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Need English test for Canada immigration? Know all about IELTS tests

English test for Canada immigration, job and study visa

English test for Canada immigration – updated article. Many applicants need to take English language proficiency tests to get into a Canadian university or college, a job or to immigrate to Canada.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the world’s most popular English language test and recognized by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). IELTS tests were taken more than three million times during the last 12 months, reaffirming it as the world’s leading English language test.

IELTS is one of two tests approved IRCC for English language proficiency. The other is the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP).

Your IELTS result help IRCC Visa Officers determine whether you have sufficient English language proficiency to properly integrate into Canadian society and the Canadian workforce. 

IELTS is the most popular English test for Canada immigration and highly credible. IELTS is no harder than similar tests such as CELPIP, PTE, TOEFL or any other high-stakes test. The questions are straightforward and designed to assess how well you can use English. 

Over 11,000 organizations worldwide trust IELTS because it as a fair and high-quality test. IELTS results are accepted not only in Canada immigration applications, but also in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Universities in Australia, the UK and the US also recognize IELTS results.

There is no limit to how many times you can take IELTS. And as discussed later, IELTS has a range of official practice materials to help increase your understanding of the test and your overall performance.

Importance of language tests for Express Entry applicantrs

Language proficiency in English or French is crucial to applying to immigrate to Canada under Express Entry immigration pool system and the Provincial Nominee Programs. Completing language test is mandatory for skilled worker candidates to move to Canada. Express Entry is the intake system that Canada uses to manage most immigration applications. It also is the most popular way to immigrate to Canada.

Express Entry draws for Canada permanent residence occur approximately every two weeks. In each draw, Canada issues candidates who score the cut-off minimum CRS score an invitation to apply for permanent residence.

If IRCC approves your PR application and you complete the landing process, you become a Canadian permanent resident.

Understanding the IELTS test format

It is very important to understand the test format and what type of questions to expect.

IELTS conduct exams across the four main language disciplines – speaking, listening, reading and writing. In Canada, the results of the IELTS test correspond to a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) score.

IELTS tests are scored on a 9-band scale from 1 (the lowest) through to 9 (the highest). A score is given for each test section: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. These individual scores are then averaged and rounded to produce an overall band score.

Before you take your test check with your organization what score you need to succeed. This will help guide your preparation and know what score you are aiming for.

Types of IELTS tests

There are two types of IELTS you can take, IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic. IELTS Academic measures English language proficiency for higher learning environment. The tasks and texts are accessible to all test takers, irrespective of their subject focus. IELTS General Training measures English language proficiency in a practical, everyday context. The tasks and texts reflect both workplace and social situations.

Only IELTS General is used for immigration purposes in Canada.

Listening and Speaking are the same however Reading and Writing differ across the two tests. The table below gives a high-level overview of the two tests. Click here for full information on the test format.

 IELTS GeneralIELTS Academic
Listening30 minutes

Four recordings:
1. Conversation between two people
2. Monologue, for example a speech
3. Conversation between four people
4. Monologue i.e. University lecture

40 questions
30 minutes

Four recordings:
1. Conversation between two people
2. Monologue i.e. speech
3. Conversation between four people
4. Monologue i.e. University lecture

40 questions
Reading60 minutes

Three readings from books, magazines, newspapers, materials you would encounter in everyday life.

40 questions
60 minutes

Three readings from books, journals, material you might encounter studying an undergraduate or post graduate level.

40 questions
Writing60 minutes

Two tasks:
1. Respond to a situation for example writing a letter.
2. Write an essay in response to a point of view or argument.
60 minutes

Two tasks:
1. Describe visual (graph/chart) in your own words. (150 words)
2. Respond to a point of view or argument. (250 words)
Speaking11-14 minutes

Three parts:
1. Introduction
2. Discuss a topic
3. Further discussion on topic
11-14 minutes

Three parts:
1. Introduction
2. Discuss a topic
3. Further discussion on topic

English test for Canada immigration – IELTS test scoring

You will get a score for each component (Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking) on a Band Scale from 1–9. The maximum points for English language ability under the Express Entry Federal Skilled Worker eligibility assessment is 16 points. To get there, you will need to score a 7.5 or higher in the listening component and a 6.5 or higher in the other three components.

