Chances are, if you have looked into immigrating to Canada you have come across the enigmatic acronym, CLB. And based on the title of this article, you have probably guessed it does not stand for Canadians Love Bacon (although we do, we even have our own kind of bacon). 

Canadian Language Benchmarks, or CLBs, are a standard used in Canadian immigration applications to describe 12 levels of language ability in Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. They are used in many contexts, including immigration to Canada, and studying in Canada.

The CLBs are not a test themselves – they are ways of describing the results you would get on a language test such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test d’évaluation du français (TEF) test. So there is no such thing as a CLB test, but you can use your language test results to determine your language level according to the CLBs. 

Learn more about approved language tests for Canadian immigration.

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Why do I need to know my CLB level?

If you are applying to immigrate to Canada, you will almost definitely need to know your CLB level. Candidates who apply for Canadian permanent resident status through any of the programs managed under the Express Entry system need to prove a minimum CLB level depending on the class they are applying through, and can obtain further points under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) for a CLB level of 5 or higher in their second language. Any accompanying spouse can get even more CRS points for their language level too, and this also needs to be proved with a CLB level.

The CLB may be required in other Canadian immigration programs too: for example, candidates hoping to apply through the Quebec Skilled Worker (QSW) program can also get points under the separate QSW points system for a CLB level of 5 or higher in English.

Knowing your CLB level may also be helpful if you want to study in Canada. The CLB is used as a framework in English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching in Canada, and may be required by your future college or university to show that you are able to understand the course material of your intended study program. Learn more about language tests for future international students.

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How do the CLB levels work?

There are 12 levels to the Canadian Language Benchmarks. These go from basic (CLB 1) to advanced (CLB 12). These are separated into three stages – Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced – with four benchmarks within each stage – Initial, Developing, Adequate, and Fluent. Each of the CLBs apply to each of the four areas of language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Detailed descriptions of each level are available on the CLB website. The CLB Online Self-Assessment site has even more detail on examples of each ability, but the best – and really only legitimate – way to tell your level is to take a recognized language test.

So, what’s my CLB level? 

As mentioned earlier, CLB is not a test. If you take a language test such as IELTS, you won’t see your CLBs on the results certificate. You can use the tables below to find your CLBs based on the scores you received on your test. Below are CLB levels for the four language tests used in Canada’s popular Express Entry immigration system.

Note that the levels required in order to be eligible to immigrate through one of the programs managed through the Express Entry system depend on the class you’re applying through (the Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades, or Canadian Experiences Classes).

IELTS: CLB Levels

The IELTS General Training is one of the approved language tests for demonstrating English-language proficiency in the Express Entry system. Below are the CLB equivalencies for test scores received on the IELTS General Training:

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
Language Test Equivalencies
CLB LevelReadingWritingListeningSpeaking
10 and above87.58.57.5
97787
86.56.57.56.5
76666
655.55.55.5
54555
43.544.54

CELPIP: CLB Levels

The CELPIP General is one of the approved language tests for demonstrating English-language proficiency in the Express Entry system. Below are the CLB equivalencies for test scores received on the CELPIP General:

Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP)
Language Test Equivalencies
CLB LevelReadingWritingListeningSpeaking
10 and above10101010
99999
88888
77777
66666
55555
44444

TEF Canada: CLB Levels

The TEF Canada is one of the approved language tests for demonstrating French-language proficiency in the Express Entry system. Below are the CLB equivalencies for test scores received on the TEF Canada:

Test d’évaluation de français pour le Canada (TEF Canada)
Language Test Equivalencies
CLB LevelReadingWritingListeningSpeaking
10 and above263-277393-415316-333393-415
9248-262371-392298-315371-392
8233-247349-370280-297349-370
7207-232310-348249-279310-348
6181-206271-309217-248271-309
5151-180226-270181-216226-270
4121-150181-225145-180181-225

TCF Canada: CLB Levels

The TCF Canada is one of the approved language tests for demonstrating French-language proficiency in the Express Entry system. Below are the CLB equivalencies for test scores received on the TCF Canada:

Test de connaissance du français pour le Canada (TCF Canada)
CLB LevelReadingWritingListeningSpeaking
10 and above549-69916-20549-69916-20
9524-54814-15523-54814-15
8499-523December 13, 2019503-522December 13, 2019
7453-498October 11, 2019458-502October 11, 2019
6406-452July 9, 2019398-457July 9, 2019
5375-4056369-3976
4342-374April 5, 2019331-368April 5, 2019

So now you know what the CLB is, and how to find it. The next step is to take a language test, if you haven’t done so already. It may seem ridiculous, but even if you reckon you’ll get a 12 in every section, you still need to prove it to the government. They’re just sticklers that way. Find out more about approved language tests for immigrating to Canada.

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