By Grace Brennan

10 January 2024 - 11:00

Student taking IELTS in a test centre

In this article, we explain the differences and similarities between CELPIP vs IELTS. Find out which is easier, score comparisons and more!

Canada processed nearly five million visa applications in 2022 – the highest number ever. Part of the allure of living and working in Canada is the nation’s strong economy, cultural diversity, stunning nature, and safe society. Many Canadian visas require that applicants prove their level of English. So, if you’re planning to move to Canada, you’ll need to take an English language proficiency test like IELTS or CELPIP.

CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program)  focuses specifically on Canadian English and assesses listening, reading, writing, and speaking. It also centres on English for the Canadian workplace and communicating in English in different social contexts in Canada. People who take the CELPIP test often have plans to live in Canada on a long-term basis.

While both IELTS and CELPIP assess English language proficiency, there are important differences between them. Below is a complete breakdown of CELPIP vs IELTS so you can select the test that is most relevant to your needs.

Learn more about moving to Canada 

CELPIP vs IELTS: which is easier? 

The difficulty of CELPIP vs IELTS depends on the person taking the test. Neither test can be classified as harder, but you can choose to take the test that best aligns with your preferences. 

For example, if you’re more familiar with Canadian accents and Canadian vocabulary, CELPIP may feel more natural and easier for you. If you find speaking English in person more comfortable, IELTS may suit you better. 

It’s also important to know that IELTS is more recognised globally, with over 12,000 organisations accepting the test as proof of English language proficiency. So if you have plans to live, work or study in destinations other than Canada, IELTS would be the better choice. 

The difficulty of each test is subjective. Ultimately, both CELPIP and IELTS assess your English language skills and have their own unique features. What matters is that you select the test that matches your objectives and preferences.

Differences and similarities 

There are a number of differences and similarities when you are comparing CELPIP vs IELTS. Both are widely recognised language proficiency tests, but the content, focus, and format of each test is distinct.


  • Both CELPIP and IELTS assess listening, reading, writing, and speaking in English
  • Both tests are accepted for immigration purposes in Canada
  • Both tests require around three hours to complete all sections
  • IELTS and CELPIP scores are valid for two years after completion


IELTS and CELPIP have a different number of questions and task types in each of the sections (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking). Also, CELPIP is graded on a point scale where IELTS is based on band scoring. Here are some other differences between the tests:  



IELTS can be used for immigration, academic, and employment purposes around the world.

CELPIP is specifically for Canadian English language proficiency assessment. 

There are two IELTS tests available: Academic and General training.

There’s only one version of CELPIP available which directly relates to Canadian contexts.

IELTS can be taken on paper, or on computer in a test centre, with a face to face Speaking section.

In some locations it can be taken online with the Speaking section done over a video call with an Examiner.

CELPIP is entirely computer-based, and the speaking section is conducted virtually.

IELTS is a more general assessment of the English language that applies to a selection of English-speaking countries with different accents.

CELPIP emphasises Canadian accents, and vocabulary and expressions from daily life and workplaces in Canada.

CELPIP vs IELTS score structure

IELTS uses a band scoring system with each section of the test ranging from a score of 0 to 9 – 9 represents the highest English proficiency and 0 the lowest. Your final score is the average score of the four sections of the test (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking). Scores ending in .25 are rounded up to the next half band, while scores ending in .75 are rounded up to the next whole band.

CELPIP, on the other hand, applies a score of 1 to 12 for each section of the test. It does not use bands.

Neither CELPIP nor IELTS has a set pass score. The score you need for each test depends on the type of visa you’re applying for,  the academic institution or the professional institution you want to join. Score specifications for Express Entry to Canada are listed on the Canadian government website and are compared to the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB), which is the national standard for recognising a second language in Canada.

Canada visa application

You can take both IELTS or CELPIP for Canada’s visa application. The two tests are accepted forms of proving your English language proficiency. Taking CELPIP vs IELTS will not give you preferential treatment in your Canada visa application process. And, if you want a proficiency test that is more globally recognised and trusted, IELTS could be a better choice.

Learn more about moving to Canada

Whichever test you decide to choose, ensure that it aligns with where you want to travel and what you want to do in those locations. 

Opting for IELTS?

Prepare for IELTS with the British Council’s IELTS Ready.