If you saw the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) draw on February 13, 2021 then you know that for the first time ever, the lowest CRS score was 75. This means you have no excuse anymore. It’s anyone’s game. Time to submit your Express Entry (EE) profile!
As you put your profile together, you’ll earn points in the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). These points turn your qualifications, experience and a few other things into a simple number that make it possible to rank against different candidates, irrespective of their country of origin.
Some of the points are pretty straight forward (single 22yr old = 110 CRS points, every time). But the language portion can be kind of confusing (IELTS 6.5 and CELPIP 8 reading are both CLB 8). It’s not impossible to understand though. We’ve outlined some important points here that will hopefully help you understand how to understand your language test results and how they influence your CRS score.
Language Tests for Express Entry
Canada has two national languages (English and French). When assessing CRS scores or applying for one of the federal immigration streams for Express Entry, there is no preference of English or French as the Official First Language. All the tests, regardless of language, assess the same four abilities: Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing. The tests take multiple hours to complete and in some cases can require multiple sessions (the speaking portion is occasionally booked separately). For people skilled enough to be bilingual, the highest test score is considered to be their First Official Language. Having a score above a CLB/NCLC 5 in the second language can earn an applicant up to 24 additional CRS points.
The tests are all scored according to their own rubrics but those results have been translated by Canada into corresponding Canada Language Benchmark (CLB)/ Niveaux de Compétence Linguistique Canadien (NCLC) scores.
English Language Tests for Express Entry
The earliest form of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) was created in the 60s. It was designed for international students who wanted to study in the United Kingdom. Since then, it’s evolved and been modified to better suit a truly international clientele (meaning: they do their best to avoid regional slang). The results are recognized in many English speaking countries and it is likely to be the easiest test to access outside of Canada. Previously, IELTS was an entirely paper-based test. However, some testing centers are being upgraded to administer the computerized version as well.
There are two versions of the IELTS test, General (IELTS-G) and Academic (IELTS-A). For immigration to Canada, be sure to select the General option.
The Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) test was tailor-made for the purpose of immigrating to Canada. (This is why the results line up so neatly with the CLB scores) The test was designed by Paragon Testing Enterprises, a subsidiary of University of British Colombia. There are a number of testing centers across Canada, however, at present, there are only a handful of international centers. These can be found in select locations within the USA, UAE, Singapore, Philippines, China, and India.
French Language Tests for Express Entry
|TCF Canada Equivalency|
Test de connaissance du français pour le Canada (TCF Canada) is a test that is administered by Centre
International d’Etudies Pedagogiques (CIEP). Created in 1945, CIEP is a branch of the French Ministry of National Education in France. It seeks to promote French language education around the world and ensure that French language teachers are appropriately prepared. A number of French language tests are available through CIEP, however, only the TCF Canada is approved by IRCC for immigration to Canada. As an international company, they have locations all over the world. Check their website to find the location nearest to you.
|TEF Canada Equivalency|
Created in 1958, Le français des affaires is a long-standing pioneer in professional certification and training in French. Their test for immigration to Canada was developed and approved in 2002. TEF tests written before March 1, 2020 are acceptable for immigration purposes. On or after March 1, 2020, only the TEF Canada test is accepted. Testing centers can be found across the world, but not all locations offer the TEF Canada test. Be sure to check their website to locate the office closest to you that offers the TEF Canada test.
For information on which tests are acceptable for immigration to Quebec, please see https://www.immigration-quebec.gouv.qc.ca/en/immigrate-settle/temporary-workers/stay-quebec/application-csq/workers-peq/language-requirements.html
How long are language test results valid for Express Entry applications?
For application for Permanent Residence, test results are only good for 2 years. For Canadian citizenship applications, language test results used previously for your immigration or citizenship application do not expire.
Keep in mind that your Express Entry profile is valid for 12 months, so you should be sure that your results will be valid for the length of the profile’s potential time in the pool. (Although, with any luck you’ll be issued an invitation to apply [ITA] long before the profile expires.) If your results are likely to expire soon, it’s advised that you re-take the test and update your profile with the new results.
