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IELTS: Which test is needed for Canadian permanent residency? Knowing which IELTS test you need to take and how to best prepare for it is essential if you aim at settling permanently in Canada.

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To apply for Canada PR (permanent residency), you will need to prove your English proficiency by taking an IELTS test.

There are two different versions of IELTS: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

To apply for Canadian permanent residency, you will need to take IELTS General Training. IELTS General Training evaluates your abilities to use English in everyday contexts.

IELTS General Training Test Format

There are four parts to the test and you must take them all. The total test time is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Reading (60 minutes – 40 questions)

The Reading section consists of 40 questions divided into three sections that are designed to test a wide range of reading skills.

Section 1 (social survivor) may contain two or three short texts or several shorter texts that are relevant to basic linguistic survival in English such as notices, advertisements, college brochures and accommodation lists.

Section 2 (workplace survival), focuses on the workplace context, so texts might include job descriptions, contracts, work policies, manuals, staff development and training materials.

Section 3 (general reading) contains one longer and more complex text of general interest. Text types include newspaper and magazine articles, book extracts or internet texts about a variety of topics.

Each answer is worth 1 mark and you will not be penalized if you leave an answer blank.

Writing (60 minutes)

There are two tasks in this part: Task 1 and Task 2.

Task 1: Letter writing

You will be presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information, or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style, and it should be of at least 150 words. Your writing will be assessed on four criteria: task achievement, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy.

View Task 1 Assessment Criteria/Band Descriptors

Task 2: Essay writing

You will be asked to write a discursive essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Topics are of general interest and the text should be of at least 250 words. Your writing will be assessed on task response, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy.

View Task 2 Assessment Criteria/Band Descriptors

Listening (approximately 30 minutes – 40 questions)

In this part of the test, you will listen to recordings of native English speakers with a variety of accents and write your answers to a series of questions on the question paper as you listen.

You can listen to the recordings only once and if you take IELTS on paper, you will be given ten minutes at the end of the test to transfer your answers to an answer sheet.

You will hear four recordings:

  • Recording 1 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2 – a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.
  • Recording 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.
  • Recording 4 – a monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture.

Each answer is worth 1 mark and you will not be penalized if you leave an answer blank.

Speaking (between 11 and 14 minutes)

The Speaking test is a face-to-face interview with an examiner. It is divided into three parts and each part gives you the chance to demonstrate your English-speaking skills in different ways.

  • Part 1 (4 to 5 minutes) – The examiner asks you questions about your daily life and other everyday topics such as work, study, hobbies, likes and dislikes and so on.
  • Part 2 (1 to 2 minutes) – The examiner gives you a topic to talk about on a task card and you are given 1 minute to prepare your talk, which should last between one to two minutes. Again, the questions are on familiar, everyday topics.
  • Part 3 (4 to 5 minutes) – The examiner starts a discussion with you that is related to the topic you talked about in Part 2. You will be asked to give opinions about things and justify them.

Your speaking will be assessed on fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation.

View Speaking Assessment Criteria/Band Descriptors

Top Tips on How to Best Prepare for the IELTS General Training Test

Understand the format of the test in detail

To achieve the score that you need to apply for permanent residency, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with the format of the test. You need to make sure you know exactly what you are expected to do and how each part of the test is structured, timed and scored.

You might already have an excellent level of English, but if you do not know how the test works, chances are that you will struggle to complete tasks on time or misunderstand what they require you to do or, worst of all, panic during the test because you are presented with tasks you were not expecting to do.

So, first, take the time to study the test. You can download sample test questions here to get a clear idea of the test format and what to expect in each part.

Learn more about the IELTS test format

See sample IELTS test questions

Identify and focus on your weaknesses

When it comes to preparing for IELTS, it is easy to practise doing what you are already good at, but it is harder to focus on what you are not able to do yet.

Aim at spending most of your preparation time on language areas, skills and test sections that you do not feel confident with. For example, if you have already taken several listening practice tests and feel confident about your listening skills, start directing your energy to the areas that need your attention because those, too, will be assessed.

Identify your weaknesses and work on those first. You might want to take IELTS Progress Check to help you prepare and understand the areas you need to improve or focus on.

Find out more about IELTS Progress Check

Work at improving your general English, not just your IELTS skills.

If you are not 100% familiar with the test format, and don’t develop relevant test strategies, you might not get the IELTS score that you need to apply for PR. While this is true, you should still devote time to improving your general English language abilities.

Test and language skills are equally important, so make the most of your preparation by taking practice tests and courses as well as exposing and using English as much as you can. Listening, read, write, and speak regularly in preparation for the test.

You can make it fun by combining your hobbies with language development. For example, if you like gardening, you could watch gardening videos on YouTube or read related articles.

Do not feel that IELTS practice tests should be all you need to do to prepare. Spend time improving your language skills too, which will be the same skills you will need to live in the real world once you have obtained permanent residency in Canada.

Book your IELTS test today