“I’m planning to take a language test for Express Entry, so should I take IELTS or CELPIP? Which one is easier?”
This question is common among Express Entry’s aspiring immigrants. If you’re also wondering, I’ll explain the differences between these two language tests in this post.
Although if you’re in the UAE, the obvious choice is IELTS. And it’s because it has more test centers across all seven emirates. CELPIP only has one test center and it is in Dubai Silicon Oasis. So if you live far from this place, you might want to take the IELTS instead. And if you’re in the Philippines, CELPIP also has one test center and it’s in Manila. So again, if you live outside the city, you might want to go for IELTS.
So this post is for those who have an option to choose between IELTS and CELPIP. That is if CELPIP is available in your country. So far, CELPIP has test centers in Singapore, UAE, India, Philippines, China, USA, and Canada.
Let’s get to it now, shall we?
DISCLAIMER: The information from this post is based on IRCC, CELPIP, and IELTS’ respective websites as of July 2021. To verify the most up-to-date information, check the list of sources at the end of this post.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link by Grammarly. That means when you sign-up for a free account or upgrade to Premium using my link, I get a small commission but without extra cost to you.
The crucial role of language skills in Express Entry
As you may know, language skills play a crucial role in Express Entry’s Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). You need to be proficient in either English or French to qualify. And to show your proficiency, you need to take an approved language test.
To qualify for FSWP, you need a score of CLB 7 or higher in your language test in each of the four abilities (I’ll go to that later).
And then, you need to score at least 67 points out of 100 in FSWP’s Six Selection Factors. Language skills can give you a maximum of 24 points (given that you’re proficient in either English or French).
But aside from being a qualifying factor, your language skills would also contribute to your overall Express Entry score.
In case you haven’t heard yet, Express Entry applicants get a score based on various factors. These include their language skills, work experience, education level, age, and so on.
The highest possible CRS score is 1,200 points. Under Language Skills, you can get a maximum of 148 points (for applicants with a spouse) or 136 points (for single applicants). Plus other extra points. As you know, applicants with a high CRS score are those who get invited to apply for permanent residency by IRCC.
Hence, your language test is crucial and gives you a chance to rank higher than the other candidates.
Since I assume that you only know English like us, I’m only going to go through the approved tests for this language. But if you also speak French fluently, you can also take a test and get extra points.
What are the approved language tests for English?
If English is going to be your official language, you can take either IELTS or CELPIP. IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. CELPIP stands for the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program.
If there are both IELTS and CELPIP test centers near you, you might be wondering what’s the better option. Some say that CELPIP is easier though others claim that it’s not true. I can’t say for sure since I only took the IELTS.
But here, I’m going to share the differences between the two tests so you can decide.
IELTS vs CELPIP: What are their similarities and differences?
First, we go to their similarities.
Both IELTS and CELPIP are used by test-takers to show their English skills through a series of tests. In both language tests, you’ll be tested in four abilities: listening, reading, speaking, and writing.
The format for each ability is also the same for both tests. In the Listening and Reading parts, you would either listen to or read passages and answer questions based on what you’ve heard or read. In the Writing part, you’ll be given writing tasks. And in the Speaking part, you’ll answer questions verbally (like in an interview). You would then get a separate score for each of these four abilities.
Another similarity of IELTS and CELPIP is that they both accept American and British English. Although CELPIP is designed for Canadian English (which is a mix of both English I mentioned).
And like I said earlier, both language tests are approved and accepted by IRCC for immigration purposes.
Lastly, both results are valid for 2 years. This means that once your test result has expired and you’re still waiting for an ITA (Invitation to Apply) from Canada, you need to retake the test.
Now, what are their differences?
IELTS has more test centers worldwide, including UAE and the Philippines. According to IELTS, it has more than 1,600 test locations in 140 countries. In the UAE, it has test centers across all seven emirates. In Dubai alone, it so far has 50 test locations that you can choose from. In the Philippines, IELTS test centers are spread across the major provinces. Although they don’t have one in Cavite (where I came from), so you need to go to either Makati, Manila, or Tagaytay.
CELPIP has fewer test locations worldwide, and so far, it can be taken in countries like Singapore, UAE, Philippines, India, China, USA, and Canada. In UAE, they only have one test center and that’s in Dubai Silicon Oasis. And in the Philippines, they also only have one which is in Manila.
So in terms of options where to take the test, IELTS has more that you can choose from so far. Except if you’re in Canada.
IELTS has two options: either you take a paper-based test or a computer-delivered one. The questions are still the same though, and you still need to go to a test center to take the exam. And the speaking part would still be conducted face-to-face with an examiner either way. You also need to come back for another day for the speaking part, which gives you extra time to prepare. So if you’d rather take a long mental break in between the test, you might go for IELTS.
CELPIP only has a computer-delivered test. And you have to finish the test in one sitting, including the speaking part. Although for the speaking test, you just need to reply verbally to on-screen prompts so there’s no face-to-face interaction. If you’d rather finish everything in one day so you don’t come back again (especially if you’re a busy person), CELPIP might be a better choice.
The cost for the IELTS General Training exam is:
- CAD 309 for a paper-based test, or
- CAD 300 + tax for a computer-delivered test
But it might differ slightly depending on the location. For those taking an exam in the UAE, the costs are AED 1,130 and AED 1,260 for paper-based and computer-delivered tests respectively. In the Philippines, it’s PHP 11,650 for either format.
