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Canadian language Benchmarks (CLBs) for Canadian immigration: All you need to know

Are you planning to settle in Canada? Canada has one of the most sophisticated immigration systems in the world and it attracts over 400,000 newcomers every year. You have probably heard of the variety of immigration programs that are available in Canada where you are invited to apply for permanent residence. One popular method of immigrating to Canada is through Express Entry.  The Canadian Express Entry program is made up of three programs:

  • Canadian Experience Class: This program provides the opportunity for international students and foreign workers who have Canadian experience to obtain permanent residence.

If you are eligible for any of Canada’s immigration programs you can create a profile on Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) website. Part of this process is to accumulate a Comprehensive Ranking System [CRS] score based on human capital characteristics such as an applicant age, education, work experience, and language skills. A higher CRS score means that your application is stronger, and you are likely to have a better chance to receive and Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

The Canadian government uses a system called Canadian Language Benchmarks, also known as CLBs, in order to determine language skills. The CLBs are represented by a scale of ability ranging from 1 (the lowest) to 12 (the highest). The level of language ability that you need to achieve will depend on the type of program that you are applying for. For example, for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program you will need to achieve a CLB5 or a CLB7 (this is determined by the type of job that you do). For the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the requirement is a CLB7 across all skills (listening, reading, writing & speaking). For the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), the minimum requirements are CLB5 (speaking and Listening) & CLB4 (reading and writing).  To find out more about these minimum language requirements, visit the Government of Canada official page.

So, how can I find out what my CLB level is?

The CLBs are linked to the IELTS levels. If you have already taken your IELTS test, you can calculate your CLB level by using this handy calculator on our CLB to IELTS page. This will tell you if you have the required English level in order to apply for any of Canada’s immigration programs.

What is a CLB level 5?

If you need to take the IELTS test to demonstrate that you have at least a CLB 5 level in English, it is important to know what you need to do to achieve this. A CLB level 5 is approximately classed as a lower intermediate level in English. You can see below how this level translates to IELTS scores:

  • Listening: 5
  • Reading: 4
  • Writing: 5
  • Speaking: 5

What do you need to do to get a Level 5 in IELTS?

Listening – score at least 16 correct answers out of 40

Reading – score at least 15 correct answers out of 40

(the above score represents the average number of correct answers required to achieve this particular band score)

Speaking & Writing – Read the assessment criteria and check for the descriptions for level 5. You will need to demonstrate that you have achieved these in both the Writing & Speaking sections in order to get that band.

Download assessment criteria for Writing task 1

Download assessment criteria for Writing task 2

Download assessment criteria for Speaking

What is a CLB level 7?

A CLB level 7 is approximately classed as an intermediate level in English. You can see below how this level translates to IELTS scores:

  • Listening: 6
  • Reading: 6
  • Writing: 6
  • Speaking: 6

What do you need to do to get a Level 6 in IELTS?

Listening – score 23 correct answers out of 40

Reading – score 30 correct answers out of 40

(the above score represents the average number of marks required to achieve this particular band score)

Speaking & Writing – As previously stated, read the assessment criteria (you can download these from the links above) and check for the descriptions for level 6. You will need to demonstrate that you have achieved these in both the Writing & Speaking sections in order to get that band.

How can you check your IELTS level?

Before you take your test, it is important to practice so that you can understand at what level your English ability is at currently.

Reading & Listening – Take a practice test, and time yourself (set the timer for 60 minutes). For the reading test, make sure you take the General Training version of the test as this the one which is required for immigration purposes. Once you have completed the test, check your correct answers and use the score guide below to get an idea of your IELTS level.  Remember that the scores below represent the average number of correct answers required to achieve this particular band score and can vary from test to test.

Listening            

Band score          Correct answers

5                            16

6                            23

7                            30

8                            35

General Training Reading           

Band score          Correct answers

4                            15

5                            23

6                            30

7                            34

8                            38

 

Speaking & Writing – Take a practice test.  If you would like feedback on your written and spoken ability, why not try one of our IELTS online tutors? You can get personalized feedback from one of our expert tutors so that you can make quicker progress to improving your ielts band. What’s more you can take a trial class for only $1!

How can I improve my IELTS level?

For some immigration programs the higher your CLB score, the more points you can get for your CRS score. As a result, it makes sense to get the best score possible so that you maximise the amount of “language points” that you can get. In order to do this, visit the British Council IELTS Canada preparation page. On our page we have a variety of free resources to help you get ready for test day. These resources include:

  • our exclusive road to IELTS preparation course
  • a free preparation app
  • IELTS online practice activities and resources
  • free webinars delivered by our British Council IELTS experts
  • a variety of free practice tests

If you feel you are ready to get the CLB score that you need for your Canadian  immigration pathway, then visit our register page to find the nearest test location and book your test.

Best of luck with your Canadian immigration adventure!