English language proficiency test: IELTS, CELPIP or PTE Core

Are you applying for permanent residency in Canada and wondering which English language proficiency test suits you best? This article will compare IELTS General Training, CELPIP, and PTE Core, considering their format, scoring, acceptance, preparation facilities, and availability. Keep reading to discover the right option for you! 

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English language proficiency test: differences between IELTS, PTE Core, and CELPIP  

By the end of January 2024, the IRCC announced that it is now accepting another exam, the PTE Core from Pearson, for immigration processes to Canada. So currently there are 3 suitable English language proficiency tests with that purpose in mind: IELTS General Training, CELPIP, and PTE Core. Let’s see what they offer for you to make an informed choice.   


First you should know that the 3 international English language tests evaluate the main 4 communication skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.   

  • IELTS General Training: duration is 2 hours and 45 minutes. You can choose to take it on paper (IOP) or computer (IOC). However, you should note that the speaking section is conducted face-to-face with an examiner. About the format:  
Exam part  Explanation 
Reading        It takes about 60 minutes to complete and includes 40 questions. It is divided as follows:  

  • Section 1: contains 2 or 3 factual texts, which are related to everyday life in an English-speaking country.  
  • Section 2: contains 2 factual texts related to work.  
  • Section 3: contains the longest text, which is more detailed about a general interest topic.  
Writing  You will also have 60 minutes to complete this part of the exam. It is breakdown as follows:  

  • Task 1: you will be asked to write a letter in response to a situation presented to you. This should be 150 words long.  
  • Task 2: you will have to write an informal essay, of 250 words, on a topic provided on your paper.  
Listening  This section lasts 30 minutes and you will listen to 4 recordings 

  • The first one involves a conversation between two people in an everyday situation.  
  • The second one is a monologue, also in an everyday situation.  
  • The third one is a conversation between up to four people in an academic context.  
  • The last one is a monologue on an academic subject.  
Speaking  It takes 11 to 14 minutes and is divided into 3 parts 

  • The first one involves answering questions about yourself 
  • On the second one, the topic is chosen by the examiner.  
  • The last one is a more in-depth discussion regarding the topic in part 2.  

People taking the listening section of the IELTS

  • PTE Core: is an English language proficiency test available only on-computer, which you can take in about 2 hours. It is suitable for migration or work visas in Canada, as well as Canadian citizenship. About the test format:  
Exam part  Explanation 
Speaking and writing  This is the longest part of the exam, which takes 50 minutes. You will encounter different types of questions such as personal introduction, reading aloud, repeating sentences, and writing an email, among others.  
Reading  This part of the test is 30 minutes long and includes 5 question types:  

  • Reading and writing: fill in the blanks. 
  • Multiple choice and multiple answers 
  • Reordering a paragraph 
  • Filling in the blanks 
  • Multiple choice and single answer 
Listening  This part is 30 minutes long and you will encounter 7 types of questions:  

  • Summarizing spoken test 
  • Multiple choice, multiple answer 
  • Filling in the banks 
  • Multiple choice, single answer 
  • Selecting missing words 
  • Highlighting incorrect words 
  • Writing from dictation  
  • CELPIP: is also only delivered as a computer-based test. There are two modalities, one for permanent residence applications (General) and Listening & Speaking, for Canadian citizenship applications, which is shorter. However, both are focused on the American accent. About the General format (the whole exam takes about 3 hours):  
Exam part  Explanation 
Listening          It takes between 47 to 55 minutes. You will encounter 6 parts:  

  • Problem-solving 
  • Daily life conversation 
  • Listening for information 
  • News item 
  • Discussion 
  • Viewpoints 
Reading  It lasts 55 to 60 minutes and is divided into 4 parts:  

  • Reading correspondence 
  • Apply a diagram 
  • Reading for information 
  • Viewpoints 
Speaking  You will have 15 to 20 minutes and 8 tasks, such as diving advice, talking about a personal experience, and making predictions, among others.  
Writing  It lasts 53 to 60 minutes and you will have 2 tasks: writing an email and responding to survey questions. 

As seen, among the 3 formats, the IELTS test is often favoured for its real-life situational focus, assessing language skills necessary for daily communication and work environments. Its balance of evaluating listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills provides a comprehensive measure of proficiency. While other exams exist, this one stands out for its practicality, making it a popular choice for international endeavours.  


