IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an international system for assessing proficiency in English for non-native English language speakers.
IELTS is the most popular English language test for study and immigration to Canada, as well as to Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. An IELTS certificate is valid for 2 years.
There are three versions of the test:
- General Training IELTS: for those who are planning to immigrate to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand through a system of skilled immigration.
- Academic IELTS: for those who are planning to study at schools, colleges, and universities of Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, the USA, and other countries whose educational institutions offer academic programs in English.
- IELTS Life Skills: for those applying for a UK visa.
Only General Training IELTS is accepted for immigration to Canada.
IELTS Score Required for Immigration to Canada
There are many immigration programs in Canada, and the IELTS minimum score may vary depending on the individual program.
The proficiency in a language for immigration purposes is assessed according to the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) system. Certain IELTS level corresponds to a CLB level. Immigrant applicants are awarded immigration points according to their CLB levels. The correspondence table can be found on the official website.
The minimum CLB level accepted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is 3 in all four language abilities. The higher your IELTS score, the more immigration points you will gain.
Below are the minimum requirements for the most popular immigration programs in Canada:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW): CLB 5 (IELTS = Listening: 5.0, Reading: 4.0, Writing: 5.0, Speaking: 5.0)
- Federal Skilled Trades Program (FST): CLB 4 (IELTS = Listening: 4.5, Reading: 3.5, Writing: 4.0, Speaking: 4.0)
- Canadian Experience Class (CEC): CLB 5 (IELTS = Listening: 5.0, Reading: 4.0, Writing: 5.0, Speaking: 5.0) for NOC B and CLB 7 (IELTS = Listening: 6.0, Reading: 6.0, Writing: 6.0, Speaking: 6.0) for NOC 0 and A
- Atlantic Immigration Pilot: CLB 4 (IELTS = Listening: 4.5, Reading: 3.5, Writing: 4.0, Speaking: 4.0)
- Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP): CLB 7 (IELTS = Listening: 6.0, Reading: 6.0, Writing: 6.0, Speaking: 6.0)
- OINP’s Entrepreneur Stream: CLB 4 (IELTS = Listening: 4.5, Reading: 3.5, Writing: 4.0, Speaking: 4.0)
- BC Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP): CLB 4 (IELTS = Listening: 4.5, Reading: 3.5, Writing: 4.0, Speaking: 4.0)
- Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP): CLB 4 (IELTS = Listening: 4.5, Reading: 3.5, Writing: 4.0, Speaking: 4.0)
- Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP): CLB 5 (IELTS = Listening: 5.0, Reading: 4.0, Writing: 5.0, Speaking: 5.0)
The cost to take IELTS can vary depending on the location. Here are a few examples:
- Brazil (Rio de Janeiro): R$840 ($206)
- Canada (Toronto): C$319 ($240)
- China (Shanghai): RMB 1,960 ($276)
- France (Paris): EUR 235 ($259)
- India (Mumbai): INR 13,250 ($184)
- Indonesia (Jakarta): IDR 2,900,000 ($206)
- Iran (Tehran): IRR 30,500,000 ($724)
- Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur): MYR 795 ($190)
- Mexico (Mexico City): $215
- Nigeria (Lagos): NGN 68,000 ($188)
- Pakistan (Karachi): PKR 25,400 ($162)
- Philippines (Cebu): PHP 10,680 ($204)
- Poland (Krakow): PLN 790 ($200)
- UK (London): GBP 175 ($217)
- US (New York): $240
How To Register For IELTS Exam
You are advised to book an IELTS test a couple of months in advance as there may be a lot of people wishing to take the test the same day as you.
You can register for an IELTS exam online. To do it, follow these steps:
- Open the Britishcouncil.org website.
- Choose your country in the field “Book an IELTS test in your country”.
- You will see the information about IELTS for the selected country: fees, types of exam, and cities where you can take the test. You may be offered to choose a paper-based or computer-delivered IELTS test.
- Choose how you will take your test, and you will be redirected to a page with a list of available tests in your country. You need to select the closest one to your home.
- After that, you will be redirected to a page with a form that will help you find an IELTS test in your country. Select a date, town, and module (General Training or Academic).
- Click “Find”, and you will see the list of available tests in the selected city for the chosen date.
- Click the “Apply” button.
- Confirm you have read and agreed to the Terms and Conditions, and click “Continue”.
- Fill out the form and follow further instructions.
- Upon completion of registration, you will receive an email confirming registration and payment data.
You can pay for the test within 5 business days. After payment, you will receive a letter in a paper form confirming that the payment has been accepted, as well as a letter with access to some training materials to prepare for IELTS.
The IELTS test consists of two parts: the first one is the IELTS Writing test (Listening, Reading and Writing sections), and the second one is the IELTS Speaking test. The IELTS Speaking Test can be taken on a weekday, 7 days before or 7 days after the IELTS Writing Test.
You can change the date of the IELTS Speaking Test only based on exceptional reasons by providing supporting documents. It may take up to two months to reschedule a test, and you will be refunded 75% of the amount paid for the exam. A rescheduling application can only be submitted online.
IELTS Test Format
The IELTS format is the same everywhere, regardless of the city and country. There may be only minor differences.
Before the Test
One week before the date of the exam you will receive an email. It will contain the following instructions:
- Location: the IELTS tests are usually taken in educational centres or colleges, or hotels in some countries.
- Date and time: you are advised to come to the test in advance to have time to find a location and register.
- Things to bring with you: there will be lockers at the test location, but it is better not to bring anything of value with you since no one will take responsibility for personal items. You can bring with you water in a transparent bottle and writing instruments. You are prohibited to bring phones and wristwatches.
