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English language testing to study in Canada is a reality for many would-be international students, but if you know in advance if you need to sit a test— and if so, which test and where— your journey to Canada will be that little bit simpler.

English language testing to study in Canada is a reality for many would-be international students, but if you know in advance if you need to sit a test— and if so, which test and where— your journey to Canada will be that little bit simpler.

English is the primary language of instruction at the vast majority of universities and colleges in Canada, and your success as an international student in Canada requires a high level of English proficiency.Whether or not you need to sit a language test to study in Canada depends on your educational background, including what language you studied in, when, and where.

Do I need to sit a language test to study in Canada?

While individual universities and colleges have their own criteria with regard to proving English ability to study in Canada, institutions follow a broad set of similar benchmarks to differentiate prospective students who do need to provide proof of their English ability (through an approved test, outlined below), and those who do not need to sit a test.

For example, let’s look at the criteria for entry to undergraduate programs at the University of British Columbia (UBC), one of the largest universities in Canada and one of the most popular among international students. For UBC, there are nine ways you may prove your English ability without having to sit a test:

  1. Complete four or more consecutive years of recognized, full-time education in English within Canada immediately prior to attending UBC.
  2. Complete four or more consecutive years of full-time education in English in a country other than Canada where English is the principal language. These four years must be immediately prior to attending UBC.
  3. Achieve a final exam grade of 70% or better on the provincial examination portion of Alberta English Language Arts 30-1, BC English 12, or equivalents.
  4. Achieve a final grade of 4 or better on Advanced Placement (AP) English Language & Composition or AP Literature & Composition; or achieve a final grade of 5 or better on International Baccalaureate English A (higher-level or standard-level).
  5. Achieve the competence standard indicated by one of the tests of English language proficiency that evaluates skills in listening, reading, speaking, and writing.
  6. Successfully complete six credits of post-secondary first-year English studies at a recognized university in an English-speaking country.
  7. Graduate from a recognized degree program at an accredited university at which English is the primary language of instruction in a country where English is the principal language.
  8. Attend four or more years at an eligible international secondary school that uses English as the language of instruction but operates in a country where the primary language is not English. These four years must be immediately prior to attending UBC. You will need to submit a transcript as soon as possible to the Undergraduate Admissions office.
  9. Achieve a UBC Certificate in English Language or CEL by completing Level 600 of the UBC English Language Institute’s English for Academic Purposes program on UBC’s Vancouver campus.

And if you are fully proficient in English but do not meet any of the nine options listed above, you may request a .

Again, this is just one example of admissions policy at a major Canadian university with respect to English language ability. Below, we have also included similar policy guidelines for some of the Canadian universities that are among the most popular among international students.

English language testing to study in Canada: University of Toronto

English language testing to study in Canada: University of Waterloo

English language testing to study in Canada: McGill University

If you are unsure whether you may be required to submit evidence of English ability to study at a Canadian university or college, please contact the relevant department overseeing enrollment at the institution you wish to attend.

Language tests to study in Canada

Much like the way different universities and colleges in Canada have slightly different policies regarding who may prove English ability without having to sit a test, prospective students who do have to sit a test should note that different institutions may accept different tests.

However, the same core group of tests are widely regarded as being acceptable proof of English language ability to study in Canada. Let’s take a look at these tests, and what scores you might need in order to satisfy a Canadian university or college that you have the right level of English to study in Canada.

Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) assessment

The CAEL computer edition (CAEL-CE) assessment provides a truly authentic representation of language use in a Canadian academic context. The minimum score required is typically an overall score of 70 or better and no part below 60. The CAEL-CE assessment is offered throughout Canada, China, India, the Philippines, UAE, and the United States.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – Academic

The minimum score required is an overall band of 6.5, with no band below 6.0.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

With the paper-based TOEFL no longer available, the online version remains an option. This is known as the internet-based TOEFL (iBT). You’ll typically need an overall score of at least 90, or even higher for some institutions, and you may have to score at least 20-25 for certain abilities.

Pearson Test of English (PTE) – Academic

A minimum score of at least 60 to 65 is typically required, depending on the institution.

It’s possible that not all of the above tests may be accepted by every university or college, and/or that other tests may be accepted. Check with the institution you plan on applying to attend before booking your test date.

Are language tests required to apply for a Study Permit?

In some cases, as part of your supporting documents to apply for a study permit, applicants may need to submit valid language test. For instance, those applying under the Student Direct Stream need to provide adequate French or English language results.

Under the regular study permit stream, applicants should check the processing office document checklist to see if language tests are required. When in doubt, submit language test results. Failure to demonstrate sufficient language proficiency is a common reason for study permits to be refused.

How long are language tests for Study Permits valid for?

In most cases, language tests are valid for 24 months. Expired language results will not be accepted.

Can proof of study in English be used instead of language test?

Check your processing office checklist as this depends on the processing office. Some processing offices ask for proof of language proficiency where as others specifically state language test results. In either case, to be on the safe side, language test should be provided.

What is the minimum score needed in the language test for a Study Permit?

This will change depending on the program. As a rule though, language tests should demonstrate at least CLB level 7 however in some cases, high proficiency may be required. For instance, if you are studying at a Masters level you may need a higher level of English due to the complexities of the course. At a very minimum, check the language requirements of the program and make sure you are at least demonstrating this level.

English language testing to study in Canada is just one aspect of preparation. For more information on moving to Canada as an international student, please visit our complete study section.

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Rebecca Major

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Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (R511564) with nearly 15 years of licenced Canadian Immigration experience, gained after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in the UK. She specializes in Canadian immigration at 鶹ӳý.
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