IRCC Releases New Minimum English Scores for IELTS, PTE and TOEFL

 Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have announced they will begin accepting PTE, TOEFL and CAEL test score results for Student Direct Stream Applications (SDS) in August 2023. 

They have also recently updated the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) equivalency scores for IELTS General Training, Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program, Test D’évaluation De Français 5 and Test de connaissance du français pour le Canada.

7Min 6 in each skill(L, R, W, S)Min 7 in each skill(L, R, W, S)Min 400Min 400

In other countries like Australia, where IELTS, PTE and TOEFL are accepted, there has been some controversy around score requirements between the tests to meet visa conditions. Among some test takers, there is a perception that PTE is the easier test, given that the score requirements for particular visas is lower for PTE than IELTS.

The new academic score requirements for SDS applications by the IRCC, make the minimum PTE Academic score requirements higher than the IELTS band score requirements when considering the equivalencies published by Pearson. This video explainer by IELTS highlights this pretty well

Overall the minimum scores released by the IRCC for SDS applications, significantly differ from the current equivalency scores used in Australia, making IELTS appear to be the easier test for Canada.

What are the minimum scores for PTE Academic, IELTS Academic and TOEFL iBT?

The table below shows the required score SDS applicants need to achieve in order to have their application processed. Currently an IELTS Academic overall band score 6 is required and this has not changed since the announcement by IRCC.


The new minimum scores means that SDS Applicants who take the Pearson PTE Academic test will need an overall score of 60 to pass the English language proficiency requirements, while SDS Applicants who take the TOEFL iBT will need to achieve an overall score of 83. 

How do the new minimum scores compare to Comparison scores?

According to the Concordance Research by Pearson, the new scores mean that while more English Proficiency Tests will be accepted for SDS applications, IELTS is now the easier test, as Pearson considers a PTE score of 46 as equivalency to an IELTS band score 6, while Pearson considers a PTE score of 60 to be equivalent to an IELTS band score of 6.5 to 7.0. 

In addition to this, the Pearson comparison tables also indicate that the TOEFL score is also higher.

TestIELTS AcademicPTE AcademicTOEFL
Minimum score for SDS Applicants66083
Pearson Concordance Research64665-66

How do the IELTS, PTE and TOEFL scores for Canada compare to Australia

Currently, an IELTS overall band score of 6 in the Academic indicates competent English under the Australian Government guidelines. However for PTE Academic the overall score requirement is 50, this is 10 points lower than the 60 score required by IRCC. Below is a comparison of the Australia accepted scores Versus the Canada accepted scores for SDS applications  

TestIELTS AcademicPTE AcademicTOEFL
Minimum score for SDS Applicants66083
Australia (Proof of Competent English)65059

How do the IELTS, PTE and TOEFL scores for Canada compare to the scores in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

While slightly higher, the minimum scores for SDS are much more in line with the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR) equivalency scores, where an IELTS band score 6 is considered a PTE score of 56. 

TestIELTS AcademicPTE AcademicTOEFL
Minimum score for SDS Applicants66083
CEFR* equivalent scores65680

Will the new minimum score requirements change the score requirements elsewhere? 

While the visa process and requirements for Australia, Canada, Europe and other countries have always differed, the new requirements do call into question the equivalency scores across tests. It is a commonly held perception that PTE Academic is easier than IELTS Academic and the new minimum scores required by IRCC for SDS applicants appear to make the required PTE, TOEFL and IELTS score requirements closer in parity. 

While score requirements for Australia, Canada and other English speaking countries are unlikely to change in the near future, it would be beneficial to test takers to have more equivalent entry requirements for IELTS, PTE, TOEFL and other English proficiency tests globally. This would ensure regardless of the test a test taker sits, the score is a consistent reflection of their English ability. 

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