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Is it possible to study in Canada without IELTS?

By Sean Campbell• Last updated: Feb 28, 2024
Is it possible to study in Canada without IELTS?
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If you believe everything you read, you might think it’s impossible to study in Canada without IELTS. But trust us, it’s not impossible. Far from it.

We’ve written at length about English Language Tests for studying abroad (here’s our ultimate guide to acing your English language assessment tests), and we’ve learned a thing or three about the different requirements and entrance tests needed.

But one test that keeps on coming up is IELTS. It’s pretty much the most well-known English assessment, and while it has plenty of merits, you don’t always need IELTS to study in Canada. In fact, some of Canada’s top universities are glad to accept students without IELTS.

What is IELTS?

Just in case you’re not totally sure… IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. And it’s exactly what it says it is -- a test of your English level! It’s used by lots of universities and employers around the world to ensure that students (or employees) have sufficient English language ability. It’s not the only English Language Assessment out there, but as we mentioned, it’s one of the most well-known.

While it’s accepted by Canadian universities and immigration authorities, it is still possible to study in Canada without IELTS in 2023.

Despite lower IELTS requirements, good English communication skills are still necessary for success in these programs.

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How to study in Canada without IELTS?

The first simple step is to check the international student entry requirements of the university you want to go to! While some top universities prefer IELTS, many will also accept other forms of English language assessment, from TOEFL through to the new Duolingo English Test.

And if you’ve already studied for four or more years in an English-medium school, you can without IELTS study in Canada, even at those universities which require it.

In Canada, the academic year is divided into multiple intakes or semesters, during which universities and colleges admit new students for various programs. The popularity of intakes can vary depending on the institution, program, and individual preferences of students. However, there are three main intakes that are typically the most popular among international students in Canada:

1. Fall intake (September)

The Fall intake is the most popular and widely preferred intake for both Canadian and international students. It begins in September and marks the start of the academic year. Many universities and colleges offer a wide range of programs and courses during this intake. Fall intake provides students with ample time to adjust to their new environment and settle into their studies before winter arrives.

2. Winter intake (January)

The Winter intake, also known as the January intake, is the second most popular option for international students. It starts in January, and though it is less common than the Fall intake, an increasing number of institutions are offering programs during this period. Some students may prefer the Winter intake to avoid the competitive admissions process in the Fall or to align their studies with the start of the calendar year.

3. Spring/Summer intake (May/June)

The Spring/Summer intake, which typically begins in May or June, is the third most popular intake. It is less common than the Fall and Winter intakes and may have limited program offerings. However, it can be an excellent option for students who miss the deadlines for the Fall or Winter intakes or for those seeking to start their studies during warmer months.

Also Read: Intakes in Canada 2024

Is IELTS mandatory for a Canadian student visa?

No, IELTS is not mandatory for a Canada student visa. You can also without IELTS study in Canada. However, IELTS or other language proficiency tests are often required for international students applying for a student visa in Canada.

Language proficiency tests are used to ensure that students can communicate effectively in English or French, which are the primary languages of instruction in most Canadian universities and colleges. Some universities or colleges may opt for other language proficiency tests like TOEFL, CAEL, CELPIP, Duolingo English Test, etc.

Also Read: Exams to Study Abroad for Indian Students

Looking to study in Canada?
Explore top universities and get free expert guidance with Edvoy

Can I get a Canada study visa without IELTS?

Yes, you can get a Canada study visa without IELTS. You see, Canada actually doesn’t give out study visas as such, but they do provide study permits which automatically come with a temporary resident’s visa.

The English language assessment you need is dictated by your university of choice.

You might also check other countries to study abroad without IELTS

Alternative English Proficiency Tests for IELTS to study in Canada

So IELTS is accepted by pretty much every university in Canada, but the following is a list of alternatives which may be accepted to allow you to study in Canada in 2023 without it. We’ve covered many of these in our Ultimate list of entrance exams to study abroad

But remember to ALWAYS check with your university first, as the entry requirements for international students change from one university to the next:

1. TOEFL

TOEFL is one of the most widely recognized English proficiency tests globally. It is primarily used for North American academic institutions. The test assesses reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills through a combination of multiple-choice questions, speaking tasks, and essays.

