial symbol. This will reset the skill to 15, and perks used for that skill may be redistributed. Gaining levels in that skill will affect leveling again, thus effectively removing the level cap of 81. There is no restriction on the number of times that skills can be made Legendary. This change makes it theoretically possible to obtain every single perk in the game.
According to the formulae, training one individual skill all the way from 15 to 100 (one mastering cycle) yields 4,930 XP. This amount of XP is enough to level from 1 to 17, or from 194 to 195. Leveling up to 252 (unlocking all perks) would take a total of 809,475 XP. This corresponds to over 164 skill mastering cycles, or mastering every skill over 9 times. The proper approach to such a huge task would be to find the easiest skill to raise and to exclusively focus on that for leveling purposes.
 Effects of Leveling
Various aspects of the game are leveled. This means that as your character increases in level, some enemies become more challenging but also the quality of the items you find becomes better. However, the leveling system in Skyrim has been altered from that used in Oblivion, in response to criticisms of Oblivion's leveling system.
Different locations in Skyrim have different inherent difficulties. In other words, some dungeons are designed to be too difficult for low-level characters to enter. More challenging dungeons are generally located at higher elevations, meaning that early in the game, players may want to avoid mountainous regions. However, more difficult dungeons contain better rewards. In addition, some high-quality items can be randomly found even early in the game.
The level of a given dungeon is fixed the first time you enter it. Therefore, places that you enter early in the game will always contain relatively weak enemies, even if you return to the same dungeon at the end of the game. If you increase primarily non-combat skills such as Smithing or Pickpocket too early, your character will level up from those skills, causing you to meet tougher enemies without you having the combat skills you need to beat them. It is better to wait to level secondary skills until after your primary combat skills are built up.
In addition, all leveled enemies are generated more like leveled creatures in Fallout. For example, Bandit NPCs are always a fixed level for their name (Bandits are level 1, Bandit Thugs are level 9, Bandit Highwaymen are level 14, etc). The player's level affects the range of possible bandit types generated within a bandit dungeon, and probably the frequency, but does not seem to affect the resulting stats except in a few rare cases. Lower variant bandits remain reasonably common even when more dangerous bandits are available.
Enemy types also seem to reach a plateau where they stop getting stronger. The strongest bandits (non-boss) are mid-20s. The strongest generic vampire is 54, and guards seem to stop scaling at 50. This implies that the difficulty of many areas will not increase beyond certain levels, except perhaps in frequency of difficult encounters. In other words, dungeons have a level range, where if you do not meet the level requirement, you will face the lowest range of the dungeon. For instance, if a dungeon is ranged from level 15 to 25, and you are level 10, you will face creatures in the dungeon scaled at level 15.
 Leveling Exploits
 Trainer Pickpocketing
Train using a skill trainer and then pickpocket your gold back.
Without any pickpocket perks, this only works up to skill level 30 or so. The highest you can go with this "exploit" is level 76. Even with a full complement of pickpocketing perks (Light Fingers 5/5: +100% chance to pickpocket, Night Thief: +25% chance to pickpocket if NPC is asleep, Cut Purse: +50% chance to steal gold), 100 pickpocket, and Thieves Guild armor (+15% pickpocket), and the NPC sleeping, it is usually impossible (0% chance) to pickpocket back the nearly 4k in gold it costs to train skill level 77. There are a couple of ways to get around this limitation:
- You can use the Unrelenting Force shout to knock down the trainer, and then pickpocket them while they are getting back up (even though the menu still displays 0% chance, you cannot fail). However, you should save your game first as sometimes (though not often) this method will cause NPCs to attack you.
- You can put a Paralysis poison in the NPC's inventory and then steal the gold, and they won't attack you.
Keep in mind that only 5 skill points may be trained at a trainer per level across all skills. At higher levels, 5 skill increases will earn only a small portion of the experience needed to level. The remaining skill increases you need to level must still be earned normally. Thus, the spending of 7 perk points in pickpocketing to maximize this method has a fairly poor return when compared to doing a dungeon crawl or two (at higher levels) for the 25,000+ gold you need for 5 training points.
 Trainer Followers
Notably, there are 5 trainers (3 expert: Archery, Block, One-handed, 2 master: Heavy Armor, Two-handed) in the Companions headquarters (Jorrvaskr) in Whiterun who are eligible to become your follower after you complete the Companions quest line. Faendal in Riverwood may also be recruited as your follower if you complete his quest in his favor, and he is a common Archery trainer.
 Trainer Bartering
There are several trainers who also sell merchandise - there are many at the College of Winterhold, for instance. Once you have access to an enchanting table, it is fairly inexpensive to enchant an iron dagger with a petty soul gem and a spell like Banish, yet these sell for a lot of money. Simply make several items like these, ask the trainer to train you as normal, and then ask what they have for sale and get your gold back by selling them the enchanted daggers.
 Oghma Infinium
- This exploit has been removed by version 188.8.131.52.8 of the Official Skyrim Patch.
- Activate an empty book shelf to access the book shelf menu.
- Find the Oghma Infinium in your inventory, and open it.
- Choose any path (The Path of Might to level Combat skills, The Path of Shadow to level Stealth skills, or The Path of Magic to level Magic skills).
- Store the Oghma Infinium on the bookshelf.
- Leave the book shelf menu.
- Activate the Oghma Infinium on the book shelf.
- Select (Do Not Read).
- Take the book off the shelf
Repeat the above until you are satisfied with the amount of levels you have gained.
 Alternate method
[verification needed — see]
- Find an open chest that is not claimed. Cupboards and even pots will work.
- Open the container.
- Find the book in your inventory and read it, choosing a path.
- Close the book and store it.
- Close the container, then open it immediately.
- Take the Oghma Infinium back out.
In the course of this quest, when you activate the focal points with the Tuning Gloves, you may be given a potent magicka recovery bonus (paradoxically from what should have been a Drain Magicka effect) for two hours that lets you cast and recover instantly. This can be used to cast expensive spells over and over to gain levels, if given the appropriate circumstances.
 100% Magicka Reduction
After getting your Enchanting skill level to 100 (or close to it, and using a potion of Fortify Enchanting), you can create pieces of armor with 25% cost reduction bonuses for any school of magic. As such, with four pieces (head, chest, ring, neck) enchanted thusly, you can gain 100% cost reduction, making casting any spell in that school entirely free. The following methods are high cost, high XP spells for quickly leveling magical skills this way:
- For increasing Alteration, use Telekinesis to carry an object in front of you while you walk, or repeatedly cast Waterbreathing while standing in water at least knee-deep. Casting Detect Life in a crowded city will continuously level Alteration, limited in this circumstance only by your patience.
- For increasing Illusion, Muffle is great at all levels, while Fear spells are better at higher levels.
- For increasing Conjuration, enter combat with anything and repeatedly cast the highest cost Conjure spell you can.
- For increasing Restoration, casting Equilibrium (to drain health) in one hand and any healing spell in your other hand will level it rapidly.
- For increasing Destruction, just repeatedly blast away at things with your most magicka-expensive spell in that school.
 Gaining Skill XP
- For tips on how to train skills effectively, please refer to the respective section of the individual Skill page.
- See the Free Skill Boosts page for details on free boosts to certain skills.
Achievements related to leveling are: