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If you’re preparing for an upcoming IELTS and wondering how it can help you with Canada immigration, stick around for this article. We’re going to talk about IELTS scoring and how to understand score equivalence from IELTS to CLB, including:

  • Skills tested in the IELTS and CLB;
  • The CLB score you need;
  • Tips on getting the right IELTS score.

Ready? Let’s dig into it.

Please note that the TOEFL score to IELTS score is different therefore you migh need to check the respective conversion tables.

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What Exactly Is The Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)?

Thousands of people emigrate to new countries every year. To obtain citizenship to a new country there are a variety of immigration criteria that may be required in order to successfully relocate. If you are moving to an English speaking country then one of these requirements will be proof of English language proficiency.

This is certainly true if you are seeking permanent residency in Canada, it is likely that you will be required to present a language test result as part of the application process – to show your current English language ability.

One example could be the CELPIP test, or you can also submit your IELTS test scores. Regardless of the exam you decide to sit for though, Canada has its own system to standardize language test results. The national standards used in Canada for measuring the English language ability of prospective immigrants to live and work in Canada is the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB). The CLB uses a scale of 1 to 12 points to determine language level, whereas the IELTS test has a score of 1 to 9 for each skill section.
Note that Canada does not need the CEFR language scale.


What IELTS Score and Corresponding CLB Do You Need for Canadian Citizenship?

To apply for basic Canadian citizenship you would need to have an IELTS score of 4.0 or higher in speaking and 4.5 or higher in listening. This would equate to 5 CLB points. If you are applying to work then it is worth noting that you need to score at least 7 on the CLB to be eligible for Express Entry under the Federal Skilled Worker program. To achieve 7 CLB points you would need to get IELTS scores of at least 6 for all of the reading, writing, listening and speaking IELTS skills. It would therefore be wise to aim for 6.5 or 7 points in the IELTS test if you are applying to work in Canada.

For some Canadian professions the IELTS level may need to be higher. Applicants for Nursing programs would need 6.5 IELTS points in reading and listening and 7 in writing and speaking. That’s equivalent to a CLB of 9.

Recap: Converting Scores from IELTS to CLB

If you’re looking into Canada immigration, you’ll already know that you need to prove your English proficiency as part of your application. The system the Canadian government uses to measure this is called the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB), but don’t worry, this isn’t a separate test. You can submit an IELTS score as an equivalent to the CLB.

If you plan on doing an IELTS for this purpose, you’ll need to know how to convert your score from IELTS to CLB in order to know that you’re on track for a successful application for Canada immigration.

The table below shows the relationship between the possible IELTS band scores available in each of the four sections of the test and CLB levels:

CLB levelIELTS ReadingIELTS ListeningIELTS WritingIELTS Speaking

Each time you take a practice IELTS test, use this table to find out how your score in each section equates to the CLB level. This time you can make sure you stay on track to reach your goal.

What IELTS and CLB Scores Should You Get and Aim for?

If you want to study in Canada then you might need to have a higher level of language ability. For some of the top universities in Canada the required IELTS score is different to the citizenship requirements. Some universities, such as the University of Calgary, ask for a CLB of 9 or 10.  That’s an average IELTS test score of 8 – with no skill below IELTS 7. You will also have to follow the reporting guide to send your IELTS score to US universities for example. Check out our strategies to get a better IELTS score.

Ultimately it is therefore advisable to check directly with the organization in Canada to which you are applying for to find out what IELTS score you will require for the position. Employers and educational institutions can set their own language requirements. Indeed, you need to check what is the IELTS score To immigrate to Canada for nurses.

Why aim for a CLB score of 4, 7, or 9?

As you prepare for the IELTS, it’s important to know how you will convert your score from IELTS to CLB in order to meet the Canada immigration requirements. The CLB level you require for Canada immigration will depend on the specific immigration programme you are applying through. You can find this information on the application page. Some will require a lower level required for simple communication, whereas others will require advanced English proficiency. Let’s look at three target CLB levels in more detail.

CLB Level 4

If you’re applying for immigration as a spouse, the English proficiency requirements are lower than for other applicants. To be eligible to apply using this route, you’ll need a minimum of a CLB level 4.

CLB Level 7

If you’re applying to Canada through the FSWP (Federal Skilled Worker Program), you’ll require a minimum CLB level of 7 across all the IELTS skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) to qualify for the programme. This is because the programme is designed for workers accessing skilled, professional career paths that demand a strong level in English.

CLB Level 9+

Achieving a CLB level of 9 or higher is a great asset to any Canada immigration application, because this high score has a significant impact on the “transferrable skills” section of your profile in the eyes of the Canadian government and can even open the door to a permanent residency card.


Tips for getting the right IELTS score for Canada immigration

Now you know how to convert from IELTS to CLB, it’s time to get studying for the IELTS for your required score. Here are our top tips:

  • Study the exam format (sections, task types, question types);
  • Take a timed mock test;
  • Expand your vocabulary to deal with likely topics;
  • Listen to English as often as possible (music, radio, TV);
  • Diversify your learning between books, conversation, lessons, and online solutions.

On a side note, if you’re interested in studying in the USA, you might want to take a look at the ACTFL proficiency test.

Which Skills Are Being Tested During The IELTS and CLB?

The CLB measures English proficiency across the four key communication skills: reading; writing; listening; and speaking. For this reason, the IELTS is an excellent choice as an equivalent test, as it measures exactly the same skillset.

Let’s take a look at how these skills measure up from IELTS to CLB for beginner, intermediate and expert English users.

Beginner levels

A beginner in English will probably be looking at a CLB score between 1 and 4. An English user in this category will only be comfortable in everyday contexts, from understanding a simple question and reading signs and short messages, to a brief exchange.

Intermediate levels

An intermediate user of English will probably achieve a CLB score between 5 and 8. You may fall into this category if you are comfortable interpreting somewhat complex conversation and texts, and expressing yourself in a semi-sophisticated way.

Expert levels

An expert in English will be able to achieve a CLB score between 9 and 12, the top score. At this level, you are expected to be very comfortable understanding all types of English communication and expressing yourself in a nuanced way.

Practice Online and Train for The IELTS With GlobalExam

GlobalExam is an online platform that allows you to practice for IELTS, in order to achieve a high score. You’ll find many exercises with question types, corrections, and you can follow your progress at any time. Taking your learning online is one of the easiest ways to inject some fun into the studying experience. If you haven’t tried it already, we recommend giving GlobalExam a go for your IELTS revision. With an updated user interface, fun activities, and IELTS-specific learning materials, you’ll be certain to glide to success.

Our e-learning platform includes grammar and vocabulary revision, IELTS training exercises for every section, task and question type, and timed mock tests, as well as a statistics module for tracking your progress in different parts of the test. Remember that for a good IELTS to CLB score you need to hit certain bands across all four sections? GlobalExam will help you keep on top of that!

If you wish to kn more about the IELTS Indicator test please read our article on the subject.

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