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If you’re looking into taking an English proficiency test, you may be wondering which one is the best fit for you. Different tests test different skills, so in this article we’re going to take a closer look at the CELPIP vs IELTS. We’ll discuss:

  • The different sections of each test;
  • Which test is more difficult;
  • Reasons for taking each test.

Ready? Let’s dive right in!

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CELPIP vs IELTS: General Introduction and Overview

A question potential candidates often ask is; “Should I do the IELTS or CELPIP test?”. That really depends on a lot of factors, but knowing a bit about each test – where they’re similar and where they’re different – can definitely help you make the right choice.

CELPIP stands for Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program, and IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. Both tests are designed to assess English language proficiency, are both tests are used for study, work and immigration, although the CELPIP was specifically conceived for Canadian English assessment. The CELPIP is very useful for people who want to acquire permanent residency in Canada or citizenship.

CELPIP vs IELTS: Format, Focus and Score Breakdown

One crucial difference between the two exams is that CELPIP is an entirely computer-based test. All components of the test are delivered by computer. In IELTS, by contrast, the Reading, Writing and Listening sections are paper based, and the Speaking Test is done in person.

Whilst both tests are designed to test your language proficiency, CELPIP lays a slightly stronger emphasis on ‘functional language‘ than IELTS. Many CELPIP tasks require candidates to understand and react to a range of everyday situations that might be faced by someone who has moved to an English-speaking country. This is also true in some parts of IELTS, but not quite so much as in CELPIP.

Both tests accept American and British English spelling and grammar, although the CELPIP is designed for Canadian English, and the IELTS for British English.

The scoring is also different. For CELPIP there is a score of 1 to 12 for each section, which is in line with the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB). For the IELTS test the score for each section is 1 to 9.

celpip vs ielts exam choice

CELPIP vs IELTS: Section by Section Comparaison

In some areas, the exam tasks are quite similar. However, there are many sections that are specific to each exam. As an example, in the writing section of the CELPIP General Exam you need to write an email and then respond to survey questions. This is completely different to the IELTS Academic exam, where candidates write a report about a diagram and an essay.  If you’re trying to work out which exam is ‘easier’, this might be one part of the answer to that question, because writing essay requires a lot of training and writing about diagrams is a skill that most candidates have to learn from scratch. Writing emails, on the other hand, is something you’ve probably practised in the past.

Likewise, the speaking tests are very different, although there is some overlap. IELTS Speaking is divided into three sections, testing candidates’ abilities to discuss everyday topics, to give a structured talk (often describing a personal experience), and to express their opinions. CELPIP Speaking has seven sections, each of which tests a particular language function. Two of these functions – describing an experience and expressing your views – appear in the IELTS test as well, but there are also others like giving advice (Section 1) and dealing with difficult situations (Section 7).

To answer the CELPIP vs IELTS question, it’s important to understand how the two tests differ across the four sections. Let’s take a look.


The CELPIP Listening takes 47-55 minutes and is composed of the following parts:

  • A practice task (one question);
  • Listening to problem solving (eight questions);
  • Listening to an everyday conversation (five questions);
  • Listening for information (six questions);
  • Listening to the news (five questions);
  • Listening to a discussion (eight questions);
  • Listening to opinions (six questions).

The IELTS Listening is shorter at 30 minutes, including:

  • An everyday conversation;
  • A monologue in a social context;
  • A conversation in an educational or professional context;
  • A monologue on an academic subject.


The CELPIP Reading takes 55-60 minutes and is made up of:

  • A practice task (one question);
  • Reading correspondence (eleven questions);
  • Reading and diagrams (eight questions);
  • Reading for information (nine questions);
  • Reading for opinions (ten questions).

The IELTS General Reading takes one hour and is composed of:

  • Understanding everyday texts for basic information;
  • Understanding workplace texts such as a job description;
  • Understanding complete texts, such as instructions or fiction.


The CELPIP Writing is 53-60 minutes and includes:

  • Writing an email (one task);
  • Responding to a survey (one task).

The IELTS General Writing lasts an hour and is made up of two tasks:

  • Writing a formal or semi-formal letter;
  • Writing an essay response to a problem.


The CELPIP Speaking is 15-20 minutes long and requires:

  • A practice task;
  • Giving advice;
  • Talking about something personal;
  • Describing a scene;
  • Making a prediction;
  • Making comparisons and persuading;
  • Difficult situations;
  • Expressing opinions;
  • Unusual situations.

