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15 November 2023

6 minutes read

TOEFL or IELTS for Canadian Immigration: Which English Test is Right for You?

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Introduction

Canada is a land of opportunity, known for its high-quality education, strong job market, and welcoming immigration policies. If you’re considering making Canada your new home through immigration for study or work, one crucial step is proving your English language proficiency.

Two of the most widely recognized English language tests for Canadian immigration are the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into these tests, providing you with all the information you need to make an informed choice for your immigration journey.

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Canadian Immigration: TOEFL vs. IELTS

Canada’s immigration process often requires proof of your ability to communicate effectively in English. This language proficiency requirement is in place to ensure that newcomers can successfully integrate into Canadian society and the job market.

The two primary English language tests accepted for Canadian immigration are TOEFL and IELTS. In this section, we will explore the fundamental differences between these tests, their scoring systems, and the key considerations for choosing one over the other.

TOEFL – A Closer Look 

TOEFL, or the Test of English as a Foreign Language, is a widely accepted English language proficiency test. It assesses your ability to read, listen, speak, and write in English, making it a comprehensive evaluation of your language skills. There are two main formats of TOEFL: the TOEFL iBT (internet-based test) and the TOEFL PBT (paper-based test).

The TOEFL iBT is the most commonly taken version and is favored for its convenience and accessibility. It is offered throughout the year at designated test centers and even provides an option for taking the test from the comfort of your home, thanks to the TOEFL iBT Home Edition.

TOEFL scores are based on a total of 120 points, with each section (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing) contributing a maximum of 30 points. Achieving a high TOEFL score can significantly enhance your eligibility for Canadian immigration purposes, as it demonstrates a strong command of the English language.

TOEFL iBT vs. TOEFL PBT 

The choice between the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT often depends on test-takers’ preferences and location. Here’s a brief comparison of the two formats:

AspectTOEFL iBT (Internet-Based Test)TOEFL PBT (Paper-Based Test)
Test DeliveryAdministered online via the internet.Administered on paper with printed test booklets and answer sheets.
Test SectionsFour sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing.Three sections: Listening Comprehension, Structure and Written Expression, and Reading Comprehension.
Speaking SectionIncludes a Speaking section with integrated tasks, where responses are recorded and scored by automated systems.Lacks a dedicated Speaking section; speaking skills are not assessed.
Writing SectionIncludes a Writing section with integrated tasks, where responses are typed on a computer.The Writing section is paper-based, with handwritten responses.
Test DurationApproximately 3 hours and 10 minutes, excluding breaks.Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Score ScaleScores on a scale of 0-30 for each section, with a total score range of 0-120.Scores on a scale of 31-68 for each section, with a total score range of 310-677.
Test FlexibilityOffers the convenience of taking the test from home with the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, in addition to test centers.Administered primarily at designated test centers, limiting flexibility in location.
AvailabilityAvailable throughout the year with multiple test dates and times.Test dates are more limited, with fewer opportunities to take the test.
Typing vs. HandwritingRequires typing responses for the Writing section, which may be more comfortable for some test-takers.Requires handwriting responses for the Writing section, which can be challenging for those less accustomed to handwriting.
Listening EnhancementProvides headphones to minimize distractions during the Listening section.Does not typically provide headphones; test-takers listen to the audio from speakers.
Score ReportingScores are available online approximately 6-10 days after the test date.Scores are mailed to test-takers approximately 4-6 weeks after the test date.
Test FeesTest fees vary by location but are generally comparable to TOEFL PBT.Test fees vary by location but are generally comparable to TOEFL iBT.
Overall ConvenienceOffers the convenience of taking the test online, with quicker score reporting.May require more time for score reporting and can be less convenient for test-takers comfortable with online testing.

When choosing between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT, consider your location, test date availability, and the specific requirements of your intended immigration program or institution.

IELTS – A Global Standard 

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is another highly regarded English language test, known for its global acceptance. IELTS offers two versions: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

While IELTS Academic is primarily used for higher education and professional registration, IELTS General Training is commonly required for immigration purposes.

IELTS uses a nine-band scoring system, with each band representing a different level of English proficiency. Canadian immigration programs often specify the minimum IELTS score required for eligibility, making it essential to achieve the necessary band score in each module (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking).

