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Immigrating to Canada: Understanding the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)

Immigrating to Canada: Understanding the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)

Many Canadian immigration programs require language test scores. They demonstrate your English or French proficiency. A language test is required to become a permanent resident (PR) of Canada. If you want to study or work in Canada, you may need a language test score.

The score you need depends on your immigration program, work experience, and National Occupational Classification (NOC) code. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) use the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) to measure English proficiency. This article explains the Canadian Language Benchmark, how it affects your application and acceptable tests.

 Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) uses the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) to assess and recognize immigrants’ English language skills. IELTS and CELPIP have different scoring systems, so the CLB compares all test takers. The CLB measures your language proficiency after a language test to determine if you meet immigration requirements.

The CLB tests listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Each skill has 12 proficiency benchmarks. Thus, you will receive a benchmark for each language ability to assess your proficiency.

Like CLB for English, NCLC assesses French language skills.

Why is CLB required for Canadian immigration?

To work, live, and succeed in Canada, you must be able to speak English or French. IRCC-approved language tests are required for PR applications. The main reasons Canadian immigration requires CLB are:

  • Standardized scoring: The CLB standard uses a single scoring system to evaluate all applicants, regardless of which approved test they take. 12 language benchmarks range from basic to advanced. CLB levels increase with language test scores. Your language test score is recalculated to the CLB standard to compare applicants.
  • Impacts CRS points: The Canadian government uses the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) to determine Express Entry eligibility. CLB affects CRS points. CRS points increase with CLB level in Express Entry PR applications. Some permanent residence programs require a minimum CLB score.
  • Minimum score requirements: You must meet your program’s CLB score minimum to apply. For the Express Entry Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, you need a CLB level 7 in each language ability.
  • Test for both languages: Your French NCLC score can be compared to the Canadian Language Benchmark if you plan to take both English and French language tests. If you speak two official languages, take both tests to earn more CRS points.
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Language Tests Approved for Canadian Immigration

IRCC accepts language test results from approved agencies. Schedule and pay for your test with an agency. After the test, you can add your scores to Express Entry. Include the results if invited to apply.

Approved English proficiency tests are:

  • CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index)
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

Approved French language tests:

  • TEF Canada: French proficiency test
  • TCF Canada: French proficiency test
  • IELTS score comprehension

IELTS tests consist of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The test gives you a score from 0 to 9, with 9 being the highest at “expert user.” Your score is the average of your four marks. The scoring scale are given below:

  • 9—expert user
  • 8—excellent user
  • 7—good user
  • 6—competent user
  • 5—modest user
  • 4—limited user
  • 3—very few users
  • 2—occasional user
  • 1 – Non-user (only a few words)
  • 0—didn’t take the test

CELPIP score 

The Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) test is an English Language test that analyses English speaking, reading, listening, and writing.

CELPIP scores on 12 levels like CLB benchmarks. 12 represents expert workplace and community proficiency. Workplace and community proficiency is level 6. Level “M” indicates minimal proficiency or insufficient information.

TCF Canada score 

The IRCC has approved the Test de connaissance du francais (TCF) Canada as a way to measure how well someone speaks French. Oral comprehension, written comprehension, oral expression, and written expression are the four sections of the test.

A1 (limited ability) to C2 (advanced ability) are the six French levels used to score the TCF Canada. Candidates receive a certificate with section scores and skill levels from A1 to C2.

TEF Canada score 

For immigration to Canada and Quebec, the Test d’évaluation de français (TEF) Canada and TEFaQ (Test for Evaluating French for Access to Quebec) are approved French language tests. Like TCF Canada, these exams have four oral and written comprehension and expression sections.


Minimum CLB score required for Express Entry

As you prepare for your language test, be aware that the minimum CLB score varies across the three Express Entry programs. The first official language requirements are below.

  • Federal Skilled Workers Program (FSW): All four language abilities must score CLB 7 or NCLC 7 if French is your official language.
  • Federal Skilled Trade Program (FSTP): You must score CLB 5 (or NCLC 5) for listening and speaking and CLB 4 (or NCLC 4) for reading and writing.
  • Canadian Experience Class (CEC): The minimum CLB score for CEC applicants depends on your occupation’s TEER level.
    • TEER 0 (previously NOC skill type 0): minimum CLB 7 in all four abilities or NCLC 7.
    • TEER 1 (previously NOC skill level A): minimum CLB 7 in all four abilities or NCLC 7.
    • TEER 2 (formerly NOC skill level B): CLB 5 in all four abilities or NCLC 5.
    • TEER 3 (previously NOC skill level B): minimum CLB 5 in all four abilities or NCLC 5.

The minimum score for the second language is CLB 5 (or NCLC 5).

Minimum language test score required for a Canadian study permit

When applying to a university or college and for a study permit in Canada, you may need to demonstrate your language proficiency.

The minimum language requirement varies by university and study program. This ensures that all students can understand and communicate with their classmates.

Applying for a study permit through the Student Direct Stream (SDS) requires language test scores. SDS expedites study permits for 14 countries, including India, China, Pakistan, Brazil, and the Philippines.

The Student Direct Stream requires an IELTS Academic score of 6.0 or higher (CLB 7) in each language ability or an equivalent TEF Canada score.

Language tests’ validity period

Language test results are valid for two years. When you complete your Express Entry profile and apply for permanent residence after receiving an ITA, your test results must be valid.

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Make sure your language test results are valid for at least a year when you submit your Express Entry profile. Retake and update your profile if your test results expire before you’re invited to apply. Expiring language test results will disqualify your PR application.

CLB Improvement Tips

Like any exam, preparation can boost your language test score. While getting the minimum score for your Express Entry application is important, getting a high score on your IELTS or CELPIP test (and the French language tests) has additional benefits.

If you take both English and French tests, your second language test score can also increase your chances of being invited to apply for PR.

Thus, there are many reasons to do well on language tests. Arrive’s IELTS and CELPIP preparation tips can help you score higher.

Converting your IELTS or CELPIP score to CLB levels and CRS points can be confusing. However, understanding how test performance affects your PR application can make the difference between approval and denial. Retaking your language test is an easy way to improve your chances of qualifying for an immigration program if your CRS score is low.



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