If you are planning to immigrate to Canada, you know that language proficiency is one of the immigration requirements. High results on the language proficiency test can, in fact, make a big difference in your Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS).
There are two options to meet English language skills requirements: taking the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test. Both tests are accepted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada; the question is, which is the best test for you?
We broke down each test and their components below for your convenience.
About the Tests
Both IELTS and CELPIP are designed to measure the English language proficiency of test-takers. The tests include four categories that capture the main aspects of the language: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.
- CELPIP test was designed specifically to assess key language skills required for Canadian permanent residency and citizenship. The test uses Canadian English and accepts both British and American English spellings for its components. If you are taking CELPIP to apply through Express Entry, the CELPIP-General Training (four-skills tests) is required.
- IELTS is used for study, work and immigration. It recognizes both British and American English for spelling, word choice and grammar, and uses a mix of accents from native speakers throughout the test. IELTS is available in more than 140 countries and is divided into IELTS Academic (used for education) and IELTS General Training (used for migration to an English-speaking country). If you are taking IELTS to apply through Express Entry, the IELTS General Training test is required.
CELPIP and IELTS are both approved and accepted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). The final test score is compared to the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB), which demonstrates national language standards for recognizing a second language. Below is the CLB comparison chart from the CIC website.
For more information about the specific language requirements and the CLB, please visit the CIC website.
Key Test Components
Below is a comparison table of the key components of the tests:
The interesting thing about the CELPIP test is the fact that the Listening and Reading sections contain a few unscored items that are used for test development and improvement. According to the CELPIP website, unscored items are indistinguishable from the regular scored questions and can be found anywhere within those two test sections.
Both tests have different preparation materials available for the students to both get ready for the test and to better understand the test style and format.
- IELTS has different practice tests and sample test questions available on the IELTS website. You could also purchase IELTS materials to study on your own or take preparation classes. Vancouver residents also have access to IELTS workshops.
- CELPIP is a younger test compared to IELTS, but it still has various options to prepare for the test. You can take sample tests or preparation programs to make sure that you are ready for the exam. Vancouver residents may also register for a pretest for the Listening and Reading sections of the test.
Making Your Choice
There are several factors to consider when choosing which test to take. The table highlighting those factors is included below.
1. Location and Availability
Both CELPIP and IELTs are very accessible in Canada. CELPIP has 33 locations across Canada, in all provinces except Prince Edward Island (the test locations are currently unavailable in the three Canadian territories YT, NU, NT). They have also recently opened a location in the UAE in Dubai. IELTS has 119 locations, but only in five Canadian provinces (ON, QC, MB, AB and BC). It is important to remember that some locations only offer IELTs Academic, which is not accepted for Express Entry. On the other hand, only IELTS is available outside of Canada.
The availability of both tests is given months in advance, so it is easy to plan ahead. The frequency of the tests offered depends on the specific province and the city.
CELPIP exam price is less than IELTS. The cost of CELPIP-General test is $265 plus tax. IELTS price in Canada is $309 (including tax); however, certain places in Canada have a higher fee (e.g. $319 in Niagara Region and Windsor). Outside of Canada, IELTS has different prices, depending on the country in which it is offered.
3. Test and Result Times
The time it takes to complete all the sections of the CELPIP and IELTS tests is approximately the same: around 3 hours. However, the duration of the actual tests differs.
- CELPIP is conducted in one 3-hour sitting. Since it is done on the computer, it is easy to keep track of how much time is left for each of the tasks. When going by sections, CELPIP seems to have longer Listening and Speaking sections and a slightly shorter Writing section. However, keep in mind that the CELPIP time breakdowns include the question, answer and transition times.
- IELTS test takers, on the other hand, do not necessarily complete all the test components on the same day. Although three of the test sections are completed in the same test room, the Speaking section is done separately at a different time, day and possibly location (it can be taken up to a week before or after the other sections). There is also no automatic computerized time tracking, and the times presented in the table above may not include the transition times between the test sections and components.
The results take 13 calendar days for IELTs and 10-12 calendar days for CELPIP. If you are short on time and money is not an issue, CELPIP also has an express rating system: the score is available in three (3) business days for an extra $100 fee (plus applicable taxes).
Both IELTS and CELPIP were designed to measuring English language proficiency; the level of difficulty is approximately the same in both tests. However, certain sections can be viewed as easier or more difficult by individual test-takers. Here are a few differences that can be noted:
- IELTS is a paper-based exam, while CELPIP is completely computerized. It may be more comforting for some people to do the writing section on paper and to keep track of their own time. Others, on the other hand, feel less pressure by the computer and prefer typing and being able to see their timing and word count. Also, the CELPIP test includes spell check in the writing component, which could be found useful by some applicants.
- CELPIP test uses Canadian speakers, while IELTS test includes native speakers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US in their Listening section. Some non-native speakers may find the CELPIP Listening section more understandable. Also, when taking CELPIP, one is able to adjust the volume in the headphones for the Listening section to suit their needs.
- IELTS Speaking section includes a live conversation with an examiner, while during CELPIP you record your voice on the computer. Some non-native speakers prefer talking to an examinator, while others feel more comfortable without the face-to-face interaction.
Both exams, offer online samples of their work and have prep courses across Canada. It may still be easier to find preparation materials for IELTS, since CELPIP is still relatively new. However, CELPIP prep courses seem to be more prevalent in Canada, and you can be sure of their quality when they are accredited by Paragon Testing Enterprises, the creators of the CELPIP Test.
Both of the tests are equally appropriate to be used for your immigration application, and choosing one over the other can be a matter of personal preference. IELTS is a good choice for the test-takers who prefer paper-based exams and separate face-to-face speaking components, or those applying from outside of Canada. However, based on the analysis above, CELPIP is a better choice for those who prefer a computer-based exam and are looking for a faster and less stressful test experience.
The article was updated on February 15 to reflect the changes in the IELTS and CELPIP exams.
Accredited CELPIP Preparation Program
Ashton College offers an Accredited CELPIP Preparation Program, designed to prepare students for individual components of the CELPIP-General and the CELPIP-General LS tests.