First Part of the IELTS Test: Listening, Reading, Writing
When you arrive at the test location, you need to register for the exam. Find a registration desk, show your ID, name the module of your test (General or Academic), and sign the registration form. After that, IELTS test representatives will take a photo of you and give you a personal number. This photo will be later put on your IELTS certificate.
In Canada, you will have to give your fingerprints while registering for the test and every time you enter the lecture hall or classroom.
Before entering the lecture hall or classroom you will be checked for prohibited items (phones or wristwatches).
In the lecture hall, each participant is assigned a table marked with a sheet containing the name, passport number, test date, participant’s number, native language code, and the Speaking test date.
You will also find writing instruments and a large envelope on the table. Sign this envelope and specify shipping details (there could be three options: regular post, courier, and customer pick-up). After everyone does that, the envelopes will be collected and counted.
Then, the instructors read the instructions on how to take the test and remind that you cannot cheat, peep, and talk during the test. You can leave the room to go to the toilet during the test, but you cannot do this when the Listening record is played and in the last 10 minutes of each part of the test. If you want to leave the hall, you should tell the examiners about this, and they will accompany you to the toilet.
The first part of the IELTS test includes three sections: Listening, Reading, and Writing.
Before the test, you will be given a sheet that you will need to fill out with answers. One side of the sheet is intended for the Listening test answers and the other one for the Reading test.
First, everyone fills out the header on the Listening side: last name, first name, personal number, and test date. Instructions for filling out are given in English. If someone does not understand and wants to ask a question, examiners come to them and help.
The examiners also hand out booklets with questions for the Listening section. You cannot open your booklet before the test starts.
When the Listening test starts, the recording is played loud enough so everyone could hear. However, it is played only once, and you need to fill out answers during playback.
There are 40 questions in the booklet: the first ten questions are simple, the second and third tens are more complicated, and the fourth ten is similar to a university lecture where you need to add missing words. Before every ten questions, it will be specified the maximum number of words in the answer.
The questions will help you guess what the answer should be (a number, noun, adjective, date or — very rarely — the word itself). Some of the questions offer to choose one of three options. In this case, the record will contain no verbatim answers to questions from the booklet. The record will use synonyms or expressions that are similar in meaning to those in the answer.
You can use the booklet as a draft to write your answers. At the end of the test, you will be given 10 minutes to check your answers and write them in the answer sheet. It is necessary to write without mistakes because spelling affects the score.
It is prohibited to leave the hall while the recording is playing. After everyone has checked their answers, the Listening test is over, you need to turn your answer sheet and do not fix or write anything else there. If you correct something after the test is over, your results will be canceled.
The Listening test duration is about 35–40 minutes.
As in the previous section, the Reading test begins with the participants filling out their sheets. You need to write your last name, first name, personal number, native language code, and test date.
After that, the examiners hand out booklets with texts, which cannot be opened before the official start of the test. You need to fill out the fields with your name and personal number on top of the first page of the booklet.
There will be a countdown timer in the hall that will help the participants keep track of time. When this timer is on, the test begins, and you can open a booklet with texts and tasks.
As in the previous section of the test, you can use the booklet as a draft or write directly into the answer form.
There are 40 questions in the Reading test. The booklet contains 4–6 texts, each 0.5 to 2 pages long. There can be a piece of announcement or advertisement instead of an actual text. In any case, you need to understand the meaning and answer questions.
After the timer is off, you need to close the booklets and not to write anything in the answer sheet.
The duration of the Reading test is approximately 60–70 minutes.
The next section is Writing. You will get booklets with tasks and two answer sheets of different colours — white and yellow — for two parts of the Writing test. You need to sign the sheets and write your name, date, and personal number.
The Writing test consists of two parts that can be done in any order. The first part must include at least 150 words. The task is to write a regular letter on a certain topic (for example, a letter to the boss asking for a transfer to another branch of the company). The second part should be at least 250 words. The task is to express your opinion on a problem (for example, your thoughts on why people buy too many things that they do not use). The second part of the test will give you more points.
You can use the booklet as a draft or write directly into the answer form. The examiners will not take much effort to decipher bad handwriting, so you need to write legibly.
There will be a countdown timer that will help you keep track of time. After the timer is off, you need to close the booklets and not to write anything in the answer sheet.
The duration of the Writing test is 60 minutes.
Before leaving the testing location, you need to take a sheet with your personal information and the date of the Speaking test.
Second Part of the IELTS Test: Speaking
You should come the next day 20 minutes before the start of the Speaking test. Before entering the room, you need to register at the registration desk.
The examiner at the Speaking test is normally a native English speaker. There is no need to worry, though: he or she will speak clearly, slowly, without any noticeable accent.
You will be invited to sit at the table. The examiner will fill out the papers, say that the test would be recorded, dictate your name, personal number, and the date of the test to the recorder, and ask to show your ID.
The Speaking section of the test includes three parts. The first part consists of simple questions, for example: “Do you live in an apartment or a house?”, “Do you like your apartment?”. The examiner will pay attention whether you make any mistakes and how complete your answers are. The examiner will also ask questions based on your previous answers.
The second part includes a topic that you need to talk about for 1–2 minutes. For example, you will talk about popular TV shows and answer 3 clarifying questions. Нou will be given a pencil and a small sheet to make notes, and you will have one minute for preparation.
In the third part of the test, the examiner will ask 5–7 questions on different topics. The questions will be more complicated, for example: “Why do you think talent shows are so popular nowadays?”.
The duration of the Speaking test is 20 minutes.
After the Test
One day later, you will receive an email thanking you for taking the test. It will contain a link to where you can see your results online in 2 weeks. Two or three days later, you will receive your IELTS certificate in a paper form.
In the next article, you will learn how to overcome difficulties during the IELTS test, as well as get recommendations on how to prepare for the IELTS test and successfully pass it.