English proficiency tests are a key requirement for those aspiring to relocate to Canada for work, study, or immigration. English is the primary language of business, education, and communication in Canada, alongside French in some provinces which makes it even more important for students, professionals and migrants to prove their proficiency in these languages before the big move.
In this article, we give an overview of the English proficiency tests accepted in Canada, the types of visas they are accepted for, their similarities and differences, and recommendations for prospective test-takers.
Whether you are planning to study at a Canadian university, work in Canada, or immigrate to Canada, this guide is designed to provide a balanced comparison of the different English tests options available and how you can choose the one that is suited to your needs.
English Proficiency Tests Accepted in Canada
There are several English proficiency tests that are accepted in Canada for immigration, study, and work purposes.
English Proficiency Tests Accepted by Canadian Universities and Colleges
Below are the top 5 English Language tests, listed in order of acceptance by colleges, universities and educational institutions for admission in Canada for study. These tests measure the four language skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Before choosing an English test for study it is important to check the requirements of the institution you are looking to study at and understand what language proficiency tests, they accept and the score you need to get into the course you are interested in.
1. International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
IELTS is widely accepted by Canadian universities and colleges. Typically, universities would require candidates to take the IELTS Academic test for admission to undergraduate or graduate programs. IELTS uses a nine-band scale to rate proficiency levels. Find out more about IELTS here!
2. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
TOEFL is also widely accepted by Canadian universities and colleges. The internet-based (iBT) version of the test is the most common format accepted for admission to graduate and undergraduate programs. Find out more about TOEFL here!
3. Pearson Test of English (PTE)
4. Cambridge Assessment English
Cambridge Assessment English offers a range of tests that are accepted by some Canadian universities and colleges. The B2 First, C1 Advanced, and C2 Proficiency exams are among the most accepted tests. It uses a scoring scale of 120-200. Find out more about CAE here!
5. Duolingo English Test (DET)
DET is a newer and lesser-known English proficiency test. Some Canadian universities and colleges now accept the DET for admission purposes. It uses a scoring scale of 10-160.
English Proficiency Tests Accepted by IRCC for Immigration Purposes
Just like Canadian universities and colleges, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) also requires proof of English language proficiency from individuals applying for economic class immigration pathways. This helps ensure that immigrants can successfully integrate into Canadian society and contribute to the country’s economy. Below are the top three English proficiency tests, listed in order of acceptance, that are accepted by IRCC for immigration purposes.
1. International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
IELTS is one of the most popular English proficiency tests for immigration to Canada. It measures the four language skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. There are two types of IELTS tests: General Training and Academic. The General Training test is typically required for immigration purposes.
2. Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP)
CELPIP is another English proficiency test accepted by IRCC for immigration purposes. It is a computer-delivered test that measures the four language skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The test is available in two versions: General and General LS.
3. PTE Core
Starting from late 2023, individuals applying for economic class immigration pathways to Canada will have the option to take the PTE Core as a designated language test. The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will accept the PTE Core as a proof of language proficiency for immigration purposes.
English Proficiency Tests Accepted for Professional Licensing and Certification in Canada
Some professions in Canada require English proficiency tests for licensing and certification purposes. These tests measure an individual’s ability to communicate effectively in English, which is essential for performing their duties in a professional setting. Below are the top three English proficiency tests accepted for professional licensing and certification purposes in Canada.
1. International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
Some professions in Canada, such as nursing and medicine, require English proficiency tests for licensing purposes. IELTS is one of the most accepted tests for these purposes. For example, the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) requires applicants to take the IELTS Academic test as part of the application process for nursing licensure in Canada. Similarly, the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) accepts the IELTS as evidence of English language proficiency for international medical graduates who wish to practice medicine in Canada.
2. Pearson Test of English (PTE)
PTE is also accepted for licensing and certification in Canada, including for pharmacy, engineering, and accounting professions. For example, PTE is recognized by PEBC, APEGA, and CPA as evidence of English language proficiency for foreign-educated professionals seeking licensure in Canada.
3. Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP)
Some professions also accept CELPIP for licensing purposes. For example, CELPIP is accepted by the Law Society of Ontario for lawyers who obtained their law degree in a country where English is not the primary language.
4. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
TOEFL is also accepted for professional licensing and certification purposes by some regulatory bodies in Canada. For instance, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) accepts the TOEFL as proof of English language proficiency for international applicants seeking to become Chartered Professional Accountants in Canada. Similarly, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) accepts the TOEFL as evidence of English language proficiency for international medical graduates who want to practice medicine in Ontario.
Overall, the type of English test you need to take will depend very much on why you are moving to Canada. While IELTS is accepted for work, study and licensing/certification, the type of test you need to take slightly differs for immigration compared to study. The same is true for PTE and TOEFL as well.
