September 13, 2020

CELPIP vs. IELTS: Which Exam Would You Pick?

In general, many teachers and test takers are of the opinion that CELPIP is somewhat easier than IELTS. However,  tastes differ, and a lot depends on your personal preferences.

For example, CELPIP is exclusively a computer test, whereas IELTS can be paper-based or computer-delivered. Some of you are millennials and will be more comfortable with a computer screen and a keyboard, whereas older people may prefer to deal with paper and write by hand. Now let’s make a comparison section by section:


The IELTS Speaking section is a 14-15 minute interview with a live examiner.

CELPIP Speaking is very different from IELTS: you will have eight different tasks, each of which will include 30-60 seconds of thinking time and 60-90 seconds of speaking (to a computer). So whatever floats your boat. In my personal opinion, it is easier to speak to a person than talk to an imaginary friend while staring at the timer counting down the seconds you have left.


CELPIP reading is definitely easier, just because it is much shorter than the IELTS reading section. However, both tests can contain a scientific article or dwell on a topic that you may be unfamiliar with. In that case, you’ll just have to wing it.


Some say IELTS Listening is harder because the sections are longer and you may need to remember more information. That may well be, but consider that the questions in the listening section are right in front of you the whole time you are listening. So, if you have done some practice and know what to listen for, you should be fine.

CELPIP listening tasks may be shorter, but you will only hear the questions after you are done listening  (Task 1, 2 and 3). Thus, the two drawbacks are: 1) you cannot pre-read the questions to see what you should be listening for; 2) if your listening skills are not too good to start with, chances are you will not understand the questions – which you hear once, after the listening section is finished. Also, Tasks 5 and 6 can be tricky, since there are usually two-three people speaking and you need to make sure you catch who thinks what and why.

The good thing about CELPIP Listening is that you will only hear Canadian English. This is a boon if you have only been exposed to the Canadian accent. IELTS, on the other hand, is unpredictable in this respect. You can hear various native speakers’ accents, but every speaker will enunciate each word clearly.


The CELPIP Writing section is probably a bit easier than that of IELTS.

Both tests require you to write an email* (Task 1) and express an opinion (Task 2). CELPIP’s Task 2 is a bit shorter than Task 2 in IELTS, and you are actually allowed to use spellcheck! Also, CELPIP’s scoring system is less strict about missing commas and other punctuation marks. You can get an 11 or 12 even if you have decided to live a comma-free life.

*Academic IELTS: Task 1 is about describing graphs/charts and is definitely more difficult than writing an email. However, do check whether the college/university of your choice prefers IELTS or CELPIP.



So, if you are thinking about following the university path, you may need IELTS (Academic). You are free to choose IELTS(General) or CELPIP for immigration purposes. There is even a shorter/cheaper CELPIP version for citizenship  – CELPIP LS – you will only need to do the Speaking and Listening sections for that one!

Whichever test you choose to take, please remember there are no shortcuts. Whether you need a 7.5 in IELTS or a 9 in CELPIP, you will have to demonstrate a wide range of vocabulary, a variety of grammar structures and familiarity with paraphrase. The scoring systems for both tests are pretty similar and will accurately demonstrate your English proficiency level.

Last but not least, do familiarize yourself with the test structure and practice, either with a tutor or by yourself. Simply showing up on the test day is not enough to get a good score, even if all you need is 5.5. Do be careful with your choice of preparation materials and your tutor. There are a lot of IELTS preparation materials and a lot of tutors, but not all of them are equally good. There are much fewer CELPIP preparation materials and qualified CELPIP tutors.

Good luck with your test and your immigration process! 🙂

Victoria Fulbright

About the author: Victoria Fulbright is an active IELTS examiner with 20+ years of teaching experience. She is also certified to provide CELPIP and TOEFL instruction, online and in person. In addition to test coaching, Ms. Fulbright is an experienced business communication trainer. To book a consultation/lesson, contact