The Canadian Language Benchmark: Make Sure You Pass The Test

August 7, 2023


  • Wesley Allan

If you want to immigrate to Canada, you must ensure you are eligible. Canada has over 100 immigration and Visa programs, each with eligibility criteria.

This criterion ranges across multiple factors. However, language ability is one aspect of eligibility that remains relatively universal for anyone planning to stay in Canada for a prolonged or indefinite period.

Understanding the Canadian language is vital as a worker transitioning into the Canadian environment and society. As a result, the Canadian government and Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have created the Canadian Language Benchmark system.

How Does The Canadian Language Benchmark Work?

Canadian Language Benchmark

Canadian Language Benchmarks are scores based on a language proficiency equivalency chart. The most recognized use for the CLB is as part of an applicant's Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. This score was created by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and is for all applicants applying for permanent residency in Canada.

As Canada recognizes multiple language proficiency tests, the CLB exists to standardize the scores across the multiple tests to provide applicants with a final score that will be incorporated into the final CRS score.

The IRCC bases scores on factors like work experience, level of qualification, age, and marital status, but language abilities are one of the major scoring factors. Most immigration programs have a minimum CLB for applicants. Applicants with scores lower than the minimum cannot gain permanent residency until they improve their language ability.

Keep in mind that different programs have different CLB requirements. Generally, jobs requiring high proficiency in your chosen language to function, such as professional and managerial positions, require a higher CLB score. For example, The Federal Skilled Worker Program of the Express Entry system has a CLB requirement of 7 or higher.

Conversely, people who work in trade or labor-intensive jobs do not need as high a CLB score, and the immigration programs reflect that. For example, the Federal Skilled Trades Program has a CLB requirement of five in certain aspects and only four in others.

Which Tests Are Recognized By The CLB?


As a means of testing potential immigrants' language abilities, the government of Canada has approved four language proficiency tests - two English Language Proficiency tests and two French language proficiency tests. The CLB works to standardize the results of the tests, allowing applicants who have taken different tests to be compared equally.

For English, the tests are:

For French, the tests are:

  • Test d’Evaluation de Français (TEF)
  • Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF)

All four tests assess language proficiency via their reading, writing, listening, and speaking abilities in their chosen language.

For English speakers, the natural choice is to go with the CELPIP, PTE, or IELTS Canada English test. All three tests have four sections - one on each aspect of language proficiency testing. All three tests take around three hours and have core and secondary tests. The core test is the only one accepted in Canada in both cases. For the PTE, the core test was developed specifically for Canadian immigration. Regarding CELPIP vs IELTS vs PTE, you must know exactly what each Canada English test entails to know which is best for you.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

The IELTS is the most popular English language proficiency test. This is because the immigration boards of English-speaking countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland recognize it. On top of this, an IELTS score is often more widely recognized by institutions and employers worldwide. Often certain institutions in Canada will specifically require an IELTS score from an applicant, even if that applicant has completed another language test.

There are two IELTS tests: the one you must use for your Canadian immigration is the IELTS general test. You must submit this Canadian English test as part of your permanent residency application. This Canada English test assesses one's ability to effectively communicate in work and social settings, understanding written work in English.

The IELTS test has four sections. They are as follows:

Section One: Listening

Test takers listen to four recordings and answer multiple choice questions, fill in labels on a map, fill in missing gaps in a text, and match certain items to references based on the recordings.

Section Two: Reading

Applicants read several passages and are assessed on their ability to understand the basic gist of the text and isolate main ideas and specific details. Applicants must also understand arguments and recognize the writer's intentions.

Section Three: Writing

Test takers must write a letter of request and a discursive essay showing their ability to respond to a specific situation, request information, form a point of view, and construct an argument justifying that point of view.

Section Four: Speaking

Applicants are interviewed by the examiner about their work, family, home, studies, and interests. They will also get a card with a topic they will speak on. The examiner will interview them on the said topic.

The second IELTS test is the IELTS academic test. This is specifically for those studying or working in a highly language-focused environment. It has a far larger reading test and writing task and is not essential for immigration purposes. However, certain jobs or institutions may require an IELTS academic test.

The Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP)

The CELPIP is the Canadian English test. A CELPIP test result can go further in specific career paths, showing employers that you clearly understand Canada's English language.

The CELPIP tests mostly have the same key language skills as IELTS. However, there is a greater focus on your ability to converse in a social setting in Canada. The test is also split into the following sections:

Section One: Listening

Like the IELTS, test takers must listen to several passages and answer multiple-choice questions based on those passages. The question tests your ability to absorb, comprehend and understand information.

Section Two: Reading

In this section, test takers must read and understand correspondence, interpret an English diagram and interpret viewpoints from a text.

Section Three: Writing

This section requires test takers to create an English email based on a given brief, enabling them to respond effectively to survey questions.

Section Four: Speaking

An examiner asks candidates to advise on a particular problem, share personal experiences, make comparisons, persuade someone, and describe a specific event.

The CELPIP does have a second test called the CELPIP LS test, which only tests the listening and speaking abilities. Any Canadian immigration authority does not accept this test.

The CLB calculator, according to the Canadian government, for CELPIP and IELTS, as well as the Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF) and the Test d'Evaluation de Français (TEF) - Canada's French Tests -  is as follows:

CLB Calculator

Pearson Test of English (PTE)

In 2022, the Canadian Government announced it would accept the Pearson Test of English (PTE) as proof of English language ability for various immigration and visa programs from late 2023. This Canadian English test aligns with the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) in examining four key language skills. However, its unique emphasis presents a nuanced approach to English proficiency assessment.