Comparison of English Proficiency Tests
Choosing the right English proficiency test can be a daunting task, especially since there are several tests available that are accepted by Canadian universities and colleges. Here is a comparison of the main tests.
|Test||Acceptance by IRCC for Immigration Purposes||Acceptance by Canadian Universities and Colleges||Acceptance for Professional Licensing and Certification in Canada||Scoring Scale||Sections Tested||Test Format||Turnaround Time|
|IELTS||Yes||Widely accepted||Widely accepted||0-9||Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking||Paper-based or computer-based||3-13 days|
|TOEFL||No||Mostly accepted||Widely accepted||0-120||Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking||Computer-based, with some Paper-based testing in select regions||6-10 days|
|PTE||*Accepted by IRCC from late 2023||Accepted by some institutions||Accepted by some institutions||10-90||Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking||Computer-based||2-5 days|
|Cambridge Assessment English||No||Accepted by some institutions||Accepted by some institutions||120-200||Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking||Paper-based or computer-based||Varies by location|
|DET||No||Accepted by a growing number of institutions||Not accepted||10-160||Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking||Computer-based||Instant|
*It is expected that IRCC will start accepting the PTE Core scores towards the end of 2023
As you can see the table shows the comparison of several English proficiency tests based on their acceptance by Canadian universities and colleges, IRCC for immigration purposes, and for professional licensing and certification in Canada. The table includes information on the scoring scale, sections tested, test format, and turnaround time for each test. The IELTS and TOEFL are widely accepted by universities, IRCC, and for professional licensing and certification in Canada, while the PTE and Cambridge Assessment English are accepted by some institutions.
The scoring scales for these tests vary, with IELTS using a nine-band scale, TOEFL using a 0-120 scale, Cambridge Assessment English using a 120-200 scale, PTE using a 10-90 scale, and DET using a 10-160 scale. Test formats also differ, with IELTS offering both paper-based and computer-based formats, while TOEFL, PTE and DET are predominately computer-based. Turnaround times for receiving test results also vary, with IELTS taking 3 -13 days, TOEFL taking 6-10 days, PTE taking 2-5 days, Cambridge Assessment English varying by location, and DET providing instant results.
While all these tests are accepted by Canadian universities and colleges, IELTS stands out due to its high level of credibility and acceptance worldwide. It is recognized by immigration authorities and professional organisations in Canada, making it a popular choice for those seeking to work or study in Canada. Additionally, IELTS uses a nine-band scale to rate proficiency levels, providing a more detailed and accurate assessment of language proficiency.
Which English proficiency test should you take?
While there is no certain answer on which English test you should take, below are some tips to ensure you pick the right test to help you achieve your goals:
Check the requirements of the institution or organisation.
When deciding which English proficiency test to take, it is important to consider the requirements of the institution or organisation to which you are applying. While many institutions accept a number of different English proficiency tests, IELTS is the most widely recognised test that is accepted by over 11,5000 organisations worldwide, including universities, employers, and immigration authorities. PTE and Cambridge Assessment English are also popular options, but enjoy lower acceptance compared to IELTS. DET, on the other hand, is a relatively new test and is not widely recognised.
Consider your personal strengths and weaknesses.
It is also important to consider your personal strengths and weaknesses in language skills. IELTS offers a face-to-face speaking component, which allows test takers to showcase their communication skills in a real-life setting, making it a popular choice. . While PTE also has a speaking component, it is done through a computer, which some test takers may find less comfortable. Cambridge Assessment English and DET have speaking components as well, but they are not as widely recognised as IELTS or PTE.
Consider the test format and scoring system.
Another factor to consider is the test format and scoring system. IELTS offers both paper-based and computer-based formats, providing flexibility for test takers. Furthermore, the test is graded on a band score system, which is widely understood and accepted by institutions worldwide. PTE also offers a computer-based format, but its scoring system is based on a point system, which may be less familiar to some institutions. Cambridge Assessment English and DET both have different formats and scoring systems, which may be less widely understood by institutions compared to IELTS and PTE.
Consider your timeline and availability for taking the test.
Finally, consider your timeline and availability for taking the test. IELTS offers test dates throughout the year and results are typically available within 3-13 days, allowing test takers to plan their schedules accordingly. PTE also has frequent test dates and provides results fast. Cambridge Assessment English and DET also have multiple test dates, but their result processing times may take longer than IELTS and PTE.
Overall, while other English proficiency tests have their own unique advantages, we believe that IELTS is the best choice for most test takers due to its reputation, flexibility, and recognition by institutions worldwide. While PTE and Cambridge Assessment English are also widely recognised, their recognition is not as extensive as IELTS. DET is a newer test, and its recognition is still growing. Finally, the band score system used by IELTS is widely understood and accepted by institutions worldwide, making it a more familiar option compared to other tests with different scoring systems.
Remember, if you are planning to immigrate to Canada, only three English proficiency tests are accepted by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC): the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Pearson Test of English (PTE), and Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP). These tests are accepted for immigration pathways to Canada, as they demonstrate that the applicant has sufficient language skills to successfully integrate into Canadian society and contribute to the country’s economy.