CAEL test - What is it?

June 12, 2023


  • Sinethemba Phongolo

The CAEL English test was first introduced in 1987 to address the need for an English language proficiency test that is specifically designed for academic contexts. Since then, it has been widely accepted by Canadian universities and colleges as an alternative to other language proficiency tests such as the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

The CAEL test was first developed and distributed by Carleton University. The CAEL English test is becoming increasingly prominent as an alternative submission for Canada’s immigration language testing criteria.

Among these immigration streams, the Student Direct Stream has initiated a policy of accepting CAEL test scores as a way to prove your English language proficiency skills.

Here is a comprehensive guide about CAEL, a Canadian English Language Test that you can submit to the Student Direct Stream (SDS) if you’re from an eligible country.

What is CAEL?

The Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) test is a standardized English language proficiency test for admission to Canadian universities and colleges. As an internationally recognized language test, it assesses the English language proficiency of international students seeking to study in Canada.

The CAEL exam assesses a student's English language proficiency before enrolling in a Canadian tertiary institution. The test is one of the best methods to determine an international student's English proficiency.

The CAEL test accurately represents English proficiency used in Canada’s academic and professional settings.

What is the Student Direct Stream?

The Student Direct Stream (SDS) is a study permit processing program for immigrants applying to study in Canada’s tertiary designated learning institutions. International students receive their study permits faster using the Student Direct Stream program. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) processes most SDS applications within 20 calendar days.

Only electronically submitted applications are eligible for expedited SDS processing. Paper applications are processed through the regular study permit application stream and follow its application processing times. The SDS is available to legal residents who reside in select eligible countries.

To be eligible to apply for the student direct stream, you first need to be from any one of the following eligible countries:

Eligible Countries for SDS
China Antigua and Barbuda
India Brazil
Morocco Colombia
Pakistan Costa Rica
The Philippines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Senegal Peru
Vietnam Trinidad and Tobago

What is the format of the CAEL Test?

The CAEL test assesses your English language proficiency in four key areas: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. In the Listening section, you will listen to various academic lectures, discussions, and conversations and answer questions based on the content.

In the Reading section, you will read various academic texts, such as articles, journals, and reports, and answer questions based on the content.

You must write an academic essay based on a given topic in the Writing section. In the Speaking section, you will be asked to express your opinions on various academic topics, such as current events or social issues.

How is The CAEL Test Scored?

The CAEL test is scored on a scale from 0 to 90, with 10-point increments. Each test section is scored separately, adding the scores to give a total score. The minimum score required for admission to most Canadian universities and colleges is 70 according to SDS eligibility requirements.

Interpreting your CAEL test scores can be confusing, especially if you are unfamiliar with the scoring system. Here is a breakdown of what your scores mean:

CAEL Description CAEL Score
Expert: Demonstrates a high level of accuracy,  competence and effectiveness in all settings 80-90
Adept: Uses accurate language in most settings with limited flexibility   70
Advanced: Displays competence in academic or professional settings 60
High Intermediate: Competent communication in academic or professional settings; fluency in communication may break-down     50
Intermediate: Can comprehend and articulate complex ideas and arguments in academic or professional settings 40
High Beginner: Can express basic ideas in routine settings about familiar topics   30
Low Beginner: Limited communication ability 10-20

What Can You Do to Prepare for a CAEL Test?

Preparing for the CAEL test requires much effort and dedication. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the test:

  • Familiarize yourself with the test structure and format.
  • Practice your English language skills regularly.
  • Read academic texts, such as articles and journals, to improve your reading skills.
  • Listen to academic lectures and discussions to improve your listening skills.
  • Write academic essays on various topics to improve your writing skills.
  • Practice your speaking skills by expressing your opinions on various academic topics.

Where to Take Your CAEL Test?

CAEL test results are accepted by over 180 institutions of higher learning (universities and colleges) in Canada, where English is the primary or sole language of instruction. Learn more about the list of organizations that you can take and submit your CAEL test results.

How Much Does it Cost to Take a CAEL Test?

The CAEL test costs 280 CAD (Canadian Dollars) plus tax.

Why Take a CAEL Test?

If you are an international student seeking to study in Canada, taking the CAEL test is essential in the admission process. Most Canadian universities and colleges require a minimum score in English language proficiency tests, such as the CAEL test, as a prerequisite for admission.

The CAEL test measures your ability to use English in an academic setting and is a reliable indicator of your readiness to study in English language institutions. Moreover, taking the CAEL test can also increase your chances of getting scholarships or funding for your studies in Canada.

Many different reasons and benefits are received if you take the CAEL test. Some of these include:

  • Online/Computer-Delivered
    • You can take the CAEL test online, at over 40 test centers, or at home. The test is done using a computer and can be finished in one sitting.
  • Acceptance across Canada
    • CAEL test results are accepted in all 13 Canadian provinces and territories in approximately 180 Canadian universities and colleges.
  • Quick Results
    • CAEL test results are quickly processed and can be received in 8 business days. CAEL test results can also be sent to 5 institutions without any fees.
  • Easy Access to Study Materials
    • CAEL tests have convenient study preparation materials, which include CAEL practice tests, previous CAEL test scores and CAEL test prices, sample tests, preparation programs, pretest sittings, webinars, and online courses.

What Can You Expect on CAEL Test Day?

After paying your CAEL test fees and going to the CAEL test center, you should arrive at least 30 minutes before the test starts. To take the CAEL online test, you need to bring two forms of valid identification, including one government-issued photo ID. You must also bring your registration confirmation email, a pen, and a water bottle.

The test center will provide a computer, headphones, and a microphone. You will be given instructions on using the computer and the test software before the test begins.

CAEL Test Preparation Courses

Many CAEL test preparation courses are available online and in person. Here are some of the top CAEL test preparation courses:

The CAEL test is an important English language proficiency test for international students seeking to study in Canada. It measures your ability to use English in academic contexts and is widely accepted by Canadian universities and colleges.

This ultimate guide to the CAEL test has covered everything you need to know about the test structure, format, scoring system, and preparation tips. Remember to practice your English language skills regularly and prepare for the test to achieve your desired scores.

To assist with facilitating and guiding you through the most important aspects of preparing for your CAEL test, we recommend consulting with a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC).


How Many Times Can I Take The CAEL Test?

You can take the CAEL test as often as you want, but you must wait at least 30 days between test dates.

How Long Are The CAEL Test Scores Valid?

The CAEL test scores are valid for two years from the test date.