CELPIP vs IELTS? A look at CLB requirements

Canada offers a wealth of opportunities for people worldwide. The country is famous for being extremely open and welcoming to foreign nationals from all walks of life and nations. However, to get into Canada, you must be able to function as a part of Canadian society. To do this, you must understand at least one of Canada's two national languages. Canada's population speaks both English and French. The amount of French or English that is spoken depends on your area.

As a result, if you plan on immigrating to Canada, you have to do a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) to demonstrate proficiency in either English or French so you can be functional in Canada. You must complete one of Canada's four language proficiency tests to get a CLB. For the English language testing, there is the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

For French Language testing, there are the Test d’Evaluation de Français (TEF) and Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF). While the French language tests are necessary, our focus is on finding which of the English tests are best for you. So, when it comes to CELPIP vs IELTS, how does one choose which test will give them the best CLB level?

The Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)


Before we get to CELPIP VS IELTS, it's pivotal to understand the Canadian Language Benchmark and how it affects your chances of immigrating to Canada. A CLB level is required to apply for all major Canadian immigration programs. Your CLB level is determined based on your score in either the CELPIP test or the IELTS test. In addition to this, your CLB level is determined based on your listening, reading, writing and speaking abilities in one of Canada's official languages.

The CLB currently has ten levels to determine your language proficiency. Different streams require different CLB levels based on the work or assimilation required by the candidate. Not only that, but the higher you score on your language test, the higher your CLB level will be. This means you will generally receive more points for your immigration ranking. For example, a candidate working in a management or professional position needs a higher CLB level than a candidate working in a trade.

The Canadian Express Entry system, Canada's most popular immigration program, ranks immigration candidates based on their work experience, age, marital status, education and, most importantly, language level. These factors are tabulated into their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) to create a CRS Score. Those with the highest scores can apply for permanent residence in Canada. The table below shows how the Canadian Express Entry program determines the required language levels for different jobs.

Express Entry Programs
ProgramRequired CLB scores
Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)CLB 7 or higher
Federal Skilled Trade Program (FSTP)CLB 5 or higher for speaking and listening
CLB 4 or higher for reading and writing
Canadian Experience Class (CEC)CLB 7 or higher if you’re working in a management or professional position
CLB 5 or higher if you’re working in a trade

Another factor that can positively affect your CRS score is taking language proficiency tests in both English and French, provided you score well in both. The CELPIP and IELTS tests are recognized by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and will result in a CLB level. If you're bilingual and feel that passing a French and English language skills test will help your chances of Canadian immigration - click the button below to speak to a Registered Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC). They can help you determine which tests you're most eligible for.

Now, the question remains: CELPIP vs IELTS? Which one is the better option to help you get into Canada?

Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP)


The CELPIP Test is created by CELPIP Canada and is a language testing program that assesses the candidate's ability to handle multiple situations in their chosen language.

For example, CELPIP Canada will test your ability to communicate in situations like talking to co-workers or superiors in the workplace, understanding broadcasts and news, interpreting and responding to written material, and interacting with other people in a social capacity.

There are two types of CELPIP tests: the CELPIP General test which tests listening, reading, writing and speaking, and the CELPIP General LS test, which only tests listening and speaking. The Canadian government does not accept the General LS test as all four language skills need to be tested.

CELPIP Test Format

The entire length of the CELPIP test is around three hours, with each section given a specific amount of time to complete. Each section of the CELPIP General test is based on the four language skill areas.

Section 1: Listening

This section requires between 47 and 55 minutes to complete. This section tests your ability to listen and to answer questions based on those passages. This test tests your ability to listen to English information and comprehend and understand the information.

Section 2: Reading

This section requires between 55 and 60 minutes to complete. This section tests your ability to read passages and answer questions based on those passages. In addition, you're required to read and interpret correspondence, understand and interpret a diagram, pluck specific information out of a text and interpret viewpoints from a text.

Section 3: Writing

This section is the heaviest as it only has two questions, but it requires between 53 and 60 minutes to complete. It assesses your ability to answer questions with English-written answers. The first question requires you to write a coherent English email based on a brief, and the second requires you to respond to specific survey questions.

Section 4: Speaking

With only 15-20 minutes allotted to this section, it's by far the shortest section of the CELPIP test. This section tests your ability to reply verbally to on-screen prompts. This is assessed by the candidate giving advice on a particular problem, talk about a personal experience, describe a specific scene, make verbal predictions, make comparisons and use their language ability to be persuasive you should make sense of a difficult situation, express opinions, and describe an unusual situation.

To get an idea of this test, you can take a free online CELPIP sample test on the CELPIP Canada website.

Why Take The CELPIP Test?

One of the significant benefits of the CELPIP test is that you can do it online on the CELPIP Canada website. As a result, you can get your test results within four to five calendar days after the test date. In addition, all the study materials for the CELPIP test are readily available online.