IELTS Academic vs. IELTS General Training 

The choice between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training depends on your immigration pathway or educational goals:

AspectIELTS AcademicIELTS General Training
Test PurposeDesigned for academic purposes, such as university admissions, professional registration, and higher education.Intended for individuals migrating to English-speaking countries for work, training, or non-academic purposes.
Listening Test ContentListening tasks focus on academic contexts and lectures.Listening tasks focus on everyday situations, workplace conversations, and social interactions.
Reading Test ContentReading materials include complex texts, academic articles, and scholarly journals.Reading materials are more general, covering topics like advertisements, job descriptions, and everyday texts.
Writing Task 1Involves describing and interpreting visual data, such as charts, graphs, and tables.Requires letter-writing skills, where you may need to explain a situation, request information, or express opinions.
Writing Task 2Involves writing an essay in response to an academic question or topic.Requires writing an essay based on a common topic related to everyday life.
Speaking TestSpeaking tasks include discussing academic subjects, giving presentations, and defending opinions.Speaking tasks include conversations about daily life, routines, personal experiences, and expressing preferences.
Test DurationApproximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, including all four modules (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking).Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, with the same test duration as IELTS Academic.
Test ScoringAssessed on a 9-band scale for each module and an overall band score.Assessed on a 9-band scale for each module and an overall band score.
Acceptance by InstitutionsWidely accepted by universities and institutions for admissions and academic purposes.Accepted for immigration purposes, job applications, and vocational training.
Immigration ApplicationsOften required for immigration to English-speaking countries, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.Specifically designed to assess language proficiency for immigration and employment purposes.
Test Preparation MaterialsOfficial IELTS preparation materials and practice tests are available for both Academic and General Training versions.Official IELTS preparation materials and practice tests are available for both Academic and General Training versions.

When deciding between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, consider your immigration or study goals to ensure you choose the right version.

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Visa Requirements and Language Proficiency 

Both TOEFL and IELTS are widely accepted by Canadian immigration authorities, but it’s crucial to check the specific visa requirements for your immigration pathway. Some programs may have a preference for one test over the other, so researching these details is essential.

TOEFL is recognized for its computer-based exam, which offers test-takers the convenience of taking the test from home or designated test centers. IELTS, on the other hand, offers a paper-based option in addition to the computer-based test.

TOEFL vs. IELTS: Which One Does Canada Prefer? 

AspectTOEFLIELTS
Test TypesTOEFL offers both iBT (internet-based) and PBT (paper-based) formats.IELTS offers Academic and General Training versions.
Scoring SystemTOEFL scores are based on a scale of 0-120, with each section contributing up to 30 points.IELTS uses a 9-band scale, assessing proficiency in four modules: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.
Test AvailabilityTOEFL iBT is available year-round, with the option to take it from home (TOEFL iBT Home Edition). TOEFL PBT is less common and has limited test dates.IELTS has numerous test dates and locations worldwide, providing flexibility for test-takers.
Immigration ProgramsWidely accepted for Canadian immigration programs. Specific requirements may vary depending on the program.Accepted by various Canadian immigration programs, including Express Entry and Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).
Preferred by InstitutionsSome Canadian universities and institutions may have preferences for TOEFL, especially for graduate programs.IELTS is widely accepted by Canadian educational institutions, including universities and colleges.
Speaking ComponentTOEFL includes a Speaking section with integrated tasks.IELTS assesses speaking skills separately with face-to-face interviews conducted by examiners.
Test DurationTOEFL iBT typically takes around 4 hours. TOEFL PBT is shorter but less common.IELTS takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes, including all four modules.
Computer-Based vs. Paper-BasedTOEFL iBT is computer-based and considered more modern. TOEFL PBT is paper-based.IELTS offers computer-based (CBT) and paper-based (PBT) options in addition to the standard format.
Test Preparation ResourcesOfficial TOEFL resources are available online, including practice tests and study materials.IELTS provides official study materials and practice tests, both online and in print.
Speaking EvaluationAutomated scoring for TOEFL Speaking.IELTS Speaking is assessed by human examiners for a more personalized evaluation.
Test CostTOEFL and IELTS fees vary by location, but costs are generally comparable.Test fees for both TOEFL and IELTS are competitive, with slight variations based on location.
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Conclusion

In conclusion, both TOEFL and IELTS can serve as valuable tools for proving your English language proficiency for Canadian immigration. To make an informed decision, research the requirements of your intended immigration program, consider your strengths, and choose the test that aligns with your goals.

Ultimately, achieving a strong score on either test will enhance your chances of a successful Canadian immigration journey. Whether you opt for TOEFL or IELTS, your language proficiency will be your key to unlocking the opportunities that Canada has to offer.

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FAQs

Q1: Which English test is more widely accepted for Canadian immigration?

Both TOEFL and IELTS are widely accepted, but specific requirements may vary depending on the immigration program.

Q2: What is the minimum TOEFL score required for Canadian immigration?

The minimum TOEFL score required varies based on the immigration program. Research the specific requirements for your chosen pathway.

Q3: Can I take TOEFL or IELTS online?

Yes, TOEFL offers an internet-based test, and IELTS offers computer-based and paper-based options for test-takers’ convenience.

Q4: Is one test easier than the other?

The difficulty of TOEFL vs. IELTS is subjective and varies from person to person. It’s recommended to practice and prepare for the test that aligns with your strengths.

Q5: Can I use both TOEFL and IELTS scores for Canadian immigration?

In some cases, you may be able to use scores from both tests, but it’s essential to check the specific requirements of your chosen immigration program.

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