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Testing Your English Language Skills with the CAEL exam

September 10, 2019

Testing Your English Language Skills with the CAEL exam

There are many English language skills tests that gauge how well a test taker can speak, read, write and listen in English. However, every test has a different purpose. For example, the CELPIP test is one of only two tests approved for English language standards by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for immigration applications. The CAEL test on the other hand – to be taken at an approved CAEL Test Centre – is for potential students who are not Canadian citizens and are planning on studying at a Canadian post-secondary institution.

The CAEL test helps post-secondary institutions identify students who have the right English skills for academic success. While the test is similar to the CELPIP in that it focuses on reading, writing, speaking and listening, the CAEL test focuses on language used in a first-year Canadian university or college classroom.

Where to take the Test in Canada

There are several CAEL exam centres across the country. Within BC, there are CAEL Test Centres from Vancouver to Kelowna, and while there are many centres, not all may conduct the exam on the dates or days you prefer. Go to the CAEL website and click on the test locations tab. On this page, choose “Computer Edition” as the test type, then select Canada as the country. From the options that will come up on your screen, select your province, and once you do that, you can choose the date, city, location, and time to give your CAEL exam. Regardless of the Canadian province or city, the test fee is CAD $280.

Format of the CAEL Test

The CAEL Test is computer-delivered, and the total test time is 3.5 hours. The CAEL test reports individual scores on four components—Speaking, Reading, Listening, and Writing. Scores are given on a scale from 10 – 90. The post-secondary institution you wish to attend will have a minimum score band range students must achieve to meet the school’s admission requirements. If you don’t achieve the score band you hoped for, you can retake the exam, though you must wait a minimum of four calendar days between test attempts and it is strongly advised to give yourself enough time to study before booking with another CAEL Test Centre.

By using the computer keyboard and mouse, test takers complete various tasks in the reading and writing sections. The computer’s headset and microphone allow test takers to complete the speaking and listening tasks. Unlike some English tests, the CAEL only uses Canadian English, the same that would be used in a post-secondary classroom setting.

The reading section is 35 to 50 minutes long and includes 14 to 25 questions. The reading passages are followed by questions to determine the test taker’s understanding of the text. There is also one speaking question to be answered using material from a long reading passage.

The listening section is 25 to 35 minutes long, and like the reading section includes passages of information that must be listened to before answering the 14-25 questions. There is also one speaking question that has to be answered using material from a long listening passage.

The speaking section is short at 7 to 10 minutes. It includes two speaking tasks based on a short question and one speaking task based on a chart, graph or diagram.

The writing section is the longest compared to the other sections. It is broken into two separate sections: Academic Unit A and Academic Unit B. Unit A is 60 to 70 minutes in length and includes 11 to 15 questions based on a long reading passage, 11 to 15 questions based on a long listening passage on the same topic and one writing question that requires an extended response, using material based on the reading and listening passages. Unit B is 40 to 45 minutes long and has the same format as Unit A except that the written response based on the reading or listening passage is shorter than the response in Unit A.

Who Accepts CAEL Test Results?

CAEL is accepted by more than 180 academic institutions across Canada, including schools such as BC’s Simon Fraser University, BCIT, UBC and UVic. Across the country, Quebec’s McGill University and Ontario’s Carleton University, Queen’s University and McMaster University are some of the popular schools that accept CAEL results.

You can have your scores sent to five education institutions at no cost. For more than five, the fee per additional score report is $20.

How to Prepare for a CAEL exam

There is a wide range of preparation aids on the CAEL site including a free sample test, practice tests and workbooks as well as study materials for purchase, many free videos with instruction about the exam and a range of webinars and courses that can be purchased, which can help you pass the course.

The CAEL is an important part of your application for post-secondary school admission in Canada. Be sure to learn more about the exam format and study well to achieve the score you need to attend your school of choice. Good luck.

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