When it comes to your results, unfortunately, you can only use the results from one test. You cannot combine the best results from different categories from different attempts at the test.
When you’re instructing the center to deliver your results, be sure to have them sent directly to you. A copy of your results get sent with your completed application. Keep the originals in a safe place, as IRCC may ask for them later.
Which language test for Express Entry is easier?
Honestly, it’s hard to say. All the tests assess the same criteria and Canada has adjusted the scores so that the results are comparable across the different assessments. Individual test takers may find one test easier than another, but that comes down to the individual and can’t reliably be predicted. The best advice we can give is to study as much as you can and do your best on your test day.
Is there a benefit to being assessed in both languages?
Actually, yes, there is! If you have a passable fluency in French or English, it’s definitely worth having it formally assessed. Beyond the bonus CRS points, being able to demonstrate that you’re bilingual may make your profile more attractive in a number of ways. Two Provincial Nomination Programs (PNPs) outside of Quebec target French speakers. As of this writing, both New Brunswick and Ontario PNPs have streams that prioritize applicants who are bilingual. If you receive a provincial nomination, your EE profile gets a game-changing 600 points added to it! After that, you’re all but certain to get an ITA.
Ontario’s Express Entry French-Speaking Skilled Worker stream targets high-skilled workers who have achieved a minimum of NCLC 7 in French and a minimum CLB 6 in English. In most other ways, the program aligns with the Federal Skilled Worker program or the Canadian Experience Class program (applicants decide which criteria they are assessed against). You can learn all about the specifics of the program at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/ontarios-express-entry-french-speaking-skilled-worker-stream
The New Brunswick Strategic Initiative Stream targets “French-speaking workers with the skills, education and work experience to contribute to New Brunswick’s economy, and who are ready to live and work in New Brunswick permanently.” NCLC 5 or higher is required for this program, with no stated minimum CLB score. Eligibility criteria are set in such a way as to make it possible for the most number of people to qualify. If you’re considering calling New Brunswick home, have a look at their website and see if you meet the other eligibility criteria: https://www.welcomenb.ca/content/dam/wel-bien/pdf/strategic_initiative_guide-e.pdf
But let’s say you’ve got your heart set on living in British Colombia and they don’t have a French-speaker stream. Is there still a benefit for you to take that second test? Again, yes! In those cases, in addition to the extra CRS points, being able to demonstrate a proficiency in French will certainly make you a more appealing applicant when applying for jobs. If you can get your prospective employer to support your PR application with an LMIA supported job offer, you there’s a chance you could earn upwards of 50 additional points for your CRS application.
It’s only to your benefit to have even your middling abilities formally assessed and included in your profile.
What about people with a disability? Is there any accommodation available for an Express Entry language test?
If a physical or mental disability is preventing you from completing a section of the test, IRCC has a tool on their website that can help you determine what score to put in the missing field. You’ll need to include a letter explaining why one of the scores was not assessed in your results. To find the tool and a template for the letter to include with the results, see: https://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/language-tool.asp
It is also possible to be granted accommodations by the test administrators when taking the language test. Common reasons for accommodations include dyslexia, hearing impairment, visual impairment, and others.
Express Entry Language Test Usage
The CLB score is used on the EE profile twice. First in the language category, then, if it’s above a CLB 7, it can earn you more points under the Skills Transferability Factors which can help you earn up to 100 extra points.
The CLB score also comes into play when applying for different Federal and Provincial programs. For some programs it contributes to an over-all score (similar to the CRS) and for others programs it’s a minimum that needs to be met.
For many people, their language score is the fastest way to improve their overall CRS score. Getting a degree or additional experience can take years. However, improving your language score can be achieved with several weeks of studying alone or with the help of classes or a tutor and then retaking the test.
Hopefully this has helped you to better understand how your language score can help you get an invitation to apply (ITA).