Section One: Listening

The listening section comprises several audio passages and multiple-choice questions. Here, the primary objective is to assess the examinee's ability to comprehend and interpret auditory information in English, thereby underscoring their listening proficiency.

Section Two: Reading

The PTE Reading section necessitates the examinee to read and comprehend diverse text forms via interactive question types, such as filling in the blanks and re-ordering paragraphs, thereby assessing reading comprehension, grammatical knowledge, and vocabulary.

Section Three: Writing 

Writing in the PTE exam involves task-oriented writing, such as responding to a brief. This section evaluates the candidate's ability to construct meaningful, grammatically accurate responses, reflecting their writing proficiency in real-world scenarios.

Section Four: Speaking

Speaking assesses the candidate's spoken English proficiency. PTE does not emphasize speaking fast but focuses on coherence and fluency.

The PTE test is scored on a scale of 10 to 90, with each test area receiving an individual score. However,  these scores can be translated to CLB levels, providing an international English proficiency benchmark. While the PTE test emphasizes real-world English proficiency, its structure and scoring system align it closely with the CLB standards, making it a viable option for those seeking to demonstrate their English proficiency in Canada. However, the Canadian Government has not yet released a CLB calculator for the PTE. This will change when the PTE is formally introduced toward the end of 2023.

How Do I Maximise My CLB Score?

CLB Score

Getting your highest possible CLB is vital to a successful permanent residency application. Knowing how to prepare for IELTS or CELPIP for English speakers will make all the difference in your final result. Several strategies exist to improve your language and test-taking abilities before you take your language test.

Take a Test Preparation Course

When looking at how to prepare for IELTS or CELPIP, the tactic that will have the largest effect on your final result is taking a language test preparation course.

These courses provide exercises to help you improve your proficiency in all four language abilities. They help you to understand how each test is assessed and what you need to say to ensure you get the best test results possible. While there are many IELTS or CELPIP prep courses online, it often takes work to ensure the quality of the preparation course. A preparation course like an official IELTS course can help you know what to expect, help isolate your flaws, and possibly the best way to prepare for the test.

Take Practice Tests

One of the best ways to ensure you are as prepared as possible for your IELTS or CELPIP exams is to take practice tests. These tests can help you handle the pressure and difficulty of the testing situation and assist in understanding the questions being asked and how to answer them.

Many practice tests are on the IELTS, PTE, or CELPIP official websites.

Top Tip:

When taking the practice tests, replicate the test situation as closely as possible. Remove all possible distractions, notes, or internet access, and try to stick to the allotted time on the given tests.

Consume English Media

If you want to be good at understanding the language of Canada, you must expose yourself to as much of the Canadian language as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to watch English (preferably Canadian) television and movies, read English books and articles, and listen to Canadian English podcasts or radio.

This process can expose you to English conversations and requires you to draw out and understand the information. Best of all, it can be highly entertaining and convenient.

Have Canadian English Conversations

One of the best ways to improve your English is to speak in English as much as possible. If you have access to someone who speaks English, you must have as many English conversations with these people as possible.

This can improve your ability to express yourself in English and help you understand and interpret the information given by others.

Now that you know how the Canadian Language Benchmark works, how to quantify your results with a CLB calculator, and prepare for IELTS, CELPIP, or PTE, it is time to start your preparation. Canada welcomes people from all backgrounds and walks of life. The government wants to ensure you can be functional and happy when building your life in Canada.


How Much Does a Canadian Language Test Cost?

While this tends to vary based on the country, you are applying from, the IELTS test costs between 140 and 310 CAD. A CELPIP test costs specifically 280 plus taxes.

How do I Take a CLB Language Test?

There are multiple ways to take a CLB language test. However, IELTS and CELPIP prefer paper-based exams if you can access one of their test centers. You can apply for your test at your official website, and the site will inform you where your nearest test center is.

Applicants from certain designated countries can take IELTS online, but only if they are from a country on the list below:

Argentina Armenia Australia Austria
Azerbaijan Bahrain Bangladesh Belarus
Belgium Brazil Bulgaria Cambodia
Canada Chile Colombia Croatia
China Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark
Egypt Estonia Finland France
Germany Ghana Greece Hong Kong
Hungary India Indonesia Ireland
Israel Italy Japan Jordan
Kazakhstan Kenya Kuwait Laos
Latvia Lebanon Lithuania Malaysia
Malta Mexico Myanmar Nepal
Netherlands New Zealand Nigeria North Macedonia
Norway Oman Pakistan Peru
Philippines Poland Portugal Qatar
Romania Russia Saudi Arabia Serbia
Singapore Slovakia Slovenia South Africa
South Korea Spain Sri Lanka United Kingdom
Switzerland Sweden Taiwan, China Thailand
Turkey Ukraine United Arab Emirates United States of America

How Long Are My Test Results Valid?

Test results remain valid for two years after the date you sit the test. You must ensure your test result remains valid throughout your application process, as an invalid test could cause your application to be delayed or even rejected.

The CELPIP vs IELTS vs PTE: Which is Easier?

While there is no specific answer as to whichever test is easier out of CELPIP vs IELTS vs PTE, IELTS tends to have greater resources, more practice tests, and more experts to help you prepare. However, CELPIP is often easier to take and can be shorter, depending on your abilities. PTE tends to be more interactive. However, how this compares to the other tests can only be determined once the test is open.