They include preparation courses, information sessions, sample tests and videos to ensure you're as ready as you can be for your CELPIP test.

The CELPIP test costs around$300 but is far easier to take as you don't have to rely on a nearby testing facility. In addition, the testing is highly professional with all audio being spoken clearly and professionally to ensure there's no confusion.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)


The IELTS test is the international standard for assessing English language skills. Currently, the IELTS test is the most used language test worldwide. It focuses primarily on a candidate's English Language ability in professional and social situations, such as speaking with customers or managers, handling social interactions and understanding information presented in English. The IELTS for Canada immigration is a surefire way to make sure you have all of your bases covered with your immigration profile.

Unlike CELPIP, IELTS is often not done online, and tests usually take place at a designated test centre.

Like the CELPIP, there are two types of IELTS tests. The first is the IELTS Academic test, which is suitable for those looking to come to Canada to study in an English Environment or University. The IELTS Academic can also be required in certain professions.

The second type is the IELTS General Training which is more suitable for those who aren't coming to Canada to study for a degree. However, it permits you to study at an English-speaking college or Technicon. Candidates may also need it for certain professions. For example, every immigration candidate must take the IELTS General Training test to be considered eligible for immigration.

IELTS Test format

Like the CELPIP, the IELTS tests listening, reading, writing and speaking in English. Each section focuses on one of these disciplines. The total test time is around 2 hours and 45 mins, and the IELTS academic test takes another 2 hours.

Section 1: Listening

This section requires around 30 minutes to complete. You will be played four recordings and be tested on your English proficiency with a set of multiple-choice questions, matching a collection of items to references in the recordings, filling in the labels on a map or plan, filling in the missing gaps on an outline of the listening text, completing unfinished sentences and answering short questions.

Section 2: Reading

This section requires an hour to complete. It tests your abilities to understand the gist, isolate main ideas from a text, separate specific details, skim reading, understand and construct arguments, and recognize a writer's attitude and opinions. The test assesses your language skills through reading books, articles, notices, advertisements, instruction manuals and guidelines.

Section 3: Writing

This section also requires an hour to complete. It tests a candidate's ability to respond to a situation, such as requesting information or explaining a case and responding to the point of view, constructing an argument or solving a problem. This is done via two tasks: The first is to write a letter requesting information, and the second is to write a discursive essay on a given topic.

Section 4: Speaking

This section generally takes between 10 and 15 minutes to complete. It assesses your English speaking ability. This is done via an interview given by the examiner, asking the candidate questions about their home, family, work, studies and interests. The candidate will then be given a card with a topic, and be asked to speak on that topic. After that, they will be asked further questions about that topic.

Why Take The IELTS Test?

While it is more difficult to do online, the IELTS test is more internationally recognized. You’re required to have IELTS for Canada immigration and is also required by Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. As a result, many educational institutions and companies need an IELTS test result for an international applicant.

As it is so widely recognized, the IELTS testing centers are widely available, with an online version available in the following countries:

  • 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
  • Vietnam
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States of America
  • Uzbekistan
  • On top of this, the IELTS test has a massive amount of high-quality preparation courses and manuals to ensure you have your best possible shot at getting the CLB level you're looking for.

    Our expert-formulated IELTS preparation course is available here.


    Which out of the CELPIP and the IELTS is Easier?

    As they both have to be standardized, the difficulty of the tests is relatively indiscernible. Both are highly thorough and require extensive preparation, mainly if English is not your first language.

    What would be considered a good score on the CELPIP?

    The CELPIP is broken down in several ways and what truly matters is what CLB level you're given as a result of your test. However, this table provides a good breakdown.

    Test Level DescriptorCELPIP LevelCLB Level
    Advanced proficiency in workplace and community contexts1212
    Advanced proficiency in workplace and community contexts1111
    Highly effective proficiency in workplace and community contexts1010
    Effective proficiency in workplace and community contexts99
    Good proficiency in workplace and community contexts88
    Adequate proficiency in workplace and community contexts77
    Developing proficiency in workplace and community contexts66
    Acquiring proficiency in workplace and community contexts55
    Adequate proficiency for daily life activities44
    Some proficiency in limited contexts33
    Minimal proficiency or insufficient information to assessM0, 1, 2
    Not Administered: test taker did not receive this test componentNA/

    How long Are the tests valid for?

    Both tests are valid for two years. After that, you cannot apply for any Canadian immigration pathway without a valid test.

    Now, Time To Choose Your Path


    Ultimately, the CELPIP VS IELTS debate can only be settled based on the individual candidate's needs. While the IELTS can open more doors, is cheaper, and is recognized across multiple nations, if you cannot access the IELTS, CELPIP might be best for you. If you're unsure which test to take, how to prepare, or how to calculate your CLB level based on your results, click the button below to speak to an RCIC who will help you ensure your eligibility for your journey to Canada.