The results are equivalent to CLB (Canadian Language Benchmarks) as follows:  

  • IELTS General Training: scores range from 0 to 9 for each skill.
    Zero means that you didn’t answer any of the questions.
    – From 1 to 5 implies that your language use is limited.
    – 6 and 7 mean that you have a strong English command in general.
    – 8 and 9 imply that you are an expert in the language.
  • PTE Core: it is scored on a scale from 0 to 90. To obtain a CLB 7 you must obtain:– 60-68 in reading
    – 69-78 in writing
    60-70 in listening
    68-75 in speaking 
  • CELPIP General: in this case, the conversion y direct, since it scores from 0 to 12, as well as CLB.– 0 and 1 indicate that the test wasn’t taken or that there is insufficient information to assess.
    – 2 and 3 show that the examiner has limited language use.
    – 4 to 6 is an intermediate level.
    – 7 to 9 demonstrates enough proficiency in several contexts.
    – 10 to 12 means that the examiner has a high level.   

Keep in mind that if you seek to obtain a CLB 7, you must score a minimum of 6 in each category in the IELTS test. You should also note that when the results are ready, the British Council can send them to any institution or organization that you need. In addition, we provide free exclusive preparation material to help you reach the desired score. 

A person taking an English language proficiency test


When taking an English language proficiency test, you want to make sure that it is widely accepted and recognized.

  • IELTS: this exam is accepted by 12,000 institutions in over 150 countries. It was the first test to be recognized by the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada), it is suitable for obtaining permanent residency and is valid in over 850 organizations in Canada.  

 The first version of the test was launched in 1980 and it consolidated in 1989. It is widely recognized and has a long trajectory, which makes it reliable for several purposes involving the English Language.  

  • PTE: this test is accepted by over 3,300 institutions worldwide. It is suitable for visa applications in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The exam was launched in 2009.  
  • CELPIP: it is accepted by the IRCC for permanent residency, several processes, and professional certification. The exam was created around 2002 

As you can notice the IELTS exam is the one with the most trajectory and is recognized in more countries, which is why it is highly trusted 


Preparation is key to success. Let’s dive into the options for each exam:  

  • IELTS: you will find different materials to prepare for the test day, such as:  
  • IELTS Ready Premium: it is a free tool for those who take the exam with the British Council. You will access videos from previous test takers, tutorials and advice from experts, timed practice tests, learning materials, exercises, and question-and-answer models.
  • Practice tests: these mock exams are very useful to familiarise with the format and real-time conditions.
  • Webinars: they are led by exam experts every week so that you can ask them any questions that you may have.
  • Prep app: this is an option that allows you to practice anywhere at any time. You will find free practice tests, grammar tips, exercises, and sample questions.
  • Online tutoring: these paid courses are more personalized. You can choose a rapid revision or advanced sessions.
  • Test day advice, regarding what to expect, what to do or avoid, and blog posts covering everything you need to know about the test.

  • PTE Core: you can find a free online course (which takes about 2 to 3 hours), videos explaining the test format, practice tests, question-and-answer models, tips, and a handbook. There are also paid options, such as grammar books to strengthen your knowdledge.
  • CELPIP: you can access free practice tests, to familiarise yourself with timing and the exam format; watch study tips videos; join webinars and workshops; study with a guidebook; and purchase materials.

As shown, IELTS provides several options for your preparation, that you can adjust to your preferences, priorities, and availability, since they can be as intensive as you want.

Rely on this trustworthy exam, which by 2023 more than 4 million people took. Furthermore, by taking the IELTS from the British Council, you have the backing of an organisation dedicated to English language education for over 85 years and in more than 150 countries. This ensures the quality of your examiners and provides you with a wide range of excellent preparation materials.


Last but not least, let’s compare their availability. 

  • IELTS: it offers more than 150 venues across de country in provinces such as Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan. 
  • PTE: currently, the PTE Core is offered in about 25 test centres across Canada. You can find them in provinces such as British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.  

If you want to book this exam, you should do it with some advance notice, since there is availability for 3 to 4 days in a month with 2 slots.  

  • CELPIP: it is available in 140 locations across Canada, and internationally, in different provinces, such as Prince Edward Island, Yukon Territory, Quebec, Alberta, Ontario, and Nova Scotia, among others. You will find several slots a day. 

The British Council’s extensive IELTS test centre network in Canada offers IELTS test availability dates from Monday to Saturday, both in the morning and afternoon, throughout the entire year and covering over 50 cities in the country. This provides the flexibility you need to choose a convenient time for either the paper-based or computer-based test format and the One Skill Retake option. 

Pursue your Canadian dream by taking the IELTS exam with the British Council! We got you covered to obtain the best possible score.  

Visit the IELTS Canada homepage to find out more

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