Everything you need to know about the CELPIP test for immigration purposes

Updated: May 14

In this post I will explain everything you need to know about the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) Test.


If you are finishing your working holiday, you managed to extend your stay in Canada and now you are thinking that maybe... mmm... I can qualify to apply for permanent residence!!


Well... if you want to apply under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), as I did, you will have to take a test to assess your level of English.


I'm going to leave a little story here about how my experience with this test went.


Table of contents

  1. What is a CELPIP test?

  2. Do I have to take the CELPIP test?

  3. Do I have another option for testing my English level?

  4. Is CELPIP harder than IELTS?

  5. How does the CELPIP test work?

  6. CELPIP test overview

  7. How much does the CELPIP cost in Canada?

  8. Where can I take the CELPIP test?

  9. How to schedule the CELPIP test?

  10. How to prepare for the CELPIP test?

  11. How can I improve my CELPIP score?

  12. Recommendations



I chose to take the CELPIP exam on December 30, 2021, just one day before New Year's Eve. I wanted to get that weight off my shoulders I guess.


I selected that date because at my job at the end of the year we have the last week off so I had time to study and prepare.


The test center I chose was close to Toronto Pearson airport and I had to get there 45 minutes before the start time of the exam (around 9:15 am).


I went by Uber, arrived early, about 9 am and the office was closed. I started to doubt that maybe I had made a mistake, but suddenly someone arrived and it was correct.


There are strict protocols to follow there. You can't enter with jackets, no cell phone, or anything other than ID, so you have to be prepared and watch the videos they have available to be clear on what to do.


I was a little surprised that they checked if you had something in your socks, they ask you to lift your pants to check it and also the sleeves... anyway.... I had nothing to hide so I just took it as part of the process.


 

Looking for a guide to understand the entire process of this English test? Let's jump right in.


1. What is a CELPIP test?


CELPIP stands for Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) Test and is a test of general English proficiency.


It is a recognized computer-based English language assessment tool. In simple terms, it is a test that is taken to measure your level of English.


It is commonly used because it is accepted to apply for permanent residence and citizenship in Canada.


There are two types of CELPIP:

  • CELPIP general: Assesses listening, reading, writing and speaking skills and is officially designated for permanent residence applications and is also accepted for professional designations.


  • CELPIP LS: Tests listening and speaking skills only and is officially designated by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for citizenship applications and is also accepted for professional designations.

Once the test is taken, the results are valid for 2 years.


The CELPIP test is a recognized computer-based English language assessment tool
The CELPIP test is a recognized computer-based English language assessment tool | Photo by Media from Wix

2. Do I have to take the CELPIP test?


You will need to take the CELPIP test if you want to apply for permanent residence in Canada or if you want to apply for citizenship.


This test is also accepted by some professional organizations, universities, colleges and vocational training programs. You can find out more about these institutions on the official CELPIP.ca website.


One of the programs you can apply for permanent residence by having a CELPIP test result is the Express Entry program.


To create your profile you already need to have your CELPIP test results, as well as your Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) so be sure to calculate when it is convenient for you to take the test and get your credentials assessed as well.


3. Do I have another option for testing my English level?


Yes, the other acceptable option is to take the IELTS, which stands for International English Language Testing System.


The main advantage of this test I would say is that it is available in more countries than the CELPIP test.


Both tests assess the 4 skills: Speaking, Writing, Reading and Listening and are acceptable for immigration purposes.




4. Is CELPIP harder than IELTS?


Personally I did my reviews and I think CELPIP is more convenient and not so difficult compared to IELTS.


These are the reasons why I chose the CELPIP:

  • The CELPIP is completed entirely on a computer, whereas for the Speaking area on the IELTS you have a separate speaking session with a person (This made me very nervous, so I preferred to speak with a computer).


  • Since the CELPIP is completed entirely on a computer, you have to go one day to complete the test in one sitting, for the IELTS you will have to go 2 days.


  • The CELPIP only takes into account the Canadian accent, in the case of IELTS you can face different accents (from Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, England, etc.).


  • CELPIP results are available within 5 days after you take the test.

The CELPIP exam contains questions about everyday situations.
The CELPIP test contains questions about everyday situations. | Photo by Ivan Shilov

5. How does the CELPIP test work?


The CELPIP is a test that you have to complete 100% on a computer. You have a limited time to go over all the tasks to be tested.


The test is taken by an institution called Paragon Testing Enterprises.


The scores range from M (Minimum Competency or insufficient information to assess) to 12 (Advanced Competency in work and community contexts).


Each English skill is evaluated separately, so you will receive a score for each of them.


On the official website there is a lot of information about scoring and examples that you can review.


6. CELPIP test overview


The CELPIP test contains 4 areas to be tested, here are some details:


6.1 Writing:

  • The time available is between 53- 60 min

  • You have to answer 2 questions with written answers of about 150-200 words each.

  • You will have about 30 minutes for each one.

  • The test has a word counter at the bottom of the page.

  • They are usually about everyday situations that you may face living in Canada.

  • One of the texts is related to responding a survey and explaining your choice.

  • The other is related to writing an email on an everyday subject (The instructions will give you the situation)

  • It is important to plan what you are going to write and what to include in each text in order to get the best score possible .


