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The much-anticipated English test requirement changes by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for the Student Direct Stream (SDS) study permit went live on 10 August 2023. Here is a summary of SDS changes and their impact on IELTS test takers: 

  • If you’re applying after the 10th August 2023, all you need is an overall band score of 6.0 on IELTS Academic.

  • If you applied with IELTS Academic before 10th August 2023, you would need a 6.0 in each skill.

  • If you’re applying with IELTS General Training, you will need a 6.0 in each skill, before and after 10th August 2023.

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 2023 to apply to SDS after the changes went live on 10th August 2023. For more details on how you can use your test score to apply for SDS, read this article: IELTS Academic Score Requirements changes for SDS Applicants.

Under the new changes, TOEFL iBT, PTE Academic and CAEL will now also be accepted as proof of language proficiency for SDS applications, you can learn more about the IRCC announcement to SDS hereexternal icon or watch the quick video explainer below.

How has the IRCC English Language requirements changed for SDS Applications?

From 10th August, additional English language tests will be accepted for the Student Direct Stream (SDS) visa program.

IELTS has long been accepted by the IRCC, however test takers who sit the IELTS Academic will no longer be required to achieve a band score of 6.0 in every component (Reading, Speaking, Writing and Listening). Instead test takers only need an overall band score of 6.0. For example, if you achieve a 5.5 in Reading and Writing and a 6.5 in Speaking and Listening you would achieve an overall 6.0 band score.

English Language TestMinimum Score Required for SDS
IELTS Academic 6.0
PTE Academic60

For applicants who choose to sit PTE Academic, they will need a minimum score of 60, while TOEFL iBT test takers will need a minimum score of 83 and CAEL test takers will need a score of 60 also.

Will it be easier to take an IELTS Academic test or another English test?

The Canadian Government requires a PTE Academic score of 60 for the SDS program which, according to Pearson *, is equivalent to an IELTS band score of 6.5 to 7. Almost a full band score higher than IELTS, as Pearson considers a PTE score of 46 as equivalency to an IELTS band score 6.


How do the Canadian English Language Requirements compare to Australia and Europe?

The table below compares language requirements of IRCC for SDS, to the minimum scores needed as proof of Competent English in Australia and minimum scores required to be considered an upper-intermediate English user (B2) under the Common European Framework of References (CEFR).

English Language TestMinimum score for SDS Applicants Australia (Proof of Competent English) CEFR* equivalent scores 
IELTS Academic 5-6 
PTE Academic 60 50 59 
TOEFL 83 64 in total72-94 in total 

Overall, this indicates that the new SDS English language score requirements for PTE Academic and TOEFL iBT are much more in line with the CEFR equivalent scores and likely a more accurate reflection of actual English Language proficiency of the applicant (regardless of what test they take).

What are the other advantages to taking IELTS Academic for SDS applications?

Apart from only requiring an overall band score of 6.0 to meet the English proficiency language requirement for SDS if you choose IELTS Academic, there are several other advantages:

IELTS offers unmatched choice when it comes to where and how you sit your test

We offer a choice in how you take your test, that is unmatched by other tests. IELTS is available in more than 3,000 test locations and online in over 90 countries. In addition, IDP has more than 380 IELTS on Computer test centres.

IELTS is widely recognised for study, migration and more!

IELTS is widely recognised for study and migration purposes with more than 11,500 organisations accepting IELTS tests.

Common questions asked about changes to minimum language scores for SDS

Does this announcement by the Canadian Government change my current application? Do I need to do anything differently?

No. There is no change for existing applications English language requirements the SDS program.

IRCC to change Canadian language testing requirements for SDS applicants

IRCC has announced that PTE Academic, TOEFL iBT and CAEL will be accepted for SDS applications from 10 August 2023.





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