Language Tests for Canadian Immigration: IELTS, CELPIP & TEF
Published on: February 20th, 2017
Last updated: July 25th, 2022
Almost every category of economic immigration to Canada requires the results of a language test in order to apply. The version of the test that you need to take, and the score you need to get, depend on the specific program you are applying under.
IELTS, CELPIP, or TEF?
For Canadian immigration, you have to provide language test results from an authorized organization. There are two authorized test providers in English, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP). If you want to take your language test in French, you must take the Test d’évaluation de français (TEF).
IRCC does not have a preferred test. Since results from all three tests are valued equally, you can choose to take whichever test is more convenient for you.
No matter which language test you take, the results must be from within the last two years (24 months) to be valid.
IELTS, CELPIP and TEF all assign a score for each of four language abilities: listening, reading, writing and speaking.
Canada is a bilingual country, so you may be able to increase your eligibility by submitting test results in both official languages, English and French. However, you do not need to be bilingual to qualify to immigrate to Canada.
IELTS is an internationally available English proficiency test. We usually recommend our clients take the IELTS for their immigration file, and provide them with IELTS training, because there are many testing centers around the world. There are two categories of IELTS: General Training and Academic. For Canadian immigration, you should take the IELTS – General Training. IELTS results provide a score for each language ability, as well as an overall band score that averages your results in each ability. For Canadian immigration purposes, your overall band score does not matter.
CELPIP was designed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Unlike the IELTS, which are designed for international English proficiency, the CELPIP was designed for Canadian English, which contains elements of British English and American English, as well as Canadian accents. There are two CELPIP test types: the General Test and the General LS Test. For immigration, you have to take the CELPIP – General Test. Originally, the CELPIP could only be taken from within Canada, but it’s now expanded internationally with test centers in United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Philippines, India, China, and the United States.
If you are a native French speaker, or would prefer to submit language test results demonstrating French proficiency, you must take the TEF. There are two types of TEF available: the TEF and the TEFAQ. We usually recommend that you take the TEF. The TEFAQ is only accepted for Quebec immigration, while the TEF is accepted by both Quebec and federal immigration.
In October 2020, Canadian government increased the number of points awarded to Express Entry candidates with strong French proficiency. If you are trying to improve your ranking in the Express Entry pool, scoring well on one of Canada’s accepted French language exams can significantly increase your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score.
What Score do I Need?
Most Canadian economic immigration programs have minimum language requirements, but they are not all the same. The score you need to get will depend on the program you’re applying to.
In addition to minimum requirements, many programs also operate on points systems. Points may be awarded for things like age, work experience, and education, in addition to language proficiency. Depending on your profile, the language test score you need to qualify could be different from the minimum requirement.
Our advice is to give it your best effort. If you don’t like your results, you can also take the test again to try to improve them. The important thing to remember is that these are tests. Even if you are confident in your English or French language ability, you should prepare by studying and doing practice tests.
Canadian Language Benchmark
No matter which test you take, your results will be converted into Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB), or Niveaux de competence linguistique canadiens (NCLC), levels. CLB levels run from 4 (poor) to 10 (excellent). When Canadian immigration programs indicate a language requirement, they usually refer to a CLB level.
Example: Say a program has a minimum language requirement of CLB 4. That means that your lowest score among the four language abilities must be at least CLB 4. If you score below that level on any of the abilities, you will not meet the minimum language requirement.
Learn how to convert your test results to CLB.
At Canadim, we are with you every step of the way. We don’t just prepare our client’s immigration file; we prepare our clients for their new life in Canada too! Our free online assessment can help you discover all of your options to move to Canada permanently.