What is a CLB and why do I need it?

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Most of us are familiar with IELTS scores. Some of us took an IELTS test (or CELPIP or TEF) to prove language proficiency when we applied to immigrate to Canada. But have you heard about the CLB?

More recent MPNP applicants would be familiar with CLB since they are now assigned points on language proficiency based on CLB levels. While the IELTS General, CELPIP General, and for French – TEF Canada, are still the approved tests, applicants must now convert their scores to get language points based on CLB. They must meet a minimum of CLB 4 to qualify (this is regarded as job-ready language proficiency).

What is the CLB?

CLB stands for Canadian Language Benchmarks. It is the national standard in Canada for describing, measuring, and recognizing the English language proficiency of adult immigrants and prospective immigrants for living and working in Canada.

CLB benchmarks are organized in three stages and 12 levels. These describe tasks that people can do in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Lower level benchmarks describe people who may be new to English (CLB 1 to 4), while the higher levels denote greater proficiency in the language based on tasks that they can do. If you want to know more about what each level can do, read Canadian Language Benchmarks.

CLB is used in Canada to teach and test language learning for adults. It is important for you to understand the CLB if you plan to go to an English class, train, look for work, or study at a college or university.

Understanding the Canadian Language Benchmarks, IRCC.

Why not just stick to IELTS, CELPIP or TEF?

“Many adult ESL programs in Canada use the CLB. Students and teachers use CLB to understand what English is needed for daily life in Canada. The CLB does not list grammar or vocabulary. It lists tasks for every day, real English use” (Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks).

In short, the CLBs are more practical to use. They are descriptive language benchmarks since they measure English proficiency based on actual tasks in every day life that a person needs and uses English for. It is not only helpful for teachers and trainers, it is also helpful for you when mapping out your learning goals. This is why CLB is the preferred language benchmarks for federally-funded language classes.

I’m already in Manitoba and I don’t know my CLB. How do I get it?

If you have already taken IELTS General, CELPIP-General or TEF, you can use conversion tools to know your equivalent CLB score. Go to the MPNP Language Proficiency page and use the CLB Calculator. It is recommended however that you go to a testing centre for a CLB Placement Test (CLBPT) if you intend to register for federally-funded language classes. They can assess you and provide an Adult EAL Referral Form for an EAL program or class. These assessments are free. You can contact the following for an appointment:

If you just want to know your CLB and don’t intend to use it for academic or training purposes, you can do a self- assessment at CLB-OSA. The online test takes 60 minutes and provides an approximate benchmark range. However, the result is unofficial.

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Community Resources

Do you want to improve your CLB scores? It takes approximately 500 hours of full-time study to improve by one Canadian Language Benchmark. You should start learning now! Check out English Online’s many learning options. Start learning for free!

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