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Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)

Updated: June 7th, 2023

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 active in Canadian society.

You must understand and converse in at least one of Canada's two national languages. Canada's population speaks both English and French. The amount of French or English spoken depends on your area.

As a result, if you plan on immigrating to Canada, you must get a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) to demonstrate proficiency in English or French to assimilate effectively into Canada.

However, preparing for a CLB Assessment can be daunting. Knowing why you need to take the assessment, what it is, and how to prepare for it is essential. Understanding the CLB system and preparing for the assessment are vital to get the best possible score. To help you get the best CLB you possibly can, here's a full breakdown of the CLB, the different language tests accepted by the CLB and how you can get the most out of the system.

What is a Canadian Language Benchmark?

What is a Canadian Language Benchmark

The CLB is a descriptive scale of language ability in English as a second language. It provides a benchmark for assessing the language proficiency of non-native speakers of English and is used extensively by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to assess language skills for immigration purposes. A CLB is required to apply for all major Canadian immigration programs.

How is the CLB Assessed?

The CLB system is divided into 12 benchmarks and tests proficiency levels in Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. Each applicant is given a CLB level based on their score on one of the four federal-approved language proficiency tests. Your CLB level is determined based on your listening, reading, writing and speaking abilities in one of Canada's official languages. There are 10 CLB Levels.

Each benchmark is assessed on a predetermined set of standards for your ability to communicate effectively in English. These standards are based on what level you can communicate, understand and interpret the English language both in spoken and written settings. These are demonstrated using the 12 Can-Do statements to reflect the 12 benchmarks for each of the four language skill areas.

Here’s a complete list of every Can-Do statement for every language skill area in the CLB to give you a clear understanding of what level you’re currently on and the level you need to be on for your chosen immigration pathway. 

The higher someone scores on their language test, the higher their CLB levels and the more points they will receive in point-based assessments and ranking systems for immigration. The approved language tests are as follows:

English language Tests:

  • Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) 
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

French Language Tests:

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

The CLB system converts scores from these four tests into the exact equivalencies to compare them. Below, you can see how this is calculated:

Keep in Mind

There are different CLB language level requirements allocated to each immigration program. Generally, the highest minimum CLB levels are reserved for immigration programs that are designed for skilled applicants, such as the Express Entry system.

The CLB levels can differ by occupation, and in some instances, applicants are required to have higher CLB levels for specific language abilities such as speaking and listening. For example, the Express Entry system's Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) Requires a CLB level of 5 for speaking and listening but only a CLB level of 4 for reading and writing.

Important to note:

Each test has multiple variations and iterations. Some of these variations and iterations are not considered valid by the Government of Canada. For example, there are two IELTS assessments - IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

While IELTS Academic may be useful for certain jobs or educational programs regarding immigration, only IELTS General Training is accepted. Below, this table breaks down exactly which aspects of the four federal-approved tests are accepted:

Approved French Tests
TEF Canada: Test d’évaluation de français,Your test must include writing, speaking, listening, and reading comprehension.
TCF Canada: Test de Connaissance du françaisYour test must include writing, speaking, listening, and reading comprehension.

If you're unsure which test best suits you, click the button below to talk to a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, who can help you find the test best suited to your abilities and needs.

While the French language tests are accepted, we focus on finding which English tests are best for you. So, the question is: CELPIP vs IELTS for Canadian Immigration? Which one is the better option to help you get into Canada? We need to look at each test to see its pros and cons.

Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP)Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP)

CELPIP Canada creates the CELPIP Test 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, understanding broadcasts and news, interpreting and responding to written material, and interacting with others in a social capacity.

There are two 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. However, the Canadian government does not accept the General LS test as all four language skills need to be tested.

CELPIP Test Format

The entire 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 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 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 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 advising on a particular problem, talking about a personal experience, describing a specific scene, making verbal predictions, making comparisons and using their language ability to be persuasive. It would help if, in addition, you made sense of a difficult situation, expressed opinions, and described an unusual situation.

You can take a free online CELPIP sample test on the CELPIP Canada website to get an idea of this test.

Why Take The CELPIP Test?

One of the significant benefits of the CELPIP test is that it's taken entirely on a computer at one of the CELPIP Canada test sites. As a result, you can get your test results between three and eight 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 ready for your CELPIP test.

The CELPIP test costs around $300 but is far easier 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 no confusion.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)International English Language Testing System

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 in English. The IELTS for Canada immigration is a surefire way to ensure you have all your bases covered with your immigration profile.

Unlike CELPIP, IELTS can be done online in certain counties. However, tests usually take place at a designated test center.

Like the CELPIP, there are two types of IELTS tests. The first is the IELTS Academic test, 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 not 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?

Why Take The IELTS Test?

While it is more difficult online, the IELTS test is more internationally recognized. You must have IELTS for Canada immigration which 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 international applicants.

