IELTS for Canada

IELTS for Canada

You might be someone that is preparing to move to Canada to possibly carry out postgraduate work, obtain work (separate from the influence of higher studies), or to migrate to Canada. Whatever the reason is, if one of the requirements to enter Canada is to pass your IELTS, then we need to know some of the basics.

Why is the IELTS required for Canada?

  1. In order to pursue your studies, the IELTS exam is proof of your language prowess where you can demonstrate your abilities to engage in academic discussion, when applying to study in Canada for example
  2. Canadian institutes want you to be able to do more than speak English, but to excel in it within your studies and demonstrate effective written communication
  3. Canadian universities enjoy collaborative learning and it is a space in which your communication skills need to be of a high standard

I want to permanently move to Canada, what does this mean in terms of IELTS?

You will need to sit the CLB. This is the Canadian Language Benchmark, which is used for to measure English proficiency for migration purposes. Note, for migration purposes.

If you need to sit your the Academic IELTS, because you are applying to study in Canada, then you can convert your IELTS scores to CLB. They are not scored the same. The CLB is from 1-12, and the IELTS is from 1-9. The higher you score on the IELTS, you will obtain a better CLB.

You should take the IELTS General test if you are moving for work or immigration purposes.

The CLB is not a separate test. You can submit an IELTS score as an equivalent to the CLB. But we therefore need to be aware of the difference in scores and what scores equate to one another.


Source: Abroad Cube. Visit Abroad Cube to look at IELTS/CLB score converting, as well as other comparative exam conversions.

Required scores

  • Basic Canadian citizenship= IELTS 4.5 > CLB 5
  • Applying to work= (all) IELTS test 6.5/7 > CLB 7

For some Canadian professions, your score may need to be higher. Nursing applicants for example, need 6.5 in their IELTS reading and listening, and 7 in their writing and speaking. This is an equivalent to a CLB 9.

What is crucial, is that you speak to the institutions in which you are applying to, and making sure you have the exact information in terms of what their specific requirements are. Make your studies much more manageable by knowing what score you need to get. If for example, you need a minimum of 6.5 in all of your IELTS tests, then you need to prepare with the right material, and the feedback from your tutor, needs to represent work that meets these scores.

What IELTS and CLB score should you aim for?

As said above, it all depends on where you are applying, and what their requirements are. A general rule though should be to aim high! Try to get the highest score possible to secure your chances and avoid having to re-sit the IELTS test.

This is because employees and universities can set their own language requirements.

Some of the top universities ask for a CLB 9 or 10, which therefore means that your IELTS average score needs to be an 8, with no score below 7 in each of the four tests.

Obtaining the CLB for: Spouse, FSWP, and Residency purposes

CLB Level 4

If you are applying for immigration as a spouse, the requirements are lower. To be eligible for this route, you need a minimum of a CLB level 4.

CLB Level 7

If you are applying through the Federal Skilled Worker Program, you need a minimum CLB of level 7 across all the IELTS tests.

CLB Level 9

Achieving a CLB of level 9 to any Canada immigration application is an excellent outcome because this opens up many doors and exemplifies your 'transferrable skills'. It can also help your cause if you end up applying for a permanent residency card.

Which skills are being tested in the IELTS and CLB?

The same skills are being tested across both tests- reading, writing, speaking, listening. This is why converting your IELTS test is a great solution because the four communication skills are the same.

How do these measure up to beginner, intermediate and expert levels?


A beginner in English will likely be between a 1-4 in the CLB. An English user, so someone with more but not an extensive amount of English, will be comfortable in talking about everyday contexts. Such as, discussing their day to day routines, understanding brief exchanges, simple signage and brief messages (such as short email exchanges)


An intermediate user of English will be somewhere between a 5-8 in the CLB. This means that the user would have some understanding of more complex conversation. They could for example listen to a radio show and be able to mostly keep up. Or, be able to watch a TV program and mostly keep up. Overall, they would be able to express themselves with ease and with more complexity than a beginner user of English.


An expert in English will be capable of achieving a CLB score between 9-12. As an expert speaker, you are expected to understand and be comfortable with all types of English communication and expressing yourself with ease, variety and in nuanced ways.

What is the best way to prepare for your IELTS for Canada?

  • Study each section of the test in equal measure. Avoid spending more time for example on the reading test, and leaving out speaking practice because you perceive it to be easier. Prepare for all four tests in equal measure. This is also where a revision plan comes into play, so that you are organised and can track your preparation.
  • Use timed tests as part of your practice, so that your preparation is realistic to the exam
  • Try the Pomodoro technique of studying
  • Use flashcards to expand your vocabulary
  • Diversify your learning between online lessons, tutoring, conversations, reading, podcasts, videos, community channels

For one-to-one preparation with your IELTS test, one of the best things you can give yourself, is some focused time with an IELTS tutor, someone who is a native English speaker, and has the relevant professional background.