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CELPIP, IELTS and TOEFL: which test is best for you?

September 3, 2019

CELPIP, IELTS and TOEFL: which test is best for you?

There are several occasions when you might need to take an English language test. You’ll need to prove your language proficiency if you’re planning to study or work abroad, or if you’re immigrating to an English-speaking country. While there are many assessment options available, there are several tests that are popular with test-takers all over the world. If you’re contemplating which test to choose – CELPIP, IELTS or TOEFL – read this blog to learn how they differ and which one fits your needs best.


This is probably the most significant difference between the tests that can determine your choice. Understanding what each of these tests was designed for and what organizations they are accepted by will help you make the right decision.

CELPIP stands for Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program. It was developed in Canada primarily for immigration purposes. This test assesses the general ability to use English in everyday life and is widely used by people who want to acquire permanent residency or citizenship in Canada. Those who wish to attend a post-secondary institution in Canada should take the CAEL (Canadian Academic English Language) test instead.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is another popular and well-known English assessment test. Although it was designed in the UK, it is widely accepted all over the world. The test-takers who need to prove their language proficiency for work or immigration purposes can take the IELTS General Training version, while the ones who are applying to colleges and universities, can opt for the IELTS Academic version.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) was developed in the U.S. to measure the English language ability of non-native speakers wishing to enroll in English-speaking universities. Introduced in 1964 for the first time, TOEFL remains one of the most popular and widely accepted tests in the world. Since TOEFL was developed for applicants to American universities, its main area of application is academics.


All of these tests require the candidates to demonstrate their ability to understand and use English in a wide range of everyday situations or academic settings. All of them test the four language skills – reading, listening, writing and speaking. The only difference between CELPIP, IELTS and TOEFL here is in the number of questions per section and the particular types of tasks.

  • 7 components
  • 40 questions
  • 4 components
  • 40 questions
  • 6-9 passages
  • 34-51 questions
  • 4 components
  • 38 questions
  • 3 components
  • 40 questions
  • 3-4 passages
  • 36-56 questions
  • Writing an email
  • Responding to a survey
  • Writing a letter
  • Giving a point of view
  • Writing a summary of a  listening part
  • Writing an essay
  • 8 components
  • 3 components
  • 6 components



Apart from the main focus and the content, another important factor that can influence your choice of an English test is the format. Whether you’re more comfortable with giving a test on the computer or prefer a traditional way of working with a pencil and a sheet of paper, you have options to choose from.

CELPIP is an entirely computer-based test. All components of the test are delivered by computer. While this doesn’t make a big difference in the reading and listening components, it significantly affects the writing and the speaking parts. In the CELPIP writing test, you can benefit from features like word count and spellcheck. In the speaking part, you’re given a situation or task and asked to record your answers. For some test-takers, this lack of human interaction can be challenging.

IELTS test is paper-based. You will be provided with the scrap paper to draft your answers before transferring them onto the exam sheet. You will be using a pencil and an eraser to erase the answers if you change your mind during the test. The speaking part of the test consists of a discussion with a real person. It can either be completed the same day or can be scheduled for another day.

TOEFL offers two formats to choose from. The most common nowadays is the Internet-based one. The speaking part of this test is digitally-recorded. Wherever Internet connection might be an issue, TOEFL can be paper-delivered. This version of the test doesn’t have a speaking component.

Time frame

Time frame is important. TOEFL test is a bit longer than the other two. However, it includes a 10-minute break. IELTS test can have its speaking component scheduled for another day and even at a different location which will require more time commitment from you. As for the CELPIP test, it is almost the same duration as the IELTS, but can be completed in one sitting.

Listening     45-50 min        40 min     40-55 min
Reading     60 min        60 min     50-70 min
Writing     60 min        60 min     50 min
Speaking     15-20 min        15 min     15 min
Overall     3 h         2 h 55 min     4 h 30 min

The results take about 13 calendar days for IELTS and 8 calendar days for CELPIP. The TOEFL scores are available in about 10 days after the test date. CELPIP also has an express rating system if you need your results sooner: the score is available in 3 business days for an extra fee of $100.

This general overview of CELPIP, TOEFL and IELTS, their similarities and differences should give you a better understanding of which test would be the best option for meeting your goals. Make sure to read more about each test before making a decision and practice regularly to achieve the highest scores. Good luck!

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