IELTS: Exam Structure and Preparation Tips

IELTS is a leading English language test that’s popular all over the world. According to recent statistics, over 3.5 million people take IELTS every year. And some of those people take IELTS in order to immigrate to Canada because taking that exam is a good way to show your English proficiency.

Even though Canada is a bilingual country with English and French being the official languages, you don’t necessarily have to learn French in order to qualify for immigration. The Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) accepts IELTS as well. In fact, it was the very first test to be acknowledged by CIC and Immigration Quebec for Express Entry to Canada. If you are a native English speaker or fluent in the language, it’s the ideal test for you. 

IELTS is accepted by almost all professional organizations, educational institutes, and businesses across Canada.

IELTS Score and CLB

girl with the Canadian flag
courtesy of Andre Furtado

The standard used to assess, measure, recognize, and describe the written and spoken English skills by Canadian standards is the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB). By following this chart, you can evaluate how the IELTS score equates to CLB. 

IELTS Score and CLB

Canadian Language
Benchmarks (CLB)
IELTS
Listening
IELTS
Reading
IELTS
Writing
IELTS
Speaking
CLB11.01.01.01.0
CLB22.01.52.02.0
CLB33.52.53.03.0
CLB44.53.54.04.0
CLB55.04.05.05.0
CLB65.55.05.55.5
CLB76.06.06.06.0
CLB87.56.56.56.5
CLB98.07.07.07.0
CLB108.58.07.57.5
CLB119.08.58.08.0
CLB129.09.09.09.0

IELTS Structure

IELTS is used to evaluate your ability to write, speak, read, and listen in English language within a set frame of time. These tests can be of two types, including Academic and General Training. The speaking and listening sections of both tests are similar, but reading and writing can differ in the subject matter depending on your choice of test. Academic IELTS is ideal for educational organizations and universities for admission or professional application. 

The reading, writing, and listening section of these tests are to be given on one day without getting any break in between. The speaking part of the test can be given within a week before or after taking the other three tests. The total time for IELTS is 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

  • Listening 
    • Duration: 30 minutes
    • About the task: you are given four recordings by native English speakers that you have to listen carefully and then answer a series of questions based on it. These recordings are conversations and monologues based on everyday social context or educational discussions. This test assesses your ability to understand and grasp factual information in English.
  • Reading 
    • Duration: 60 minutes
    • About the task: as mentioned above, the reading section is different for academic and general IELTS. Both have 40 questions that assess reading skills. The academic section includes three long segments ranging from descriptive to factual to analytical and discursive, specially designed for a non-specialist audience, and appropriate for those planning for university courses or professional registration. The general training consists of extracts from newspapers, books, magazines, advertisements, and other handbooks. 
  • Writing 
    • Duration: 60 minutes
    • About the task: both academic and general training consist of two tests. Academic writing is designed in a formal style, while general training consists of letters that have a more personal or semi-formal style.
  • Speaking 
    • Duration: usually 11-14 minutes
    • About the task: It is the same for both types of IELTS. It assesses your spoken English skills and fluency in the language. It is divided into three parts. In the first part, the examiner asks general questions related to everyday life, whereas part 2 and 3 consists of cards on certain topics on which you have to speak for up to two minutes, and answer questions based on the same topic. 

IELTS Preparation

Even if you are fluent and skilled in English, you should take preparation for immigration seriously and prepare for a language exam systematically. IELTS is a ‘test’ and you need to practice, as your performance is assessed over strict criteria by examiners.

The first step in preparing yourself for IELTS is to improve your English by simple means. This includes watching movies and TV shows and paying attention to grammar and subtitles, picking up classic English literature, and conversing with friends and family in English. 

The next step is to practice Sample Test Questions available online. These sample papers and questions familiarize you with the general format and what to expect. IELTS is such a common test that most countries have several preparation institutes available to take a short course before attempting the test.

You can also take IELTS Courses Online with a simple registration process. IELTS Prep App and Video Tutorials are also convenient and easily available options to help you ace the test on the first attempt! 

You can get your hands on a number of books such as How to Prepare for IELTS by Ray De Witt and New Insight into IELTS by Clare McDowell.