The cost of CELPIP General test is:
- CAD 280 + tax in Canada, or
- CAD 340 + taxes in UAE (around AED 994), or
- CAD 215 + taxes in the Philippines (around PHP 8,598)
This makes CELPIP cheaper than IELTS.
IELTS has a total duration of approximately 3 hours, but the speaking part is done separately on a different day. The Listening test is 30 minutes (plus extra 10 minutes for paper-based test-takers to transfer their answers). The Reading and Writing parts are 60 minutes each, while the Speaking part is 11 to 14 minutes. So you’ll sit down for about 2 hours and 40 minutes and then come back another day just for the Speaking test. And while the Speaking test is only 11 to 14 minutes, you need to add the waiting time between test-takers.
CELPIP has a total duration of 3 hours, but you have to take everything in one sitting. Each test (Listening, Reading, and Writing) would take between 50 to 60 minutes each, while Speaking takes 15 to 20 minutes.
Again, you need to ask yourself which is more important to you: taking a mental break in between the test? Or finishing everything in one day and not come back just for a 14-minute Speaking test?
Some say that CELPIP is easier while others claim that both tests are just the same in terms of difficulty. Some also say that it’s not about the questions, but more about how comfortable you are in the format of either test. So, let’s go to that one by one.
Writing: If you’re more comfortable using pen and paper, then the IELTS paper-based might be a good fit for you. Most people who can’t type that fast might also find it easier to use pen and paper. Although you need to track your own time and word count. But if you’re more comfortable typing on a computer, then either go for IELTS computer-delivered or CELPIP. You’ll also get an advantage to see your word count as you type. However, CELPIP has a spell-checker in their writing test so that could be an advantage.
Listening: In CELPIP, the test uses Canadian speakers. In the IELTS test, there’s a range of accents. These include British, Australian, New Zealand, American and Canadian. Personally, I find some accents hard to understand, so if you’re like me, that could be a challenge when you take the IELTS Listening test. Now, if you’re already used to listening to a native Canadian speaker, you might find the Listening part of CELPIP easier.
Speaking: In CELPIP, there’s no face-to-face interaction. You just need to reply verbally to on-screen prompts, and your answers will be recorded on the computer. Whereas in IELTS, you will be interviewed by an examiner. If you get anxious talking to people, you might find it difficult to speak properly even though you know you’re good at spoken English.
IELTS scoring is based on a 9-band scale, with band score 1 being the lowest and 9 being the highest. In Express Entry’s FSWP, the minimum requirement is to get at least CLB 7 or an IELTS band score of 6 or higher in each ability.
CELPIP scoring is based on a 12-level chart, with Level M being the lowest (below Level 3) and Level 12 being the highest. Since CELPIP is set based on the Canadian Language Benchmark or CLB, a CLB 7 is also equivalent to a CELPIP Level of 7. So to qualify for Express Entry’s FSWP, you need to get a CELPIP Level 7 or higher in each ability.
For the IELTS paper-based test, the results would come out in 13 days. Computer-delivered test results come out between 3-5 days. According to the IELTS official website, test-takers applying to IRCC will get two copies of the Test Report Form. Results can also be viewed online for 28 days, although this cannot be used officially.
CELPIP only has a computer-delivered test, and the results come out in 4-5 days. According to CELPIP’s website, the Official Score Report would be available for download in PDF in one’s CELPIP account. For those applying to IRCC, they can submit the same PDF copy of their Official Score Report. But if anyone needs a hard copy, they can order for CAD 20.00 each within 2 years from the test date.
I don’t see any issue waiting for 13 days. And it’s because if you’re applying for Express Entry’s FSWP, you also need to wait for about one month to get your ECA report. So even if you get your language test results immediately, you can’t create your Express Entry profile yet. But if you already have your ECA, then you can either go for IELTS computer-delivered test or CELPIP. Especially if you’re in a hurry to create your Express Entry profile. But since CELPIP is cheaper, then it might be a better choice.
Just a little tip: if your birthday is coming up and you’re turning 30 or above, you might want to hurry up. Why? Because if your age is between 20-29 years old, you can get 100 points under Age in your CRS score. Once you turn 30, you only get 95 points. And you’d continue to get 5 points less for every birthday you celebrate (which is kinda ironic).
To recap what we’ve discussed, here’s a visual summary of the differences between IELTS and CELPIP.
In the end, the choice of whether you should take IELTS or CELPIP all comes down to your personal preferences.
IELTS has more edge in terms of the following:
- It has more test locations to choose from
- You have a chance to take a mental break in between the test
- You have an option to take a paper-based test if you prefer pen and paper
CELPIP has an advantage when it comes to the following:
- It comes at a cheaper price
- You can complete the test in one sitting (if you prefer not to come back for a 14-minute-speaking test)
- You don’t need to talk face-to-face with an examiner for your Speaking test
- You don’t have to struggle understanding different accents in the Listening part (since CELPIP only uses Canadian speakers)
- The Writing part has a word counter and spell-checker (IELTS computer-delivered test only has a word counter)
If you wish to know more about IELTS or CELPIP, you may visit their respective websites.
Go here to book a CELPIP General test.
Go here to book an IELTS General Training test.
I hope you’ve learned something from this post. If you need some tips on preparing for your language test, watch out for my upcoming posts by signing up on my mailing list.
About the author:
JK Legaspi is a permanent resident of Canada since 2018. She and her family lives in the beautiful Niagara Region. As the founder of Detour To Canada, she aims to help aspiring and future immigrants reach their Canadian dreams by sharing her family’s own immigration and newcomer story.
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