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IELTS Canada - What Is It and How Is It Scored?

12 Jan 2022, 11:24 GMT+10

What is the IELTS?

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an English test used by many governments, professional employers, or educational establishments as a gauge of language proficiency to ensure that any candidates for a job, university place, or citizenship are able to fully integrate into their workplace and society. Around 3.5 million people take the test each year, aiming to prove their knowledge of English to help achieve their goals.

Within Canada, most universities and colleges accept the test, as well as Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIC). Therefore, if you are looking to migrate to Canada for work or education, it is important that you know what to expect from these tests and which is the correct type of test for you. Let's take a closer look.

Which IELTS Test Should I Use?

There are two types of IELTS tests, each with a slightly different scoring system and use. According to Trillium Education. Here is what you should know about each test when deciding which one to take.

Academic IELTS

If you are considering moving to Canada for university or college, the higher level of the IELTS test is necessary to prove that you can cope with the English language demands in an academic environment. This test is also required for those who are looking to work in many highly-qualified professional areas such as engineering, law, or medicine, as these fields deal with complex language and high stakes.

General IELTS

The General IELTS, on the other hand, focuses on the language that you will need to go about your everyday life rather than in an academic environment. This test is good for those looking to study at a lower level, perhaps in school or looking to work in other fields. If you are unsure, contact the employer that you have a job offer from for advice on which test they would prefer you to take.

How Do The Two Exams Differ?

While both IELTS exams have the same four parts - reading, writing, listening, and speaking, the academic test looks at higher language skills that will allow you to cope well in an academic setting, while the general IELTS focuses more on workplace and social skills.

What Will I Be Assessed On?


For both the academic and general IELTS tests, the listening section lasts 30 minutes and includes four recordings for you to listen to and answer around 40 questions on.


The speaking test is an interview with a specialist who will engage in a conversation with you, as well as ask you specific questions. This generally lasts between 11 and 14 minutes, where the examiner looks for fluency, pronunciation, and accuracy as well as your lexical resource.


The reading part of the exam involves extracts from authentic English publications such as books or newspapers to test the candidates' ability to understand written text. The test for this is around 60 minutes long for both levels of exam, with three texts. The texts will differ depending on whether you are sitting the academic or general exam. The academic texts are seen to be more complex and may include graphs or charts with data. Both exams will include questions that go alongside the texts to answer in order to gauge your understanding.


Lasting 60 minutes, the writing section of the assessment is the same length for both types of IELTS. There are two tasks for each, worth the first task to be at least 150 words and the second at least 250 words. The tasks themselves differ between the two exams. For the general IELTS, you will be asked to write a letter and then an essay, whereas the academic exam includes analyzing data such as a table, diagram, or graph and an essay. This makes the academic exam more relevant for higher education.

How Does The Scoring for the IELTS Work?

Overall Band Score

Your IELTS band score is generated by calculating the average score from each of the four sections. The average will be rounded to the nearest 0.5 to give a final band score from 0-9. Let's take a look at how your scores for each individual section will be developed.


The listening part of the IELTS test has 40 questions, with each one gaining a candidate one mark. Each candidate gets a score out of 40, which is then matched with a number on a nine band scale - 9 being the highest. Half-bands are also available. As a rough guide, a raw score of 35 will likely be converted to a band 9, while 30 will be a 7.


Like the listening test, the reading test also contains 40 questions, with each one being worth one mark. These scores are again converted onto the 0-9 scale. It is the reading part of the test however, where you will see a difference between the academic and general IELTS. The scoring is the same, but the type of text will differ, with the academic option being more complex with more technical vocabulary. As the general test is thought to be easier, you tend to require a slightly higher mark out of 40 for each band. For example, an academic score of around 35/40 will get you a band 8, while for a general band 8, you would need 38/40.


Writing scores are based on four equally weighted criteria as stated below:

  • Task Achievement and Task Response
  • Coherence and Cohesion
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Scores range from 9 (most proficient) to 0 (least proficient), and an average is taken to generate an overall writing score.


As previously mentioned, within the speaking segment of your IELTS, you will be scored on four equally weighted criteria, which are:

  • Fluency and Coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • Pronunciation

Scores range from 9 (most proficient) to 0 (least proficient), and an average is taken to generate an overall speaking score.

The Take-Away

If you are looking to move to Canada for work or study, it is important to take the IELTS to demonstrate your proficiency in English. If you are unsure of which test to take, ask your potential new employer or education provider for advice.

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