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CELPIP vs IELTS: Helping you Choose

Here we consider CELPIP vs IELTS because if you are considering immigrating to Canada for work or study, you will likely be considering these two tests. 

celpip vs ieltsCELPIP vs IELTS: Which should you take?


Whether you are planning to move to Canada permanently as an immigrant or studying there temporarily, you are often required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. This requirement is usually fulfilled by taking an English proficiency test.

The two most popular options are the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

This in-depth guide will focus on "celpip vs ielts" to assist you in determining which test is the best to take if immigrating to Canada.

The Key Differences

To start, let's explore what both tests signify. CELPIP, specifically the CELPIP-General test, is designed to gauge English language proficiency for general activities in Canada, including work, community activities, and everyday communication.

The IELTS, on the other hand, offers two versions: the Academic and General Training tests, focused on higher education and general training respectively.

Test Structure

The structure of both tests is somewhat different.


CELPIP has a single unified test that covers all components without any separate sections for general or academic. It is wholly computer-delivered, so all four exam sections are taken online.

There are two types of CELPIP tests.

  • General Test, which evaluates speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills and is IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) approved for permanent residence applications and professional designations. The test is done in a single 3-Hour sitting and can be done in with no separate speaking session.

  • General LS Test is also IRCC approved for citizenship applications and professional designation. It takes about 1 hour to complete and again can be done in one sitting with no separate speaking session.

So both follow the same format, but the CELPIP General LS is an abridged version of the exam that excludes reading and writing, lasts just one hour, and is only available in Canada.


IELTS, on the other hand, offers two versions, Academic and General Training, with varying content in reading and writing sections based on the chosen test. You can take the test on paper in an exam centre or on computer. 

  • IELTS Academic has four sections, witing, reading, listening and speaking. The readings are academic in nature and part of the writing involves describing some kind of graph or diagram, the other part being an essay.

  • IELTS General is the same though the reading is about social situations and work situations rather than academic as this part of the test is not for those wanting to go to university or other places to study. The writing also involves writing a letter rather than a graph.

So both the IELTS General and CELPIP General LS tests are geared towards everyday English language skills you needed for social and workplace situations. 

Differences in The Modules

As noted above, it's crucial to note that both tests evaluate the four key language areas: listening, reading, writing, and speaking.


Starting with the listening component, both tests differ slightly in their approach. For CELPIP, the listening section is about 50 minutes, including eight subtests presenting a variety of everyday situations. IELTS involves a slightly shorter listening test, around 30 minutes, with four sections that increase gradually in difficulty levels.


Next is the reading section. For both tests, this part assesses the candidate's comprehension skills. However, when comparing "celpip vs ielts" for reading, CELPIP’s reading component comprises four parts that total 55-60 minutes. The texts presented in this portion reflect daily situations encountered in a Canadian context.

Meanwhile, IELTS Reading comprises three sections over approximately 60 minutes, with a mix of general and work-related texts for IELTS General but more difficult academic test for IELTS Academic. 


The writing component also varies between the two tests. The CELPIP writing test includes two task assignments - an email or letter, and a response to a survey - all within a one-hour duration. On the IELTS, the Writing task is divided into two tasks, letter/graph writing (general/academic) and short essay writing, both to be completed within 60 minutes.


For the speaking component: In CELPIP, the candidate is in a private room and speaks to a computer. The IELTS speaking test, however, is a face-to-face interview with an examiner (in-person or via computer link), personalised and interactive, lasting for 11 to 14 minutes.


When comparing the scoring system of "celpip vs ielts," you'll find noticeable differences. CELPIP uses a score of 1-12 for each language component, with a higher score indicating better performance.

For IELTS, a band score from 1-9 is used for each language component, where nine represents an expert user.

Where to Take the Test

Both tests can be taken at local test centres. As IELTS is a more widely taken test you're more likely to be able to find an exam centre near you. Here you can search for CELPIP test centres near you or find an IELTS test centre.

However, with the IELTS test you can now take in on computer at home in certain countries.

Difficulty Level

Understanding the difficulty level is another vital factor to consider in this "celpip vs ielts" comparison. As CELPIP is tailored for those familiar with Canadian English and accent, it might seem more understandable and relevant. However, some might find its structure more challenging due to no breaks between the test sections.

IELTS, widely known and followed globally, uses a combination of British English and international English but offers a more structured test portion.

Acceptance of the Test

Celtic and IELTS both have widespread acceptance in Canada. For immigration to Canada, the CELPIP General-LS Test and IELTS General Training are accepted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). However, for admission in Canadian Universities, IELTS Academic is commonly preferred.

Cost of the Tests

The cost of both tests is fairly similar. However, location, exchange rates and other factors can influence the final cost.

Currently (as of March 2024) the CELPIP is:

  • $280 for the General Test
  • $195 for the General LS

IELTS can vary from $215-$310 depending on where you take it.


As for preparation methods, both tests offer extensive online resources, including practice tests and prep programs. However, given IELTS is more internationally recognized, you may find more resources for it.

CELPIP vs IELTS: Which Test Should I Take?

Now, "which test" should you take?

CELPIP can be beneficial if you are used to Canadian English and topics. However, if you are more comfortable with international English and have specific academic aspirations, IELTS could be a better fit. It's important to consider the individual "test differences", your skills, comfort levels, objectives, and requirements when deciding which test to take.

Remember IELTS is accepted in a multitude of countries, so if you may for any reasons decide you wish to go elsewhere and no Canada, you should probably take this test.

Summing Up

To wrap up, both CELPIP and IELTS are incredible tools for demonstrating your English proficiency when immigrating to Canada or studying there. However, understanding the crucial differences helps in making an informed decision that aligns with your personal circumstances and needs.

Despite the contrast - "celpip vs ielts" - the goal remains the same; to validate your language skills effectively and open up new opportunities. So, consider the specifics outlined in this article and make the best choice for your future endeavors!

To learn more about CELPIP, head over to the official CELPIP website of Canada.

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