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Ranking 4 New English Examinations Accepted by the IRCC

Canada Immigration
Ranking 4 New English Examinations Accepted by the IRCC 1

Ranking 4 New English Examinations Accepted by the IRCC

Four new English proficiency exams—CELPIP General, CAEL, PTE Academic, and TOEFL iBT—have emerged as contenders alongside the IELTS for recognition by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). With the IRCC expanding accepted tests beyond the IELTS for Indian and Punjabi students in the Student Direct Stream (SDS), these exams offer new potential pathways to study in Canada. We objectively review these tests based on their requirements and benefits for applicants.

By reviewing the eligibility criteria and language skills assessed in each exam, we can evaluate how well they measure applicants’ proficiency. This analysis also allows us to consider how the tests may benefit prospective Indian and Punjabi immigrants. Recognizing the tests’ unique attributes sheds light on their potential influence on future immigration patterns. While personal biases should be set aside, examining these tests in an academic manner provides valuable insights for students considering immigration to Canada. 

Overall, this exploration aims to inform applicants while highlighting the broader implications of the IRCC’s expansion of language testing options.

Key Takeaways

  • IRCC will now accept 4 new English language tests for Student Direct Stream applicants, ending IELTS monopoly
  • New accepted tests: CELPIP General, CAEL, PTE Academic, TOEFL iBT
  • Tests must show abilities in speaking, listening, reading, writing with minimum scores
  • Provides more options for Indian/Punjabi students who previously relied solely on IELTS and often had to retake
  • New tests: CELPIP, CAEL, PTE Academic, TOEFL iBT
  • Must demonstrate speaking, listening, reading, writing skills with minimum scores
  • Ends IELTS monopoly, gives options beyond IELTS retakes for Indian/Punjabi SDS applicants

New Language Tests for SDS

The Canadian Immigration Agency has approved four new English language tests for applicants under the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program. This decision provides more options beyond the previously required IELTS exam and will benefit Indian and Punjabi students seeking to study in Canada.

The approved alternatives to IELTS now include the CELPIP General test, CAEL test, PTE Academic test, and TOEFL iBT test. While specific score requirements vary by test, applicants must demonstrate English proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Previously, the only accepted tests were the IELTS General and Academic versions. This monopoly on IELTS testing made it difficult for students who had taken other English tests. Opening up SDS to these new options gives more flexibility to Indian and Punjabi applicants who may have already taken exams like PTE or TOEFL.

The inclusion of additional English language proficiency tests is an important step in providing opportunities for qualified students from India and Punjab to access the SDS program and gain entry to Canada for their studies.

Each test has minimum score requirements set by the Canadian government. 

Minimum Score Requirements of 4 New English Examinations Accepted by the IRCC

  • For the CELPIP General test, applicants must achieve a minimum score equivalent to a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of 7 in each of the four language skills – speaking, listening, reading and writing. 
  • The minimum score is 60 for both the CAEL and PTE Academic tests. 
  • For TOEFL iBT, applicants require a minimum score of 83.

It is important to note that all English language tests must be taken in-person at authorized test centers. Online or remotely-proctored tests will not be accepted for SDS applicants. By expanding the list of eligible tests, the Canadian government is providing more options for Indian and Punjabi students to demonstrate their English abilities for study in Canada.

Benefits for Indian/Punjabi Students To Study in Canada

By accepting tests like PTE Academic, TOEFL iBT, CELPIP General, and CAEL in addition to IELTS, Indian and Punjabi students now have more options to prove their English proficiency. This gives students the ability to choose the test format that best fits their skills and preparation style.

In the past, the sole reliance on IELTS created a burden for many students who struggled to achieve the minimum score. Now, students who found IELTS challenging can demonstrate their English abilities through alternatives like PTE or TOEFL.

Eliminating the IELTS monopoly also removes the need for students to take multiple tests. Previously, students who already cleared tests like PTE still had to take IELTS just for the SDS application. Opening up options reduces redundant testing and unnecessary expenses.

Overall, the updated policy empowers Indian and Punjabi students to select English tests better aligned with their competencies. By providing choice, flexibility, and cost savings, the changes make the Canadian SDS pathway more accessible for India’s aspiring international students.