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

Argentina Armenia
Austria Azerbaijan Bahrain
Bangladesh Belarus Belgium
Brazil Bulgaria Cambodia
Canada Chile Colombia
Croatia China
Czech Republic
Estonia Finland
Hong Kong
 Japan  Jordan
 Kenya  Kuwait
 Laos Latvia Lebanon
Netherlands New Zealand
North Macedonia
Saudi Arabia
Slovenia South Africa
South Korea
Sri Lanka
United Kingdom
Taiwan, China
United Arab Emirates
United States of America

How to Prepare for Your CLB Test

Preparing for a CLB assessment is essential and can help you succeed. With the proper preparation, you can be confident in your ability to perform well on the assessment and achieve your desired score.

To be best prepared for the CLB assessment, you can do three main things:

  • Take the Canadian Language Benchmarks Online Self-Assessment (CLB-OSA) available on the IRCC website.
    • This will help familiarize you with the tasks you will face in the assessment and give you an approximate indication of your language ability in Listening and Reading.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Can-Do Statements for each CLB score, which describe the language proficiency of non-native speakers of English at each benchmark.
    • This will help you understand where you stand in terms of language proficiency and will help you plan your language learning and make decisions about it.
  • Utilize many highly-researched, easily accessible, and massively beneficial online test preparation courses.

CELPIP vs IELTS: What are the Pros and Cons?The Pros and Cons of CELPIP vs IELTS



  • It's a slightly more modern test
  • CELPIP tests Canadian-specific English
  • Employers may be more likely to trust a CELPIP-approved applicant's ability to assimilate
  • You will get your test results in 8 days or as few as three days if you pay for the "Express Rating."
  • The Entire test is completed in one setting with no extra interviews required
  • At CA$280, it's cheaper than the higher-end IELTS tests


  • Only accepted in Canada
  • Only accepted for immigration
  • Some jobs and educational institutions may ask you to do further language testing via an Academic test.
  • There is no real human element, meaning there is no benefit of the doubt
  • It's only available in Canada, UAE, USA, Philippines, India and Singapore



  • It's available in over 140 countries and can be online in certain countries.
  • It's the global standard for English language proficiency assessments
  • It's accepted in multiple nations, not just in Canada
  • Preparation courses, past tests, and resources are far easier to find
  • While it can cost up to CA$300, it can cost as little as CA$140, depending on your country


  • It doesn't specifically prepare you for Canadian English
  • It can be expensive depending on your country
  • The test tends to be a little more work-intensive


Are there Other English Language Tests for Canada?

Yes. Canada has another Canadian Language Benchmark Placement Test (CLBPT) test. The CLBPT is not accepted in any immigration or citizenship capacity, but you can use the CLBPT for certain jobs that only require a low level of English. However, all these jobs accept and often prefer CELPIP or IELTS results.

However, if you plan to come to Canada via the Student Direct Stream (SDS), you can take another test: the Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) Test. Effective August 10, 2023, the Student Direct Stream is broadening its acceptance of English language proficiency test results to include the Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) Test. This standardized test is designed for college and university admissions and professional association memberships. Unlike other proficiency tests, CAEL measures the English language skills of students who plan to study in Canadian post-secondary institutions, accurately representing language use in a Canadian academic context. 

CAEL is a fully integrated and topic-based performance test that evaluates test takers' academic English speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills. Conversely, other tests may focus on specific language skills or abilities and not cater to Canadian English and accents used in Canadian academic contexts and post-secondary institutions. CAEL is developed entirely in Canada, ensuring its authenticity and alignment with Canadian academic standards. On the other hand, other organizations or institutions may develop other tests.

Learn more about the CAEL test.

Is There a French CLB?

Yes. The CLB is Canada's language estimate for your English ability. Canada's French language benchmark system is called the Niveaux de Compétence Linguistique Canadiens (NCLC). The two French tests, TCF and TEF, are measured on the NCLC. 

Can you Submit Both a French and English test?

Depending on your program, yes. For example, you can massively improve your chances of being allowed to immigrate to Canada via Express Entry if you submit test results in both English and French. For English, you're marked based on the CLB; for French, it's the NCLC.

What CLB Score Do I Need for Express Entry?

The minimum score you'll need to achieve to be eligible for Express Entry is at least CLB 7 under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. This would be 6.0 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Which of The CELPIP and The IELTS is Easier?

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

Can You Move to Canada Without IELTS?

Yes, you can but only under certain circumstances. This video comprehensively summarizes those circumstances and what gets you into Canada without IELTS.

How do you Calculate your Overall CLB Level?

Use this tool to calculate your overall CLB level for IELTS tests.

However, as there are specific requirements you must overcome even to be considered, it's often best to get the highest mark possible on one test before attempting another.

Start Your Canadian Journey

Now that you know how the CLB works and how to compare CELPIP vs IELTS, it's time to start preparing for your best results. If you feel IELTS is the best way to get your CLB, click this link to explore our IELTS preparation course. There are over 100 immigration and visa options, and most have unique CLB-level requirements. Hence, if you're wondering which is the right way for you, click the button below to speak to an RCIC who can help get you on the right track.

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