However, if you are unable to achieve your target score at the first attempt, don’t get discouraged and keep practicing until you can get your scores up. For test dates, fees, and other details regarding IELTS, please contact your local center directly.

Did you know?
Self-preparation for IELTS is effective only in 43% cases! Getting a tutor or taking a systematic preparation course would be a better way to success.

We’ve found a course that helps:

  • Learn about the IELTS test procedure and format
  • Learn useful test-taking strategies and skills for the IELTS Academic tests
  • Develop English reading, writing, listening and speaking skills

Here you may find out more it.

IELTS and Immigration to Canada

The International English Language Testing System or IELTS for Canada PR is one of the most common language proficiency tests for immigration and study permits. IELTS was first introduced in 1989, and around 3.5 million people take this test every year for language assessment. 

IELTS for Canada PR is a popular choice opted by those who wish to immigrate through an express entry or other streams, as it is accepted by all the educational institutes and professional organizations/businesses in the country. In fact, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) accepted IELTS for Canada PR as the very first English test for permanent residency. IELTS scores for immigration are then converted to Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) scores based on listening, reading, writing, and speaking.

IELTS and Express Entry

While there are a handful of language tests that can be taken to assess English or French proficiency, IELTS for Canada PR is the most common one for English. Those who wish to submit their profile on the IRCC portal must prove their fluency in English (or French) and meet the minimum IELTS score for Canada express entry. For this, the IELTS General Training exam is accepted. IELTS for a job in Canada also requires the General Training exam. 

IELTS score for Canada immigration varies on the different express entry programs and their requirements. For instance, Federal Skilled Working Class requires a higher IELTS score for Canada immigration, while the Federal Skilled Trades Program requires a lower IELTS score for immigration.

IELTS and Other Canadian Immigration Programs

Besides express entry, one can also immigrate through a multitude of Provincial Nominee Programs, as well as business streams for entrepreneurs, self-employers, and investors. IELTS for a job in Canada is one of the leading English test for permanent residency through all these immigration streams as well. 

The IELTS scores for Canada immigration are then converted to CLB and added to the overall CRS score. IELTS Canada requirements can be met by retaking the test if you don’t succeed in your first attempt, and there are sufficient study material and courses readily available to practice and enhance your command of the language.

IELTS for Canada: Most Asked Questions

IELTS for Study Permit in Canada

passing IELTS
courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto

In order to be issued a Letter of Acceptance to a university or college and obtain a Study Permit, international students may need to submit proof of English language skills. In such cases, the IELTS exam might be an option (IELTS Academic).

Note, that it may depend on the circumstances whether the proof is needed and taking IELTS Academic is a good way of getting that proof. So as not to waste time and money, it is better to do deep research and consult representatives of educational institutions in Canada.

Other Questions About IELTS and Immigration

What Language Test is Required for Immigration to Canada?
Immigration applicants may take IELTS or CELPIP exams as proof of English skills and/or TEF or TCF exams as proof if French skills.
 Is IELTS mandatory for Canada PR?
Besides IELTS, CELPIP is also accepted as an English language test for Canada PR, and TEF or TCF for French language.
Which IELTS is required for immigration to Canada?
IELTS Canada requirements are of the IELTS General Training category.
Where to send IELTS results for Canada immigration?
The scores must be submitted in the IRCC application (photocopy or scanned).
How Much Does IELTS Cost?
The exam fee is around $300 for all of the IELTS formats: the paper-based and computer-based ones; Academic and General Training versions.
How Long Is IELTS Valid?
The IELTS results are valid for two years from the date you took the test.
What Minimum Score is Required for Canada PR?
For Canada PR or in order to enter the Express Entry pool, candidates need to have an equivalent of 7 or higher in Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB). That means that they need an IELTS score of 6.0 for listening, speaking, writing, and reading.

However, in some cases, lower results would be enough. If you apply for Canadian Experience Class and your occupation falls under the NOC B skill level, then a 4.0 score in reading and a 5.0 score in other sections of IELTS is enough. And for the Federal Skilled Trades option, you may need only 4.0 in writing and speaking, 3.5 in reading, and 4.5 in listening.

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