Implications For New Language Testing

The addition of four new English language tests for skilled immigration applicants opens up more choices for demonstrating language ability. This could intensify competition between test providers and drive innovation in assessment methods. Established testing companies may be motivated to upgrade their protocols. New players may enter the market with technologically advanced tests that enable more precise evaluation of language skills. Overall, the policy change has the potential to improve the quality and accuracy of language testing for skilled migrants.


Comparison of the CELPIP General and IELTS General tests for evaluating English proficiency in Canada using the CLB levels:

CELPIP General

  • Developed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) specifically for immigration and citizenship purposes.
  • Tests functional listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills needed for everyday life in Canada.
  • Scored using the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) scale from levels 1 to 12.
  • Speaking test is done with a computer using speech recognition technology.
  • Results are typically available within 2 business days.
  • Test is accepted for permanent residency, citizenship, and professional licensing.

IELTS General

  • Developed by Cambridge Assessment English, British Council and IDP for international use.
  • Tests basic English proficiency in listening, reading, writing and speaking.
  • Scored using band levels from 1 (non-user) to 9 (expert user).
  • Has 2 versions – IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. General Training focuses on basic survival skills.
  • Speaking test is done face-to-face with an examiner.
  • Results are typically available within 5-7 days.

Some key differences:

  • CELPIP is tailored to the Canadian context while IELTS is more general.
  • CELPIP uses CLB scale which is familiar in Canada while IELTS uses band scale.
  • CELPIP speaking is computer-based while IELTS is face-to-face.
  • CELPIP results are faster while IELTS takes longer.
  • Both are accepted but CELPIP is preferred by IRCC for immigration.

Difficulty Comparison

  • CELPIP is regarded as testing more practical, everyday English compared to IELTS which covers a broader range of vocabulary and grammar. The tasks on CELPIP may be more accessible to some test takers.
  • CELPIP reading and listening sections are computer-based, allowing skipping questions and revisiting them later. This can help manage time better compared to IELTS which is paper-based.
  • CELPIP speaking tasks like describing a picture are predictable and consistent for all test takers. IELTS speaking has more variable topics and interactive components which can be challenging.
  • CELPIP writing gives double the time compared to IELTS. The integrated writing tasks in CELPIP also provide source content to work with.
  • However, CELPIP writing evaluates more elements like vocabulary range, grammar structures, coherence than IELTS. The criteria may be more rigorous.
  • IELTS has band scoring in 0.5 increments allowing for finer distinctions. CELPIP has broader CLB increments. Those borderline in one exam may pass in the other.
  • CELPIP results come faster – can help with quick immigration decisions.

Overall, those stronger in practical communication may find CELPIP more straightforward, while those with wider academic proficiency may be better suited for IELTS. But skills and preparation are bigger factors than the inherent test difficulty. Either test can be challenging depending on the proficiency level of the test taker.


  • CAEL (Canadian Academic English Language Assessment) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are both standardized English tests accepted for immigration and academic purposes in Canada.
  • The CLB (Canadian Language Benchmarks) scale is used to measure English proficiency in Canada. CLB 7+ is generally considered adequate for university admission and professional licensing.
  • For CLB, CAEL overall scores correlate to CLB levels as follows: CAEL 60-68 = CLB 7, CAEL 70-79 = CLB 8, CAEL 80-89 = CLB 9.
  • IELTS scores are aligned to CLB as: IELTS 5.0-6.5 = CLB 7, IELTS 7.0-8.0 = CLB 8, IELTS 8.5-9.0 = CLB 9.
  • CAEL tests specifically for English used in Canadian academic and workplace contexts, so it may align slightly better with CLB benchmarks.
  • IELTS has a wider global recognition, while CAEL is more Canada-focused. Both are accepted for immigration and admission purposes.
  • For meeting specific CLB cut-off scores, an equivalency chart should be checked as scores may fall into different ranges on each test.
  • Overall, both CAEL and IELTS can demonstrate English levels per the CLB scale. The choice depends on personal factors and requirements of the institution or program

Difficulty Comparison

  • IELTS is generally seen as the more difficult test. It has a wider variety of question types and accents compared to CAEL.
  • CAEL is more focused on Canadian contexts. The English used is more targeted for Canada’s academic and professional settings. This could make CAEL slightly easier for some.
  • CAEL has a conversational interview component, whereas IELTS is only written and oral exams. The interactive CAEL interview may be less stressful for some people.
  • CAEL Reading and Listening sections include multiple choice questions, which some find easier than the open-ended responses in IELTS Reading and Listening.
  • However, CAEL’s Writing and Speaking sections do require constructing full responses, similar to IELTS. The criteria are very similar.
  • Overall, most consider IELTS to have a higher degree of difficulty. But individual abilities and comfort levels can vary.
  • The best approach is to review sample tests and format for both exams to decide which plays to your strengths. Either exam can be achieved with practice and preparation.

