How to Meet the IELTS Requirements for a Canada Student Visa

October 19, 2023


  • Sinethemba Phongolo

If you’re looking to score a place as an international student in Canada, you first need to clear a set of requirements. Among these requirements language proficiency in English is one of the most important.

As both the official and most widely spoken language in Canada, the importance of being able to speak English in Canada is reflected in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) emphasizing the need for Canada Student Visa applicants to meet IELTS requirements.

Learn the steps you must take to sufficiently prepare to meet IELTS requirements and apply for a Canada Student Visa!

What is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a globally recognized English language proficiency test. Designed by the British Council, IDP, and Cambridge English, the IELTS assesses the language skills of individuals who wish to study, work, or migrate to English-speaking countries, which along with Canada, include:

  • Australia,
  • United Kingdom,
  • New Zealand, and
  • the United States of America.

The IELTS measures four language competency skills such as listening, reading, writing, and speaking. This overall assessment provides a band score that determines your proficiency level in English. There are primarily two IELTS tests, which include:

  • IELTS Academic Test
    • For international students who would like to study at a post-secondary institution.
  • IELTS General Training Test
    • For foreign nationals who would like to work or immigrate to an English-speaking country.

Before taking the IELTS Academic Test, ensure to familiarize yourself with the IELTS test format and preparation course. The IELTS is entirely optional but your chosen academic institution may require you to take it.

What Steps Can I Take to Meet the IELTS Requirements for a Canada Student Visa?

Here are the steps you need to take to fulfill the IELTS requirements so you can apply for a Canada Student Visa.

Step 1: Ensure You Know the IELTS Requirements

It is vital to have a clear understanding of the IELTS requirements so that you know what is and is not expected of you when applying for Canada Student Visa. This includes:

Taking the IELTS Academic

While you don’t need to take the IELTS Academic Test to student, certain designated learning institutions in Canada, like the University of Toronto, McMasters University and Mcgill University require their students to pass it in order to accept them.

Student Visa

The requirement by some DLI’s for international students to take the IELTS Academic Test makes it necessary for you to apply for a Canada Student Visa, which is required for foreigners to study in Canada.

Minimum IELTS Band Score

The minimum IELTS band score to study at a Canadian college or university is 7.0.

Documents needed to book a Test

You need a valid, certified passport to book an IELTS test.

Minimum Age Requirments to Take the IELTS Test

You must be a minimum 16 years old to be eligible to take the IELTS exam.

Step 2: Take a Practice Test or Preparation Course

Before appearing for the actual IELTS test, it is highly recommended to take a practice test or enroll in a preparation course. This will help you familiarize yourself with the test structure, question types, and time constraints.

Numerous online resources and study materials are available to assist you in your preparation. Such as the Conley University IELTS course. The Conley Univerisity IELTS course is designed to ensure applicants achieve the best marks in the IELTS exam and possess the language abilities to function effectively in Canadian society when dealing with native English speakers.

Learn more about the Canadian IELTS preparation course.

Preparation courses provide practice tests that give you an idea of your current proficiency level and areas that require improvement.

Step 3: Learn the Test Format

Understanding the test format is crucial for achieving a high band score on the IELTS test. Familiarize yourself with the various sections of the test - listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Each section has specific tasks and time limits. The following table provides a general outline of the IELTS Academic Test format.

Language Competency Skill Number of Questions Tasks Format
Listening 40 Multiple Choice, Matching, Diagram labeling, Flow-Chart,  Examinees listen to four voice recordings of native English speakers and write answers to questions relating to the recordings.
Reading 40  Fill out gaps in passages of writing, complete sentences and answer multiple-choice questions Three long descriptive, factual, discursive and analytical texts that you non-specialist examinees must kill.
Writing 2 Two writing tasks where examinees must 400 words Examinees must describe in their own words information presented in a chart, table or graph and write an essay in response to an argument.
Speaking Variable Conversation tasks evaluating fluency, diction, timing etc. Face to face In-person and Video-call speaking test  

Being aware of the test format will allow you to allocate your time efficiently and focus on each section accordingly when taking the IELTS Academic Test.