  • Band 1: Non user
  • Band 2: Intermittent user
  • Band 3: Extremely limited user
  • Band 4: Limited user
  • Band 5: Modest user
  • Band 6: Competent user
  • Band 7: Good user
  • Band 8: Very good user
  • Band 9: Expert user

How IELTS test results correspond to Canadian Benchmark Levels (CLBs)

IELTS test results correspond to CLB scores as follows:

CLB Level 9 – IELTS Listening: 8.0 Reading: 7.0 Writing: 7.0 Speaking: 7.0

CLB Level 8 – IELTS Listening: 7.5 Reading: 6.5 Writing: 6.5 Speaking: 6.5

CLB Level 7 – IELTS Listening: 6.0 Reading: 6.0 Writing: 6.0 Speaking: 6.0

CLB Level 6 – IELTS Listening: 5.5 Reading: 5.0 Writing: 5.5 Speaking: 5.5

CLB Level 5 – IELTS Listening: 5.0 Reading: 4.0 Writing: 5.0 Speaking: 5.0

CLB Level 4 -IELTS Listening: 4.5 Reading: 3.5 Writing: 4.0 Speaking: 4.0

Express Entry language requirements by Program

Federal Skilled Worker Program

You must obtain a minimum level of CLB or NCLC 7 for your first official language in all four language areas. To receive points for your second official language, you must meet the minimum level of CLB or NCLC 5 in all four language areas.

Federal Skilled Trades Program

You must obtain a minimum level of: 

  • CLB or NCLC 5 in speaking and listening abilities, and 
  • CLB or NCLC 4 in reading and writing abilities.

Canadian Experience Class 

The skills you need for this program will depend on the job classification under Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC):

  • NOC 0 or A: CLB / NCLC 7 +
  • NOC B: CLB / NCLC 5 and 6

What are the Express Entry points for languages?

1) First Official Language Express Entry Points

Test scoreWith spouseSingle
CLB 4 (L4.5, R3.5, W4, S4) or 5 (R4, 5 in all others)66
CLB 6 (5 in Reading, 5.5 in all others)89
CLB 7 (6 in all four abilities)1617
CLB 8 (7.5 in Listening, 6.5 in all others)2223
CLB 9 (8 in Listening, 7 in all others)2931
CLB ≥ 10 (L8.5, R8, W7.5, S7.5)3234

2)  Second Official Language Express Entry Points

Test scoreWith spouseSingle
CLB 5 or 611
CLB 7 or 833
CLB ≥ 966

3) Additional Combination Points for Strong French Language

Test scoreWith spouseSingle
CLB 7 in French and CLB 4 or less for English1515
CLB 7 in French and CLB 5 or higher for English3030

See also Language Training for Canada

Practice with free IELTS sample questions

Preparing for your IELTS test is a key to high scores. Once you understand the format and know the score you need it’s time to practice with free official IELTS sample questions. IELTS sample questions are available in paper form and online.

IELTS sample questions help you:

  • Understand the test format
  • Experience the types of tasks you will take in IELTS, and also
  • Review your answers against model answers and check how you performed

You can also significantly increase your preparation level and confidence by taking IELTS official practice test, IELTS Progress Check. IELTS Progress Check practice test is scored by qualified IELTS markers. You will receive feedback and an indicative score within five days. This all helps you understand where you need to improve ahead of IELTS test day.

The benefits of IELTS Progress Check include:

  • Practicing under timed conditions just like it will be on test day
  • Experiencing the full test start to finish: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking
  • Receiving detailed feedback from qualified IELTS markers with indicative band scores for each section and overall
  • Being able to choose between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training

Make sure you’re fully prepared for your IELTS test by practicing your reading, writing, speaking and listening with IELTS free practice materials.

Practice on the go with IELTS free apps filled with free resources right at your fingertips. Download IELTS free app to get a comprehensive IELTS preparation experience. Learn more about each section of the test and practice your skills.

Also, get IELTS test tips and improve your grammar and vocabulary skills so that you can be ready to succeed on test day! Download on the App Store OR Download on Google Play.

Sign up with IELTS to get regular updates on the IELTS preparation resources. Get access to free preparation material and information on how to join IELTS free webinars with IELTS experts to help you learn the skills you need for test day. Sign up now

Consider a language assessment before IELTS test

Finally, before you enroll for IELTS, you should test your current language skills. Visit a language assessment centre in your city and tell them you’re interested in taking language classes. You can also do a self-assessment test to find out your current language level before doing a formal IELTS test.

Where you can take an IELTS tests

IELTS has over 1400 test centres worldwide. To enroll for an IELTS examination, you will need to register with your local IELTS test centre and find out the upcoming test dates and cost.