So in summary, while IELTS is considered harder overall, some may find CAEL’s Canadian focus and interactive interview component to be easier. The choice comes down to test format and individual skill levels and preference.

PTE Academic Vs IELTS

  • PTE Academic has 20 different test types with changes in order and time limits for each section. IELTS has fixed sections and order.
  • PTE Academic scoring is easier to understand. You get an overall score between 10 and 90. IELTS has band scores from 1 to 9 for each section.
  • For CLB, PTE Academic scores of CLB 5 to CLB 9 are accepted. For IELTS, band scores of 4.5 to 9 are accepted.
  • Both are accepted for immigration and student visas for Canada. PTE Academic is also accepted for registration with professional organizations like healthcare colleges in Canada.
  • PTE Academic test centers are limited compared to IELTS which has many test centers. PTE Academic allows you to preview the test format but IELTS does not provide practice tests.

Difficulty Comparison

  • Speaking: In IELTS, the speaking test involves interacting with a human examiner, which some find intimidating. PTE Academic’s speaking test is computer-based, which removes that human interaction factor.
  • Accents: PTE Academic uses a wider range of accents (American, British, Australian etc.) compared to IELTS (mostly British accents). This can make listening comprehension more challenging for PTE test takers unused to non-native accents.
  • Scoring: IELTS uses band scores from 1-9 while PTE is scored on a scale of 10-90. The 1-9 band scale of IELTS is considered slightly harder to score higher on.
  • Negative marking: PTE has negative marking for multiple choice questions which can penalize random guessing. IELTS has no negative marking.
  • Speaking tasks: PTE’s ‘Read Aloud’ and ‘Repeat Sentence’ speaking tasks are considered quite difficult by some test takers. IELTS does not have similar tasks.

Overall, most consider PTE Academic to be slightly more difficult due to the computer-interface, accents used, and negative marking. But the difficulty also depends a lot on the individual’s comfort levels with each test format. 


When applying for immigration to Canada for study purposes, either TOEFL iBT or IELTS can be used to prove English proficiency. Both TOEFL and IELTS meet the English requirements for student visas and immigration to Canada. All Canadian universities and colleges accept both tests.

IELTS may be better if you prefer a paper-based test rather than a computer-based test like TOEFL. IELTS has more everyday situations like conversations and monologues. TOEFL focuses heavily on academic topics so may be better for university preparation.

For immigration, Canada requires minimum scores of CLB 7 for IELTS or 86 for TOEFL. Universities may require higher scores for admission. IELTS speaking directly tests conversation skills which are useful for student life. TOEFL measures academic speaking skills.

IELTS has more frequent test dates available globally. TOEFL may involve more travel to test centers. IELTS is slightly more affordable than TOEFL in most countries.

Difficulty Comparison


  • IELTS reading sections feature 3 passages of increasing difficulty. Topics are more general interest.
  • TOEFL reading has 3-4 academic passages on academic topics like science, arts, etc. Considered more challenging.


  • IELTS listening features conversations on everyday topics and monologues. 
  • TOEFL listening contains longer conversations and lectures in an academic setting. Requires focus and note taking.


  • IELTS speaking has 3 parts – short introduction, long individual response, discussion. Examiner gives a score.
  • TOEFL speaking has 6 tasks – read passages, listen to lectures, then summarize. Responses are recorded and graded later. 


  • IELTS writing gives a choice between argumentative or graph/letter report essay. 
  • TOEFL only has argumentative essays based on reading and lecture material.


TOEFL scores range from 0-120. Each section is scored 0-30. IELTS scores range from 1-9. Test takers receive an overall band score based on the average of the 4 sections.

  • IELTS uses a 1-9 band scale evaluated by examiners. 7+ is considered competent.
  • TOEFL uses automated scoring and gives scores from 0-30 for each section. 20+ is a good score.

Overall, TOEFL iBT is considered more difficult due to the academic nature of the passages, conversations, and vocabulary used. IELTS tests basic communication skills and comprehension. However, both require good English skills and preparation for success. The writing and speaking sections in particular demand strong language ability.

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