It is important to outline what you are going to write
It is important to outline what you are going to write | Photo by Media from Wix

6.2 Listening:

  • It takes between 47-55 min

  • You must listen to the passages and answer the multiple choice questions

  • The audio is played only once for each question

  • This part has 6 questions and the audios increase in difficulty each time.

  • You will have a paper and pen to take notes.

  • In the preparation available once you pay for the test, they teach you good techniques to be able to take notes. That helped me a lot because I knew in advance if the next one was going to be one person, two or three.

  • Here are the details of the tasks:

  • Task 1 - Conversation between 2 people divided into 3 sections. Each section has 2-3 questions.

  • Task 2 - Conversation between 2 speakers, all in one section.

  • Task 3- Conversation between 2 people. One of them has specific knowledge to help the other one.

  • Task 4- Report about local news

  • Task 5- Video with 3 people talking. They have different points of view

  • Task 6- Report from one speaker with different points of views.


6.3 Reading:

  • It takes between 55-60 min

  • You will have to read passages and answer questions.

  • There are 4 scored parts.

  • The text will appear on the left and the questions on the right

  • These are the task details:

  • Task 1 - Reading correspondence, this is to read an email and answer the questions.

  • Task 2 - Reading to apply a diagram (brochure, menu, instructions, webpage, etc)

  • Task 3 - Reading for information

  • Task 4 - Reading for viewpoints


6.4 Speaking:

  • The time available is about 20 min.

  • You will have to verbally respond to on-screen prompts.

  • There are 8 tasks to complete

  • Each task has a preparation time (30-60 seconds) and then a recording time (60-90 seconds)

  • Tasks 3-4-5-8 include text

  • Tasks 1-2-6-7 include text and images

  • You'll read the instructions, have a couple of seconds to prepare your answer and then you'll have to record each of your answers.

  • I think preparing and practicing this part will make you feel more confident.

  • This part was difficult for me, mostly because it's the last part and at this point my brain was already tired and consumed by all the stress and pressure.


Preparing and practicing speaking will make you feel more confident during the test
Preparing and practicing speaking will make you feel more confident during the test | Photo by Media from Wix

  • These are the task details:

  • Task 1 - Giving advice

  • Task 2 - Talking about a personal experience

  • Task 3 - Describing a scene

  • Task 4 - Making predictions

  • Task 5 - Comparing 2 situations, choose one and then persuade someone with your choice.

  • Task 6 - Dealing with a difficult situation

  • Task 7 - Expressing opinions

  • Task 8 - Describing an unusual situation


7. How much does the CELPIP cost in Canada?


The CELPIP - General exam costs 280 CAD + taxes. You can check the updated price on the CELPIP.ca website.


8. Where I can take the CELPIP?


Currently, the CELPIP test is available in the following countries:

  • Australia

  • Canada

  • China

  • India

  • Japan

  • Republic of Korea

  • Nigeria

  • Philippines

  • Singapore

  • United Arab Emirates

  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)

  • United States of America


Details for this specific location can be found here.


9. How to schedule the CELPIP test?


The scheduling process is completed online at CELPIP.ca.


You have to answer a couple of questions that will guide you through the process to understand which location is best for you.


You will choose the reason you are taking the test, then the country, the city, you will see the locations that are open and the availability.


Schedule the test in advance
Schedule the test in advance | Photo by Media from Wix

10. How to prepare for the CELPIP test?


When you pay for the CELPIP exam you have access to a portal.


You are automatically given a couple of video lessons called the Starter set with an overview of the test.


I highly recommend to review this material, as it is helpful to understand the structure of the test.


They also give you 2 free practice tests.


If you want to see the content more in depth you have to buy it separately.


I would recommend to buy at least the CELPIP Accelerate - Listening & Speaking and CELPIP Accelerate - Reading & Writing.


During Black Friday (end of November) they reduced the prices to 50% and I bought both for 20 CAD approx. so maybe you can consider doing the same.


Once you understand the structure, I suggest you start looking for examples and practice.


11. How can I improve my CELPIP score?


I would say the key is to practice and understand the type of questions you will be presented with and how the exam is structured.


At this point the focus should be on the structure and not on practicing the English itself. (Obviously it is helpful to have a foundation but it is important to feel confident with the type of questions).


Focus on understanding the structure of the test
Focus on understanding the structure of the CELPIP test | Photo by Media from Wix

Another thing I would say is to take the test before you have to create your profile for the express entry, this way if the score is not good enough you still have more time to retake the test.


I would suggest scheduling some study time into your schedule. That's something they recommend as well, so you can adjust and feel confident with the time you have available.


12. Recommendations


In addition to the resources you will have available on the official website I suggest you explore the following resources:


I leave here some recommendations for the test day based on my personal experience:

  • Be punctual.

  • Don't bring too much stuff. They provide a space to leave your jackets or parka.

  • Bring something to eat after the test. It will be 3 hours and a little more and you will be exhausted by the end of the test.

  • Go to the bathroom before the test. You can go during the test, but the test keeps going, it doesn't stop so I don't recommend it.

  • Follow the instructions.

  • During the test, you have to speak not too loud, if you are loud the examiners will ask you to lower the volume so as not to disturb others.


 

I hope this post orients you about the process and the steps you should follow to have a great experience.


Have you thought about what exam you are going to take?


Have you already taken it, how did it go?

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