The IELTS Speaking section is 11-14 minutes and asks you to:

  • Respond to general questions on familiar topics;
  • Speak about a particular topic;
  • Respond to more abstract questions on your topic.

Below is a comparison table of the tasks.

7 components
40 questions
4 components
40 questions
4 components
38 questions
3 components
40 questions
Writing an email
Answer a survey
Writing a letter
Giving a point of view
8 components
3 components

Choosing the Right Exam – and the Right Version

Both IELTS and CELPIP have different versions. In the IELTS test, there is an academic exam for people applying to study abroad, a General Training exam for those who want to emigrate to an English-speaking country, and a ‘UKVI’ exam specifically for candidates who need a UK visa. In CELPIP, you choose between the General Exam, which tests all four language skills (Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing) and the ‘LS‘ exam which only tests Listening and Speaking. The full test is useful for a variety of purposes, such as applying for work in Canada, while the LS version specifically relates to Canadian immigration applications.

Before you book an exam date, make sure you’re doing the right version. You can always look up our IELTS FAQ if you need more help in order to make your choice.

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You could also check the IELTS Academic vs IELTS General, Cambridge tests/IELTS or even TOEIC vs IELTS tests.

CELPIP vs IELTS: which test is the more difficult?

When we compare the difficulty of the CELPIP vs IELTS, there’s no clear difference between the two. Both tests are challenging and require a good level in English and some serious preparation.

The main reasons for making your choice between the two should be:

  • Which of the two test formats seems more useful to me?
  • Which test is more relevant to my future career/studies?

You can also get into more details by comparing these tests to the TOEFL exam.

Why take the CELPIP over the IELTS?

If you’re still weighing up the CELPIP vs IELTS decision, you might want to consider some of these reasons why the CELPIP has a slight advantage:

  • The CELPIP only uses North American accents in the Listening section;
  • The CELPIP takes place in one sitting (the IELTS requires two);
  • The CELPIP is a totally computer-based test;
  • Get the results within four to five days of your test.

The CELPIP is also widely accepted for university, job and immigration applications, making it a valuable certification to add to your file.

CELPIP for immigrating to Canada

The CELPIP is accepted by multiple Canadian immigration programmes in the IRCC service, including:

  • Permanent residency;
  • Citizenship;
  • Canadian Experience Class;
  • Start-up visa;
  • Provincial nominee;
  • Federal Skilled Trades/Worker.

CELPIP and Canadian employers

If you need to prove your English proficiency for professional reasons, there are numerous employers in Canada who accept and seek out CELPIP-certified applicants. If you have a specific industry of employer in mind, you can find out directly from them what their requirements are. Some examples of high-profile employers accepting CELPIP in Canada are:

  • ICCRC: Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council;
  • CDO: College of Dentists Ontario;
  • BC Corrections;
  • SREC: Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission;
  • Professional Business Accountants’ Society of Canada.

How Long Do The Exams Last And When Do The Results Arrive?

The CELPIP test is conducted over 3 hours in one sitting and time allocations include the question, answer and transition times. The CELPIP Listening and Speaking sections may take a few more minutes but there is a slightly shorter Writing section.  The IELTS test components are not necessarily all completed on the same day. The IELTS speaking section is done separately at a different time, day and possibly even location. There is no automatic computerized time tracking with IELTS, and the times may not include the transition times between the test sections.

The results take about 13 calendar days for IELTS and 10-12 calendar days for CELPIP. CELPIP also has an express rating system if you need your results sooner: the score is available in 3 business days for an extra fee of $100.

Prepare For The IELTS and CELPIP Exams Online With GlobalExam

GlobalExam is an online platform designed to help candidates prepare for language proficiency tests. The content is developed by language tests experts, and updated everyday in order to be the closest to the tests. The IELTS preparation is available on GlobalExam, although the CELPIP preparation is not available yet.

If you need to train for the IELTS, GlobalExam can help you, thanks to many exercises and mock exams, with a detailed correction. All the statistics are automatically saved, in order for you to review your answers, analyse your progression and focus on your weaknesses. You can try the free version of the platform before buying a Premium plan that will unlock all the content! You just need to register to access the trial version.