Which English Language Tests Are Required to Study in Canada?

As part of their preparation to study in Canada, international students may have to sit an approved English language test for academic purposes. Before you register for an English language test, make sure that the academic institution you’re applying to accepts the test.

There are over 600 schools in Canada that welcome international students. Which language tests do they accept? Discover the top 5 most popular English language tests to study in Canada below.

Popular English Language Tests for International Students in Canada

red pen marked on multiple choices on english spelling vocabulary test

English Tests to Study in Canada

  1. International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic Module;
  2. Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) assessment;
  3. Pearson Test of English (PTE) - Academic
  4. Duolingo English Test
  5. Cambridge Assessment English

1. International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic Module

The IELTS academic test is one of the most popular tests chosen by international students and accepted by over 400 Canadian universities and colleges. The majority of educational institutions require that the final results be sent to them directly by the testing service. You can take your test at one of the IELTS official test centres in your country or online. The cost to take IELTS ranges between $245 - $250 but could vary by country.

2. Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) assessment

CAEL tests are accepted by all English-speaking universities in Canada including 82 percent of English-speaking colleges. The testing service is available to international students from Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Japan, Mexico, UAE, the USA, and the Philippines. You need a valid passport to sit the test and the test may be available online or offline depending on your country of residence. The cost to take CAEL is CAD $280. Test results are available within eight business days.

3. Pearson Test of English (PTE) - Academic

PTE is currently available in 19 countries and is accepted by 90 percent of Canada’s universities and colleges. PTE positions itself as the “most unbiased proof of a candidate’s English skills” because tests are marked using a computer algorithm rather than human graders. This also means that test results are typically available within 48 hours. The cost to take PTE is CAD $300.

4. Duolingo English Test

Duolingo English Test is only available online and accepted by 140 post-secondary institutions in Canada. You will need a computer, a front-facing camera, and a microphone with speakers to complete the test. The test takes one hour and results are available within 48 hours. Duolingo English Test is among the most affordable at only $49 and you can send your score reports to as many schools as you need at no cost!

5. Cambridge Assessment English

The Cambridge Assessment English is among the most popular certified tests for language proficiency in the world and the C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency exams are accepted by over 200 post-secondary institutions in Canada including public universities. What makes Cambridge different from the other tests? International students are given English language courses to complete prior to sitting the exam which prepares them to put their language skills to good use in real-life situations. For this reason, the Cambridge test results typically remain valid for longer than those of its competitors. All tests must be taken at a Cambridge test center and are available within 2-6 weeks. The prices for the Cambridge exams will vary as the test centres can decide on the price of the test. However, you can expect to pay somewhere between CAD 204 - 240 USD.

Top 3 Universities in Canada: Approved English Language Tests

the University of Toronto, located around Queen's Park, is ranked first academically among Canadian research universities.

Do you know yet where you’ll be enrolling to study in Canada? Educational institutions that are approved to host international students are called Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs). There are over 600 DLIs right across the country but the best part is that the top three Canadian universities in 2021 are recognized DLIs that readily accept international students. Find out more about the English language tests that these top universities accept below.

English Language Tests Accepted by Top Universities in Canada
Designated Learning Institution Accepted English Tests Requirements
1. University of Toronto 1.International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic Module
2. Cambridge Assessment English C1: Advanced or C2: Proficiency
3.Canadian Academic English Language Assessment (CAEL), including CAEL Online
1. The minimum requirement is an overall band of 6.5, with no band below 6.0.
2. A minimum overall score of 180, with at least 170 in each component.
3. The minimum score required is an overall score of 70 and no part below 60.
2. McGill University 1. Duolingo English Test
2.Pearson Test of English - Academic
3.International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic Module
1.Score of 115 or better (120 for B.Ed. (TESL), B.Com.)
2.Overall score of 65 or better; individual component scores of 60 or better
3.A band score of 6.5 or better; individual component scores of 6.0 or better.
3. University of British Columbia 1.Canadian Academic English Language assessment (CAEL)
2.Pearson Test of English - Academic
3.International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic Module
1.Overall 70
2.Overall: 65
3. 6.5, with no part less than 6.0

Must I Take an English Test to Study in Canada?

