Introduction to Express Entry and IELTS in Canada

In February 2021, Canada made history by inviting 27,332 Express Entry candidates to apply for permanent residence.  This draw was almost 6 times larger than the previous record of around 5,000!  If you are interested in applying for permanent residence in Canada through the Express Entry system, you may already know about the overwhelming amount of information and advice on the internet about Express Entry and IELTS.

We’ve made it easier for you.  On this page, you’ll find quick links to the most accurate, up-to-date sources so you can find everything you need to know.

What is Express Entry? 

Launched in 2015, the Express Entry system is an online immigration system used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for permanent residence applications. 

Express Entry manages applications for three (3) immigration programs: 

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program 
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program 
  • Canadian Experience Class 

The first step to Express Entry

One of the early steps to Express Entry is to set up profile with IRCC and enter the pool of candidates.  

However, in order to do thiscandidates must first complete an approved language proficiency test.  IRCC will ask you to upload your language test results before you can enter the pool.  Read on to find out more. 

Language test requirements

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will accept either of these English language proficiency tests for Express Entry: 

  • You must take General Training IELTS 
  • (IRCC will NOT accept Academic IELTS)
  • You must take the CELPIP-General test 
  • (IRCC will NOT accept the General-LS test)

 IRCC also accepts the TEF Canada exam for French language proficiency.  For more information on language requirements, click here

IELTS & Express Entry

  • If you choose to take the popular official IELTS exam as your language test, remember to select ‘General Training’ as your exam type. 
  • IRCC will not accept the Academic test under any circumstances.  If you take the wrong test, you will need to start over.  This can be a costly mistake, so double check your booking details before paying for your test. 

When should I take my IELTS test?  

Before you can create your Express Entry profile, you must first take your language proficiency test.  Therefore, we recommend booking your IELTS test at least 6-8 weeks before you want to create your profile*.  This allows enough time to register for your chosen test date, take the exam and receive the results. 

*Depending on availability, you usually need to book the exam at least 1 week before your preferred exam date. 

IELTS band scores: How are they calculated?  

IELTS band scores range from 0 to 9, with 9 being the best possible score.  You will receive a band score for each ability (Listening, Reading, Writing & Speaking), plus an overall band scoreEach section is worth 25% of your overall score. 

For example, a set of band scores might look like this: 


Can you fail the IELTS exam? 

No.  There is no pass or fail mark for IELTS.  However, you might need to achieve a minimum score in one or more abilities (Listening, Reading, Writing,  Speaking) depending on the program to which you are applying. 

What minimum score do I need? 

Thminimum score needed will depend on the program to which you are applying.  The programs under Express Entry have different requirements, so be sure to check the latest requirements on the IRCC website.   

IELTS & Express Entry: FAQs

I’m ready to take the IELTS test. How do I book? 

Visit our ILAC IELTS test centre websites to find dates, information and to book an IELTS test. 

Bookings can easily be made online.  Before you begin, make sure you have the following things ready: 

Full postal address

Include a unit number (if applicable) and postal code 

ID document details

In Canada, a valid passport or PR card is required

Scan or photo of your ID document  Image, Word or PDF files are preferred.  Include both the photo page and signature page (if different).  Files must be under 1.5MB.

Payment card (credit or debit)

 Cash payments can usually be made in-person at your chosen test centre.  We recommend always calling ahead to confirm opening hours.  (Select ‘Offline Payment’ for cash – you will have up to 24 hours to pay in-person)

Is IELTS at ILAC valid for PR applications in Canada? 

 Yes, both ILAC IELTS Vancouver and ILAC IELTS Toronto are official test centres!  We work with IDP Education to deliver the official IELTS exam. 

 REMINDER: For Express Entry, you will need the General Training IELTS exam. 

 How can I prepare for the IELTS exam? 

  •  Check out this article of ours for more information about preparing for your test.
  • To find sample questions and marking criteria for IELTSclick here.
  • For information about IELTS preparation programsgo here

There you have it!  We hope this helps you get started on your Express Entry journey to permanent residence in Canada. 

More questions?

Need help or have more questions?  Send us a message below!  Our friendly team will get back to you within 1-2 business days. 

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