Step 4: Ensure you Can Handle the Time Constraints

Time management is key to success in the IELTS test. Each section of the test has a specific time limit. Therefore, it is important to develop strategies to complete each section within the allotted time. To get a general idea of the time constraints placed on each language competency section of the IELTS and adequately prepare for each, look at the table below.

Language Competency Section Time
Listening Approximately 30 minutes, with an extra 10 minutes to transfer your answers from your question booklet to your answer sheet 
Reading 60 minutes
Writing Writing test takes 60 minutes. Spend 20 minutes on Task 1, and 40 minutes on Task 2.
Speaking Approxmately 10 minutes

Practicing under timed conditions will help you build confidence and improve your performance.

Step 5: Take The Test and Meet the IELTS Band Requirements

To meet the IELTS requirements for a Canada student visa, you need to achieve the minimum band score set by the IRCC. The IELTS requirement is monitored and evaluated as per the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB).

The general minimum band score required to get a Canadian student visa is 6.0 bands in each module and an overall band score of 6. This means your competency in each language area must be a minimum CLB level 7.

Students with a band score of 5.5 in one or more modules can also get a Canadian student visa, but they should have an overall band score of 6.0 in the IELTS exam.

How to Apply for a Canadian Student Visa

Once you have met the IELTS requirements, it is time to apply for a Canadian student visa. Research the specific visa requirements and gather all the necessary documents. Learn how to apply for a Canada Student Visa.

What are the Benefits of Taking the IELTS Test for a Canada Student Visa?

Taking the IELTS test to be eligible to apply for a Canada Student Visa has many significant benefits. These benefits include

Easy Accessibility

IELTS is available in more than 1,200 test centers worldwide, so it is relatively easy to find and access at a test center near you. The IELTS accessibility and worldwide reach has made it vastly popular among prospective international students in English-speaking countries.

An Internationally-Trusted Way to Demonstrate Your Language Proficiency in English

The IELTS test is widely recognized and trusted as a means to show your language proficiency in English by approximately 140 countries and 11,000 organizations. Apart from universities, colleges, and government immigration authorities, IELTS is also accepted by:

  • Professional accreditation bodies,
  • Industry associations, and
  • Multinational companies and employers, and
  • Research bodies

The many institutions that accept IELTS results showcase its usefulness and varied application to access opportunities worldwide. It allows you opportunities outside of Canada as it's also accepted in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom etc. This enables you to prepare yourself not only for Canada but also for an increasingly globalized world.

IELTS is the Only Academic-Specific Language Test

Among the acceptable language proficiency tests for Canada, the IELTS is the only one that offers an academic-specific test. By taking the IELTS Academic Test, you can familiarize yourself with Canada’s general educational standards and testing system. This insight enables you to get ready to become an academic in Canada.

IELTS preparation courses enable you to:

  • Build strong language skills,
  • Improve your ability to comprehend complex texts, and
  • Enhance your communication skills, and
  • Gain familiarity with the Canadian education system.

The above-mentioned skills are useful in ensuring your smooth transition into Canada’s education system.

Live Interaction With Examiner

The IELTS speaking test involves a face-to-face conversation with a certified examiner. This live interaction provides a more authentic and holistic evaluation of your speaking skills. It also allows you to receive feedback on your speaking performance, helping you identify areas for improvement.

Facilitates Quick Visa Processing Times

Meeting the IELTS requirements for a Canada student visa can expedite the visa processing time by enabling immigration officials to assess your application more efficiently, reducing the overall application processing time and increasing the likelihood of a smooth visa approval process.


Can you Study in Canada as an International Student Without IELTS?

While the IELTS test is a common requirement for a Canada student visa, alternative options are available. Some Canadian universities and colleges may accept other English language proficiency tests, such as the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) or the Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL).

Where Can I Take an IELTS Test?

The IELTS test is conducted by authorized test centers across Canada and the world. You can visit the official IELTS website to find a test center near you. It is important to register well in advance as test dates may fill up quickly.