All newcomers to Canada must demonstrate their language proficiency in at least one of Canada’s official languages (English or French) by using one of the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) approved language tests for immigration, work, or study.
What is the IELTS?
To demonstrate proficiency in English language, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the world’s most popular test. As one of the most widely accepted language tests for Canadian newcomers, tens of thousands of individuals take the IELTS to come to Canada each year.
Can’t decide between the IELTS and the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP)?
See Everything you need to know about English language tests in Canada to determine which test is an ideal fit for you.
How can I improve my IELTS score?
The first step to success with the IELTS is becoming familiar with the test format and structure, and practicing your writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills with the test format in mind. After reading this article, you will become familiar with the purpose and format of the two types of IELTS tests, General Training and Academic. Once you have determined which test you will take, you can use the tips and resources presented in this article to embark on your study path to IELTS success.
Achieving a high score on the IELTS test is important to many newcomers, as it can boost your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score for Express Entry, or increase your chance of being accepted into a Canadian post-secondary institution. We have collected IELTS examiner-approved tips from IELTS Canada to help you attain your best possible score and improve your chances of coming to Canada.
Tip: Use the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) tool to determine your potential score.
General or Academic: Which IELTS test do you need to take?
The IELTS gives two testing options, the General Training test and the Academic test. It is important that you take the correct test for your goals. The General Training test is necessary for Express Entry and other immigration needs as determined by the IRCC. In contrast, the Academic test is meant to prove English proficiency for students entering post-secondary studies in Canada.
IELTS General Training test
The General Training test is necessary for work or immigration purposes, and is the only IELTS test accepted by IRCC. It emphasizes everyday language skills to determine if an individual can effectively work and communicate in an English-speaking country.
IELTS Academic test
The Academic test is suggested for students wanting to study at an English-speaking post-secondary institution. Your university admittance may be conditional on the achievement of a high score on the Academic test. Each university has its own score requirement. This test emphasizes more formal and informational language skills to determine if an individual could successfully study at an English-speaking university.
IELTS General and Academic test format
One of the best ways to feel comfortable taking the IELTS is to be familiar with the format of the test before you write it. The test can be taken on paper or a computer in some testing centres.
1. Listening (30 minutes)
- You will use four audio recordings to answer a series of written/typed questions.
- The recordings will be in conversation or monologue format and describe various formal and informal situations.
2. Reading (60 minutes)
- General Training
- You will read various extracts from everyday materials (books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and more) and answer 40 questions from them.
- You will read three long texts in academic styles (factual textbook-style, novel, persuasive essays, and more) and answer 40 questions from them.
3. Writing (60 minutes)
- General Training
- Task 1: You will write a personal, semi-formal, or formal letter based on a given topic.
- Task 2: You will write a persuasive essay in response to a stated point of view.
- Task 1: A graph, table, or other data visualization will be presented, and you will be asked to describe it in your own words.
- Task 2: You will write a formal-style persuasive essay in response to a stated point of view.
4. Speaking (11-14 minutes)
- Part 1: You will answer general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics (4-5 minutes).
- Part 2: You will be given one minute to prepare thoughts on an assigned topic before speaking on that topic for one or two minutes.
- Part 3: You will be asked further questions connected to the topic in Part 2, discussing larger concepts and ideas (4-5 minutes).
7 tips to improve your IELTS score
Use these examiner-approved tips to use your time wisely and maximize your score on the IELTS test:
- Always read the instructions of each IELTS section carefully to make sure you are accurately answering the question.
- Follow the suggested allotted timing to maximize your points. For example, written section 2 has a higher allotted time because it is longer and worth more points than written section 1.
- There are no right or wrong answers or opinions in the writing or speaking section. You will be assessed on how well you can use English to express your ideas.
- Don’t waste precious test time trying to understand every single word or phrase. Instead, try for a broader understanding based on keywords.
- If there are questions you don’t know the answer to, leave them and move on to the next question, especially if they aren’t worth many points. You can go back and try to answer them at the end. Try not to leave any questions completely blank; it is always better to write down a wrong answer than no answer at all.
- Do as many practice exams as you can. These will help you become familiar with both the test content and format.
- While you should show some advanced vocabulary, it is better to speak basic vocabulary correctly than overreach on advanced words that you aren’t confident about. Be careful to avoid informal phrasing or shortened word forms.
Tip: Find even more examiner-approved tips in each test section on the IELTS site:
Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.
Additional IELTS resources: Practice tests and support
Many people across the world have taken the IELTS, which means there are plenty of practice materials and individuals who have gone through the same thing as you who can help you out:
- Free online preparation courses: If you book a test with IELTS, you will receive 30 days of a free practice module.
- IELTS Essentials Facebook: This IELTS-run Facebook page is a great place to ask questions and keep up-to-date with helpful resources.
- IELTS Essentials Youtube: The IELTS Essentials Youtube channel is fully stocked with clips answering frequently asked questions, outlining various sections of the test, and testimonials of past test-takers.
- IELTS practice tests: Practising using official IELTS free online tests is one of the best ways to prepare and become familiar with the test format. There are many unofficial practice tests available as well. However, they may not be as up-to-date on current formatting and question types.
It may seem as though a lot of pressure rides on achieving a high score for the IELTS, but remember that you always have the ability to take the test again if you don’t achieve the score you desire the first time around. Putting in practice hours, using all available preparation resources available to you, and having patience with yourself is the tried-and-true formula for IELTS success.