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Canada immigration language testing systems compared

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Here is a list of language tests which are a prerequisite to working and living in Canada.

Migrating to Canada requires a language proficiency test. Whether migrating for work, higher studies, research, or other reasons, applicants must prove their ability to speak at least one of the Canadian official languages. Here is a list of language tests which are a prerequisite to working and living in Canada.

IELTS
The International English Language Testing System is the most popular English proficiency test in the world. There are two categories of IELTS: General and Academic. For Canadian immigration applicants should take the IELTS General. The Academic test is for students who want to study overseas. IELTS is by far the most recognizable English language test in the world. It is accepted by the widest range of universities globally. The most common reason for taking IELTS is to pursue higher studies abroad. IELTS is specifically designed for non-native speakers of English. It was created by linguists at the University of Cambridge.

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) accepts IELTS scores. Most colleges and universities in Canada recognize IELTS as well. IELTS scores are comparable to nearly all other English proficiency tests. IELTS measures proficiency in all 4 skills namely listening, reading, writing, and speaking. It gives an overall band score from 1 (non-user) to 9 (expert user). IELTS also happens to be one of the shortest English language tests. The test format includes listening (30 minutes + 10 minutes transfer time), reading (60 minutes), writing (60 minutes), and speaking (about 15 minutes).

The listening, reading, and writing parts are completed in a single session of 150 minutes without a break. The speaking test can be scheduled up to 7  days before or after. This depends on the test center and availability. IELTS is a paper-based test. Test-takers use headsets to listen to the audio for the listening portion and mark answers on a scoring sheet. All applicants at a test center attempt the same portions of the test at the same time. The speaking assessment takes place as a one-to-one interview with an examiner in an interview room. The preparation materials include a variety of accents and writing styles to minimize bias. There used to be a 90-day waiting period before one could re-take IELTS. This has now been discontinued. Test scores remain valid for 2 years. To apply for a Canadian visa applicants need a minimum IELTS band score of 6.0.

CELPIP: Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program
This test was designed by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).  It is recognized by numerous universities and other educational institutions in Canada.

Unlike the IELTS, which is designed for international English proficiency, the CELPIP was made for Canadian English. It contains elements of British and American English, as well as Canadian accents. There are 2 CELPIP test types: The General Test and the General LS Test. For immigration, applicants must take the CELPIP General Test. CELPIP test results are marked from 0 to 12. A higher score represents better proficiency. CELPIP and IELTS are both approved and accepted by the CIC. However CELPIP is only available in Canada, US, China, the Philippines, UAE, and India. Vast numbers of migrants from these countries live and work in Canada. They send money online with clockwork regularity to support their families back home with remittances.

CELPIP costs less than IELTS. The cost of the CELPIP-General test is CAD 265, equivalent to INR16,000 (plus tax). IELTS in Canada costs CAD 309 (including tax), equivalent to INR 19,000. CELPIP is conducted in a single 3-hour sitting. Unlike IELTS, CELPIP is completely computerized. The results are given after 10-12 calendar days. CELPIP ‘passing score’ for Express Entry and visa purposes is a minimum of 7 points in each category. This option (Express Entry) covers 3 significant immigration categories namely:

  • The Federal Skilled Worker Class/Program (FSWC or FSWP),
  • The Canadian Experience Class (CEC), and
  • The Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).

TEF Canada: Test d’évaluation de français
As the name suggests, this test is for French speakers. It is meant for applicants who prefer to demonstrate French proficiency. TEF Canada is recognized as official proof of language proficiency by CIC. TEF Canada consists of 4 modules namely listening, speaking, reading, and/or writing. The results are sent 4 to 6 weeks after the exam. Fees are associated with each component of the test. The total test fee can vary according to each candidate’s selection.

  • Oral Comprehension: CAD 145 (INR 9,000)
  • Oral Expression: CAD 145 (INR 9,000)
  • Written Comprehension: CAD 73 (4,400)
  • Written Expression: CAD 73 (4,400)

TEF is an international benchmark test. Results are valid for 2 years. The federal government of Canada gives an advantage to skilled workers who speak French and are applying for permanent residency/immigration to Canada. French-speaking and bilingual candidates receive extra points under the Express Entry system. According to the 2016 Canadian Census French is the mother tongue of 20.6% of the country's population. Canadian French is not identical to European French. Most speakers of Continental French should be able to understand formal Canadian French, which has a different accent. However, the informal and spoken language may be more challenging to comprehend.

TCF Language Test (test de connaissance du français)
This is another French language proficiency test that meets the requirements of IRCC. TCF results are accepted for immigration and Canadian citizenship applications. TCF Canada has 4 parts. It evaluates general French language proficiency in listening comprehension, reading comprehension, speaking, and writing.

The TCF score needed for immigration to Canada depends on the program and the minimum language requirements. They are not all the same, since most of them work on a points system. An applicant can take the TCF any number of times with a minimum gap of 30 days between tests. The official certificate of results is given 4-8 weeks after the test. Registration fee for TCF Canada is CAD 380 (about INR 30,000).

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