As a newcomer in Canada, strong English language skills will be key to your ability to thrive in your new home country. In most provinces, except Quebec and New Brunswick, English is the primary language and you’ll need at least intermediate proficiency to be able to adapt to the job market, access government services, or even for day-to-day communication.Most Canadian immigration programs have a language proficiency requirement to ensure newcomers who qualify for permanent residence (PR) are equipped to succeed in Canada, both from an employment and settlement perspective.
If you apply for PR, you’ll have to take either the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) or International English Language Testing System (IELTs) test to prove your English proficiency. These are the only two English language exams approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) at this time for the purpose of immigration applications.
For many newcomers, English isn’t their first language, and preparing for the CELPIP test can cause stress. However, with some advanced preparation and practice, you can alleviate this anxiety and be ready to ace the test. With this guide, you’ll learn tips on how to improve your CELPIP score and increase your odds of successful immigration to Canada.
In this article:
What is CELPIP?
CELPIP is one of two approved English tests aspiring newcomers to Canada must take. A good CELPIP score is an essential part of your immigration application; the higher you score, the more points you get toward your application. CELPIP is accepted by the following:
- IRCC for Permanent residence (PR), including Express Entry programs such as the Federal Skilled Workers Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, and Canadian Experience Class (CEC), start-up visas, and most Provincial Nominee Programs
- Several Canadian universities, colleges, and vocational programs for admission into study programs in Canada
- Several professional organizations for the purpose of professional certification and licensing
Which CELPIP test should I take?
There are two versions of the test: CELPIP General and CELPIP General LS. Which version you take depends on your path to immigration. Make sure to confirm which version of the exam you’re required to take before you register.
CELPIP General test format
The CELPIP General test evaluates your English speaking, reading, and listening skills. It takes approximately three hours to complete, and can be done in one sitting. You will take the test online and the exam will be broken into four sections:
- Listening, where you will listen to passages and answer questions about them. (47-55 minutes)
- Reading, where you will read passages and answer questions about them. (55-60 minutes)
- Writing, where you will respond to questions with written answers. (53-60 minutes)
- Speaking, where you’ll verbally reply to on-screen prompts. (15-20 minutes)
Aspiring permanent residents and international students will take the CELPIP General test. It is also approved by some professional organizations for certification and licensing purposes.
CELPIP General LS test format
The CELPIP General LS, or CELPIP – LS, test evaluates your English listening and speaking skills. It takes approximately one hour and ten minutes to complete, and is conducted online. The test is broken into two sections:
- Listening, where you listen to passages and answer related questions. (47-55 minutes)
- Speaking, where you reply to on-screen prompts verbally (15-20 minutes)
The CELPIP General LS is approved by the IRCC for Canadian citizenship applications. It is also accepted by some professional organizations for professional certification.
Is CELPIP better than IELTS?
While both English language tests are similar in terms of ease and structure, there are some important differences between the two:
- CELPIP is computer-based, while IELTS can be paper- or computer-based.
- CELPIP features North American accents in the listening section, while IELTS may have British, Australian, South American accents as well.
- CELPIP scores can be accessed online in four to five days, whereas IELTS results take about 13 days.
- CELPIP fees are slightly lower than IELTS fees.
Neither test is better or easier than the other. Both test scores are evaluated against the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) when you apply for PR, and it’s unlikely one test will give you a greater advantage over the other. You should choose whichever test you feel most comfortable with, but not spend too much time stressing over which one to take. It’s much more important that you spend time preparing and practicing for the exam.
How do CELPIP scores work?
When you take the CELPIP test, you’re assigned a separate score for each test section. CELPIP scores range from Level 0 to Level 12, with Levels 0 to 2 depicting minimal English language proficiency or insufficient information to assess (for instance, if a section was not attempted), and Level 12 depicting advanced English proficiency in workplace and community contexts.
Your CELPIP scores directly correlate with CLB levels. This means that if your CELPIP score for the reading section is 9, your CLB reading score will also be 9.
How much does the CELPIP test cost?
The fee you pay for the CELPIP test depends on the type of test you’re taking. For the CELPIP General test, the fee is $280 CAD. The fee for the CELPIP General LS test is lower, at $195 CAD.
How long is my CELPIP score valid for?
Your CELPIP scores remain available for two years after you take the test, which is also the amount of time IRCC considers them valid.
Where can I take the CELPIP test?
