In the past, the only immigration applicants required to take the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) are those who are from countries whose first language is not English. Today however, under the new Express Entry system in Canada, all applicants are required to take the IELTS even if they are from a native English-speaking country.

Both federal programs (such as the Federal Skilled Worker Category, Federal Skilled Trades, and Canadian Experience Class) and certain Provincial Nominee Programmes require applicants to show proficiency in English or French by taking either the IELTS or the Test d’Evaluation Français (TEF) exam – this under the new Express Entry system in place. Many are complaining about the new rule, but the government has valid rationale for implementing this new requirement.

The Importance of IELTS

As cited by the Canadian government, even in English-speaking countries, the grasp of the English language still varies between individuals – with some having higher proficiency over others, and with proficiency often varying among the different language components (i.e. high proficiency in writing but low proficiency in speaking).

This is the reason Canada is requiring all applicants to undergo the IELTS or TEF exam – to ensure that their grasp of the language will meet the required level in the position they will be matched for.

Aside from ensuring that the individuals will be able to contribute to the Canadian labour market, proficiency in the language is also being looked at as an important factor as the individual assimilates in his new environment.

Components of the IELTS

The IELTS is composed of four parts – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. The entire test takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes all in all, divided among the four different components.

Listening. This component of the exam takes about 30 minutes. Examinees will need to listen to 4 audio clips, and then answer questions about the clips.

Reading. This component takes about 1 hour. Examinees will need to read 3 passages taken from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers, and then answer questions about them.

Writing. Similar to reading, this component also takes about an hour. Examinees will need to write a paragraph to describe a table or diagram, as well as write an essay as a response to a given statement.

Speaking. This component lasts for only 10 to 15 minutes. Examinees will need to undergo a face-to-face interview with the examiner, and they must be able to speak fluently, with correct grammar and vocabulary. This component of the exam can be taken separately from all the rest, up to 7 days before or after the exam, according to the discretion of the testing center.

Each of the four components will be scored separately using a band scale of 1 to 9:

• Band 1 — Non user
• Band 2 — Intermittent user
• Band 3 — Extremely limited user
• Band 4 — Limited user
• Band 5 — Modest user
• Band 6 — Competent user
• Band 7 — Good user
• Band 8 — Very good user
• Band 9 — Expert user

The overall score that an examinee will get will determine how many points he’ll be given for language in the assessment system for immigration.