In a recent announcement, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has revealed significant changes to the English language proficiency testing requirements for students applying through the Study Direct Stream (SDS) program. The new measures aim to streamline the application process and enhance opportunities for international students seeking to study in Canada. IRCC plan to begin to accept new tests effective August 2023.
One of the key highlights of the announcement is the expanded list of accepted English language proficiency tests. In addition to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the IRCC now recognizes:
- Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) General;
- Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) Assessment;
- Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic); and
- Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT).
This update offers greater flexibility for SDS applicants, enabling them to choose from a wider range of testing options based on their preferences and availability.
The inclusion of the CAEL Assessment as an accepted English language proficiency test is particularly noteworthy. Developed by Canadian academics and experts, the CAEL Assessment focuses on evaluating students’ language skills in an academic context. By accepting this test, the IRCC acknowledges the importance of assessing applicants’ ability to succeed in a Canadian educational environment. The CAEL Assessment provides a comprehensive evaluation of the test-takers language proficiency, including reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. SDS applicants must now achieve a minimum overall score of 6 with no individual band score below 5.5.
The PTE Academic, another newly recognized test, offers a computer-based assessment of English language proficiency. This test measures skills in speaking, writing, reading, and listening through a series of integrated tasks. With the PTE Academic, SDS applicants must obtain a minimum overall score of 50, with no individual score falling below 46. The introduction of the PTE Academic provides an alternative option for students who prefer a technologically-driven test experience.
Additionally, the IRCC now accepts the TOEFL iBT, a widely recognized English language test administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The TOEFL iBT assesses the four language skills through tasks that simulate real-life academic situations. To meet the IRCC’s requirements, SDS applicants must achieve an overall score of 80 on the TOEFL iBT, with no section scoring below 19. By including the TOEFL iBT, the IRCC expands the choices for students who may have already taken this test or prefer its format and scoring system.
Notably, the IRCC’s announcement does not affect the minimum IELTS band score requirements for SDS applications. The minimum IELTS score of 6.0 remains unchanged, with no individual band score below 5.5. IELTS, a globally recognized English language proficiency test, continues to be a widely accepted option for SDS applicants. This decision ensures consistency and recognizes the longstanding reputation of IELTS in assessing English language skills for academic purposes.
The IRCC’s decision to expand the accepted English language proficiency tests and adjust the minimum score requirements brings positive implications for future SDS applicants. With more options available, prospective students can select the test that aligns best with their strengths and preferences. This change is expected to enhance accessibility and provide a more inclusive application process, enabling a larger pool of students to pursue their educational goals in Canada.
Moreover, the flexibility in test options will likely ease the burden for some applicants who may have faced challenges in accessing specific tests due to limited test centers or other logistical constraints. By accepting the CAEL Assessment, PTE Academic, and TOEFL iBT, the IRCC acknowledges the importance of accommodating diverse testing needs, ultimately making the application process more convenient and efficient for aspiring international students.
In conclusion, the IRCC’s recent announcement regarding changes to the English language testing requirements for SDS applicants signifies a significant step towards enhancing accessibility and flexibility within the Canadian study visa application process. By recognizing additional tests such as the CAEL Assessment, PTE Academic, and TOEFL iBT, and adjusting the minimum score requirements, the IRCC demonstrates its commitment to supporting international students and promoting Canada as a premier destination for quality education. Future SDS applicants can now take advantage of these changes, benefiting from a broader range of testing options and a simplified pathway to their academic aspirations in Canada.