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The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced changesexternal icon to the English test requirements for the Student Direct Stream (SDS). From 10 August 2023, IELTS Academic test takers applying for SDS will be considered on their overall English language proficiency rather than their individual skills in Speaking, Writing, Reading and Listening.

  • If you’re applying after the 10th August, all you need is an overall band score of 6 on IELTS Academic.

  • If you applied to SDS with IELTS Academic before 10th August, you would need IELTS 6.0 in each skill (Speaking, Writing, Reading and Listening).

  • If you’re applying with IELTS General Training, you will need a 6.0 in each skill, before and after 10th August.

You can apply to SDS with IELTS Academic or General Training test scores up to 2 years old. This means you can also use test scores received before 10th August to apply to SDS after the changes went live on 10th August. It's easy with IELTS!

What are the new IELTS Academic band score requirements for SDS applications?

The requirement for IELTS Academic is a minimum overall band score of 6.0. Previously test takers needed a minimum of 6.0 on all individual skills (Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking). This is no longer a requirement. Instead, all test takers need to achieve a minimum overall band score of 6.0, without any specific minimum scores for the individual skills. IELTS Overall band score reflects your performance across all skills and is the best indicator of someone’s English language proficiency.

How is the IELTS Academic band score calculated for SDS?

When it comes to qualifying for SDS, there is a minimum IELTS score requirement that must be met. However, individual universities may have higher score expectations for admission purposes. The beauty of IELTS lies in its flexibility to cater to various needs. Whether you are aiming to meet the minimum requirement for SDS or striving for a higher score to secure admission into your dream university, IELTS is designed to work in your favour. To explain this better, let’s look at these three scenarios:

Scenario 1:

Sukhbir sat the IELTS Academic test with the aim to get the minimum score to qualify for SDS. He secured a 6.5 score in Listening, 5.5 in Reading, 5.5 in Writing and 6.5 in Speaking. Despite getting 5.5 in Reading and Writing which is lower than the previous requirement of 6.0 on all individual skills, he still qualifies for SDS as his Overall band score is 6.0 (6.5 + 5.5 + 5.5 + 6.5 / 4 = 6).

Scenario 2:

Juin Li took the IELTS Academic test with the aim of securing a 7.5 overall band score that would help her get into her dream university. She ended up scoring 7.5 each in Listening, and Writing, an 8 in Reading, and a 7.0 in Speaking. This gave her an Overall band score of 7.5 (7.5 + 7.5 + 8.0 + 7.0 / 4 = 7.5) which meant she not only achieved her university entry requirements but also exceeded the SDS permit minimum of an overall band score of 6.0.

How do the new IELTS Academic band score requirements for SDS differ from the previous ones?

Up until the 10th of August 2023, applicants for SDS were required to achieve a minimum score of 6.0 in each individual skill area in IELTS Academic. However, with the recent changes this is no longer required.

The table below shows some of the scores test takers can now achieve to be accepted for SDS applications:

ReadingWritingListeningSpeakingOverall Score

Note: Before this announcement, they would have been required to retake the IELTS Academic test and get a band score of 6.0 in each skill.

Has the IRCC changed IELTS General training band score requirements for SDS?

IELTS General Training is designed for migration and vocational education purposes and is also accepted for SDS. IRCC’s minimum score requirement for this test has not changed. Test takers who take the IELTS General Training test still need to score a minimum of 6.0 on each skill to qualify for the SDS study permit program. As part of this announcement, a band score 6.0 in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening is equivalent to a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7.

Commonly asked questions about the changes in SDS Requirements for IELTS

1. Why do the changes in SDS requirements make IELTS the better choice to study in Canada?

The changes in IRCC’s Academic English test requirements for SDS, require overall band scores which may make it easier for some people to study in Canada. After the 10th of August, IELTS Academic test takers are no longer required to achieve a 6.0 score in all skills.

2. Is an IELTS Academic overall band score of 6.0 the same as a CLB 7?

No, IELTS Academic and other academic-focused language tests approved for SDS have minimum score requirements. These have not been related to the CLB's. A band score of 6.0 in each skill for the IELTS General Training is equivalent to a CLB 7.

3. I completed my IELTS Academic test before the changes came into effect on 10 August 2023. Can I still use my overall band score of 6.0 for SDS permit purposes?

Yes, as long as your valid IELTS Academic test result is no more than two years old when your SDS application is received by IRCC.

4. How can I get more information on English test requirements for SDS?

To get more information on English test requirements for SDS, please visit this linkexternal icon.

IRCC announcement