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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 Test

Minimum Score Required for SDS

IELTS Academic 


PTE Academic






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. This is almost a full band score higher than the SDS IELTS requirement, as Pearson considers a PTE score of 46 as equivalency to an IELTS band score 6.

IELTS and PTE comparison chart

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 Test

Minimum score for SDS Applicants 

Australia (Proof of Competent English) 

CEFR* equivalent scores 

IELTS Academic 


PTE Academic 






64 in total

72-94 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 to meet SDS visa requirements?

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 12,000 organisations accepting IELTS tests.

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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