The good news is that international students who want to study in Canada could skip the English language admission requirements altogether. As long as you meet one of the requirements listed below and fill out a waiver form with proof of your English language proficiency, you could be pardoned from sitting a test. You must contact the DLI to see which documents are accepted as evidence of English language proficiency.

Here are nine ways to meet English language admission requirements. Please note that these specific criteria are used by the University of British Columbia (UBC) and may vary at other universities and colleges in Canada.

How to Avoid Writing a Language Test to Study in Canada - UBC Edition

  • 1. Complete four or more consecutive years of recognized, full-time education in English within Canada immediately prior to attending UBC;
  • 2. Complete four or more consecutive years of full-time education in English in a country other than Canada where English is the principal language. These four years must be immediately prior to attending UBC;
  • 3. Achieve a final exam grade of 70% or better on the provincial examination portion of Alberta English Language Arts 30-1, BC English 12 (achieved August 2019 or earlier), or equivalents;
  • 4. Achieve a final grade of 4 or better on Advanced Placement (AP) English Language & Composition or AP Literature & Composition; or achieve a final grade of 5 or better on International Baccalaureate English A (higher-level or standard-level);
  • 5. Achieve the competence standard indicated by one of the tests of English language proficiency that evaluates skills in listening, reading, speaking, and writing;
  • 6. Successfully complete six credits of post-secondary first-year English studies at a recognized university in an English-speaking country. You must submit a transcript showing the completion of these courses. For students at North American post-secondary institutions registered in English courses, we will accept a final transcript showing completion of these courses if there are spaces left in your degree;
  • 7. Graduate from a recognized degree program at an accredited university at which English is the primary language of instruction in a country where English is the principal language;
  • 8. Attend four or more years at an eligible international secondary school that uses English as the language of instruction but operates in a country where the primary language is not English. These four years must be immediately prior to attending UBC. You will need to submit a transcript as soon as possible to UBC’s Undergraduate Admissions Office; and
  • 9. Achieve a UBC Certificate in English Language or CEL by completing Level 600 of the UBC English Language Institute’s English for Academic Purposes program on UBC’s Vancouver campus.

What Do I Need to Study in Canada?

Focused young african american businesswoman or student looking at laptop holding book learning | study in canada

We now know that you may or may not need to submit English test results to be admitted by a college or university in Canada but what else do you need? Very importantly, to be allowed to enter Canada for educational purposes you will need to apply for a study permit that’s issued along with a temporary resident visa.

Prior to COVID-19, international students who wanted to study in Canada for six months or less did not need to apply for a study permit but this rule does not apply currently. Follow our three steps below to apply for a study permit.

Applying for a Canadian Study Visa in 3 Steps

When should you apply for your study permit? The government of Canada suggests that you get the ball rolling 6-12 months prior to your study program start date. This is to allow enough time to process your application which can take approximately three months or longer with the exception of Student Direct Stream applicants who enjoy two weeks of visa processing.

Step 1: Enroll at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI)

You will need to enroll in a DLI in Canada and obtain a letter of acceptance before you can apply for a study permit. There are over 600 DLIs that accept international students, offering different courses and tuition fees to suit every type of budget. However, to qualify for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) to stay on and work after completing your qualification, you must enroll for a PGWP-eligible course.

Learn more: How to Budget in Canada as an International Student

Step 2: Get a Document Checklist

After filling out government forms you will also need to collect additional documents such as your proof of funds and a copy of your passport.

Did you know that your spouse or common-law partner and children can also join you in Canada by submitting their applications along with yours? That’s right, your significant other could apply for an open work permit to work in Canada while you study. And if you have dependant children they could attend primary or secondary school in Canada.

Step 3: Submit an Application

After collecting your documents and compiling a winning application, you can submit it to the relevant department for a $150 processing fee. You’ll be notified in a few weeks if your application was successful and start planning for an incredible journey to the Great North.

Get a Visa Plan to Study in Canada

Now that you’ve got your pick of English language tests to study in Canada, why not also get a tailored visa plan to help you make the most of your education in Canada? Get a document checklist complete with government-provided forms from CanadianVisa.org. Our services include the expertise of student advisors who guide you through every step of the process and provide you with options of DLIs to suit your budget and PGWP-eligible courses. Make the right choice for your future in Canada by starting your journey with visa professionals.