The CELPIP test is administered at dedicated test centres in ten countries around the world, including the U.S.A, the U.K, India, Canada, China, Philippines, Singapore, Australia, Korea, and the U.A.E.
Although the CELPIP test is computer based, you need to take the test at a test centre. You can find an updated list of test centres on the CELPIP website to find a location and date that suit you. You cannot give the test virtually from your home.
10 tips for improving your CELPIP score
Preparing for your CELPIP test may seem like a daunting task, but we’re here help with these tips on how to improve your score:
- Familiarize yourself with the test structure and types of questions you’ll be asked. Knowing what to expect will help you reduce anxiety and focus on the task ahead.
- Take practice tests in an environment that closely resembles the actual test, under timed conditions. The key is to feel comfortable and familiar with the way CELPIP is administered prior to actual testing day. Get comfortable answering questions while keeping track of time, and make sure you’re prepared to focus in an environment that is not entirely free of distractions, as the test centre can get a bit noisy.
- Be sure to practice reading, listening, and writing on a computer with digital sample tests or other exercises. It’s important you feel comfortable using a desktop or laptop, as well as typing under time constraints. Since you’ll be expected to listen to passages and speak some answers, it’s also important to have good quality speakers, headphones, and microphone for your practice sessions. For the speaking section, have some practice conversations with a friend and ask for feedback.
- If you feel you need extra help to get ready, you can sign up for preparatory courses, online study programs, or webinars that can assist you in CELPIP prep. These are available on the CELPIP website, which provides a variety of free resources, paid study materials, as well as workshops and webinars.
- Always read the complete instructions before attempting questions. It’s understandable that you may feel some time pressure, but it’d be a huge mistake to rush into answering questions before fully reading them. This is an easy recipe for mistakes, especially if English isn’t your first language. Slow down, and make sure you understand what you’re being asked before answering.
- Never leave any questions unanswered. Remember there is no negative marking for incorrect answers, so if you’re unsure, eliminate the choices that are obviously wrong and take your best guess. You may as well take a shot and maybe you’ll get lucky!
- In the writing and speaking section, you’re being tested on your grasp of the English language, not subject matter expertise. There are no incorrect answers in these sections, so just express yourself the best you can.
- During the test, you will not be allowed to return to earlier sections once the time for that section has elapsed, so be sure to manage your time properly. This is why it’s imperative that you practice answering questions under time constraints before taking the actual CELPIP. If you’re taking too long on one answer, take your best guess and move on. Remember there’s no penalty for wrong answers and, if you find yourself with extra time within that test section, you can always return to that question later.
- Stick with words and language you’re familiar with. While it’s good to include some advanced vocabulary, only do so if you fully understand the word’s meaning and are using it in the right context. It’s much better to stick with what you know than make unnecessary errors by stretching your abilities.
- Relax before the exam. Be sure to sleep well the night before, so you’re well rested and ready for the test. Make sure to go to the bathroom, eat a good meal, and hydrate beforehand as well. If you find yourself getting anxious, take a few minutes to meditate or simply close your eyes and take deep breaths.
CELPIP resources and practice tests
- CELPIP’s “Get the Facts” webinar is a great place to start and learn more about the CELPIP experience. The free introductory session is hosted live once a month and is also available as a pre-recorded YouTube video that provides information about test format, procedure, study materials, and more. You can also ask questions during the live session.
- CELPIP Reading Pro and CELPIP Speaking Pro are two free interactive webinars to help prepare for the reading and speaking parts of the test. In each seminar, you’ll learn about the section’s format, preparation and test-taking strategies, and walk through sample questions with instructor guidance.
- The International Language Academy of Canada offers paid CELPIP preparation courses, divided into four skill modules that correspond with the test’s sections. At the end of each module, there will be a practice exam. Courses are between two and eight weeks in length and students will take a placement test before beginning to determine their skill level.
- Presto English offers free YouTube guides and sample tests for CELPIP takers. If you want additional prep, Presto English also offers paid courses. To get the most out of their free videos, be sure to take notes as you watch!
Your language proficiency score plays an important role in your permanent residency application and, when English isn’t your first language, the pressure of doing well on the CELPIP test can lead to a lot of stress. These tips can help you improve your performance and achieve a better Canadian Language Benchmark score. However, in case your score isn’t as good as you’d hoped, you can retake the CELPIP as soon as four business days after your previous test. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!