IELTS versus CELPIP: Which one should I choose?

I plan on living and working in Canada in the near future. Should I choose IELTS, or CELPIP?

If you are planning to immigrate to Canada, you know that you need to demonstrate your ability to understand and communicate in either of Canada’s two official languages, English and French. Your results on the language proficiency test can make a big difference in your Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS). For English speakers, there is a lot of confusing information out there about which test is “better”. However, the good news is, there is really no wrong answer–both the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) are accepted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. So the question is, which is the best test for you? To help you decide, let’s look at the similarities and differences between the two exams.

What is IELTS?

IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. IELTS is available in more than 140 countries, and is used for study, work and immigration. It recognizes both British and American English for spelling, word choice and grammar, and uses a mix of British, North American, and Australian/New Zealand accents throughout the test. There are two versions of the test: IELTS Academic (used for education), and IELTS General Training (used for migration to an English-speaking country). If you are taking IELTS to apply through Express Entry, you must take the IELTS General Training test.

What is CELPIP?

CELPIP stands for the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program. It assesses key language skills required for Canadian permanent residency and citizenship. The test uses Canadian English and accepts both British and American English spelling. If you are taking CELPIP to apply through Express Entry, you must take the CELPIP-General Training (all four skills). CELPIP is currently offered in Canada, India, the Philippines, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates.

The main difference between the two tests is in the names: IELTS is aimed at international users of English, whereas CELPIP is specifically for English used in Canada. Is there a big difference between Canadian English and other types of English? Not really. Canadian spoken English sounds a lot like American English, while Canadian written English tends to use more British spellings (such as centre and colour). However, American spelling is also accepted. The real difference between IELTS and CELPIP is that CELPIP will tend to focus more on topics and situations that you would find in everyday life in Canada.

Where can I take the tests?

IELTS is available in more than 140 countries worldwide, and has locations in five Canadian provinces (ON, QC, MB, AB and BC).  CELPIP has 60 locations across Canada, in all provinces except Prince Edward Island. It is also available in the Yukon Territory (YT).

Is CELPIP easier than IELTS?

The short answer is “It depends”. Both tests have to meet the same criteria set by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, so they both have to agree on the same level of English. A test taker who gets a top score on IELTS should be able to do all the same things just as well as someone who gets a top score on CELPIP, otherwise the tests wouldn’t be very meaningful. Think of it like a thermometer: whether it reads 212F or 100C, the boiling point of water remains the same–one is not “hotter” than the other!

That said, there are some differences between the two tests that may affect how you feel about them. First of all, CELPIP is completely computer-based, whereas IELTS is mostly paper-based (the computer-based version is available only in a few areas). CELPIP takes three hours from start to finish, and is all done on the same day. The written portion of IELTS (Listening, Reading, Writing) takes 2 hours 45 minutes, and the Speaking portion takes 11-14 minutes, often on a separate day. The IELTS Speaking test is done face-to-face with an examiner, whereas the CELPIP Speaking test is recorded onto the computer and marked later by a rater. IELTS is scored on a scale from 0-9, whereas CELPIP is scored from 1-12. So to sum up, if you are more comfortable with computers and you want to get the test over with more quickly, you might prefer CELPIP. On the other hand, if you prefer reading and writing on paper and speaking with someone face-to-face, IELTS might be better for you.

How can I prepare for IELTS or CELPIP?

IELTS has been around longer, so there are a lot more materials available to help you prepare. Almost every English language school has an IELTS Preparation course, and there are also many online teachers who specialise in IELTS.

CELPIP is a newer test and is mostly limited to Canada, so there are fewer courses and materials available. You can get CELPIP practice tests online here, and reading and listening to Canadian news channels such as the CBC might also be very helpful. There are also more and more online teachers who specialise in CELPIP, but be sure to find someone who has thorough experience in helping learners achieve their goals.

If you want to find out more about which test might be right for you, contact me to book a discovery session, where I will work with you to identify your goals and set up a study plan. Start today!

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