CLB vs IELTS – Equivalency Table

CLB vs IELTS

Deniz is from the Turks and Caicos Islands. Despite English being his mother tongue language, he has heard he needs to take an English test to immigrate to Canada. Of course, Canada accepts two English tests: IELTS General and CELPIP General. Unfortunately, their expectations are confusing to Deniz. They say you need to have such a CLB score. However, the test Deniz is taking is IELTS. He wonders what the relationship between IELTS band scores and CLB levels is. In fact, Deniz is looking for an equivalency table that compares CLB vs IELTS.

If you intend to immigrate to Canada, you must take a language test. Canadian immigration authorities currently accept the following tests:

  • CELPIP: Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program  (Only CELPIP General)
  • IELTS: International English Language Testing System (Only IELTS General)
  • TEF Canada: Test d’évaluation de français
  • TCF Canada: Test de connaissance du français

The last two tests are for those who know French. However, to prove your English language knowledge, you must take one of the first two tests: CELPIP General or IELTS General. Unfortunately, the first test is unavailable in most countries, so you will most likely take the IELTS test.

Table of contents

What is IELTS?

IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. Three entities own IELTS, namely:

  • The British Council,
  • IDP: IELTS Australia and
  • Cambridge Assessment in English.

They offer this test in two major formats: Academic and General. Of course, the former is for getting admission to English-speaking schools. However, the latter is for immigration to Canada or other countries. Regardless, you may take the test paper-based or computer-delivered.

IELTS, CELPIP, PTE: Which is Right for You?

IELTS band scores table

IELTS evaluates your knowledge in four major language areas: listening, reading, speaking and writing. The scores are from 0 to 9. The following table shows the meaning of each band score (source: IELTS.org).

Band ScoreSkill LevelDescription
0Did not attempt the testThe test taker did not answer the questions.
1Non-userThe test taker has no ability to use the language except a few isolated words.
2Intermittent userThe test taker has great difficulty understanding spoke and written English.
3Extremely limited userThe test taker conveys and understands the only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.
4Limited userThe test taker’s basic competence is limited to familiar situations. They frequently show problems in understanding and expression. They are not able to use complex language.
5Modest userThe test taker has partial command of the language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many mistakes. They should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.
6Competent userThe test taker has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. They can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
7Good userThe test taker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.
8Very good userThe test taker has fully operational command of the language with occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. They may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. They handle complex and detailed argumentation well.
9Expert userThe test taker has a fully operational command of the language. Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding.

Immigration authorities do not consider your overall band score but rather your score for every ability.

What is CLB?

CLB stands for the Canadian Language Benchmark. The government of Canada uses CLB to identify your mastery of the English language. The French language equivalent to CLB is the Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC).

The CLB table

CLB offers scores between 1 and 12. The following tables show the meaning of each score (source: canada.ca).

Stage I – Basic Language Ability

Benchmark and
Ability Level
ListeningSpeakingReadingWriting
CLB 1: Initial
CLB 2: Developing
CLB 3: Adequate
CLB 4: Fluent
Interpreting simple
spoken communication in routine, non-demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.
Creating simple spoken communication in routine, non-demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.Interpreting simple written communication in routine, non-demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.Creating simple written communication in routine, non-demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.

Stage II – Intermediate Language Ability

Benchmark and
Ability Level
ListeningSpeakingReadingWriting
CLB 5: Initial
CLB 6: Developing
CLB 7: Adequate
CLB 8: Fluent
Interpreting moderately complex spoken communication in moderately demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.Creating moderately complex spoken communication in moderately demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.Interpreting moderately complex written communication in moderately demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.Creating moderately complex written communication in moderately demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.

Stage III – Advanced Language Ability

Benchmark and
Ability Level
ListeningSpeakingReadingWriting
CLB 9: Initial
CLB 10: Developing
CLB 11: Adequate
CLB 12: Fluent
Interpreting complex spoken communication in demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.Creating complex spoken communication in demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.Interpreting complex written communication in demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.Creating complex written communication in demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.

CLB vs IELTS table

As you can see, the IELTS band scores are from 0 to 9, while the CLB levels are from 1 to 12. Consequently, we need to refer to reliable sources to find their equivalency. I have used different sources (mainly Canada.ca) to develop the following CLB/IELTS table. The first column shows the CLB level. Of course, the other four columns show the IELTS equivalency for each competency area.

CLB LevelIELTS ReadingIELTS WritingIELTS ListeningIELTS Speaking
11.01.01.01.0
21.52.02.02.0
32.53.03.53.0
43.54.04.54.0
54.05.05.05.0
65.05.55.55.5
76.06.06.06.0
86.56.57.56.5
97.07.08.07.0
108.07.58.57.5
118.58.09.08.0
129.09.09.09.0

While I have done my best to avoid any mistakes, this table is not the official conversion table. Consult with other sources as well. You may also consider reading the following articles:

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    Al Parsai

    This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.