Typically, a competitive TOEFL score ranges from 80 to 100 for undergraduate admissions and 90 to 110 for graduate admissions.

2. CAEL

CAEL is an English proficiency test designed specifically for Canadian academic institutions. It evaluates language skills in academic contexts, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

The minimum score required depends on the university or program, but a competitive score is usually around 70.

Looking to study in Canada?
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3. Cambridge Test (CAE / CPE)

The Cambridge English exams, including the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and the Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE), are widely accepted by educational institutions and employers around the world. They assess various language skills, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

A CAE score of 180 to 200 and a CPE score of 200 to 230 are considered strong proficiency levels.

4. CELPIP

CELPIP is another English proficiency test used specifically for Canadian immigration and citizenship purposes. It evaluates language skills in real-life situations and measures reading, writing, listening, and speaking abilities.

The minimum score requirements vary depending on the purpose of the test, such as immigration or academic admission.

5. Duolingo English Test

The Duolingo English Test is a relatively new online test that measures English language proficiency through a combination of reading, writing, listening, and speaking tasks. It can be taken from the comfort of one's own home, making it a convenient option for test-takers.

The minimum score requirements for the Duolingo English Test vary but usually range between 85 and 120.

6. CanTEST

CanTEST is commonly used by Canadian educational institutions to assess English language proficiency for academic admission. It evaluates reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills in academic contexts.

The minimum score required depends on the institution or program, but a competitive score is usually around 4.

7. Pearson Test of English

PTE Academic is a computer-based test that evaluates English language proficiency through integrated skills assessment. It measures reading, listening, speaking, and writing abilities with real-life scenarios and academic content.

The minimum PTE Academic score required can range from 50 to 79, depending on the university or visa requirements.

English Proficiency TestsDesired Score
TOEFL80 to 100
CAEL70
CAE180 to 200
CPE200 to 230
Duolingo English Test85 and 120
CanTEST4
PTE Academic50 to 79

Also Read: List of Entrance exams to study abroad

10 Universities to Study in Canada Without IELTS

Given that there are 96 universities across the country, each with entry requirements subject to change, we can’t name all the places you can study in Canada without IELTS. But, here are 10 Canadian universities without IELTS we know and love:

1. University of Toronto

As one of Canada's top-ranked universities, the University of Toronto may grant language test waivers for applicants who have completed their previous education in English-speaking institutions or have demonstrated proficiency through other means.

2. University of Canada West

University of Canada West is a private university based in Vancouver that offers a pathway program called "International Foundation Program" for students who do not meet English language requirements. Upon successful completion of the program, students can proceed to regular undergraduate or graduate programs

3. University of Prince Edward Island

The University of Prince Edward Island has specific conditions under which applicants may be exempt from providing IELTS scores. These exemptions are generally applicable to students from English-speaking countries or those who have completed their previous education in English.

4. Thompson Rivers University

Thompson Rivers University offers a pathway program called "English Language Center (ELC)" for students who require additional language training before starting their regular academic programs.

5. University of Regina

The University of Regina offers exemptions from IELTS for applicants who have successfully completed certain English language programs at recognized institutions in Canada.

6. University of Saskatchewan

The University of Saskatchewan may waive the IELTS requirement for applicants who have studied in an English-speaking country for a certain period or have completed specific English language programs.

7. Brock University

Brock University's ESL Services provide language support for international students, and some applicants may be considered for conditional admission based on their language proficiency.

8. University of Winnipeg

The University of Winnipeg may consider applicants for conditional admission if they do not meet the English language requirements but show strong academic potential.

9. Memorial University of Newfoundland

Memorial University offers the "English as a Second Language (ESL) Program" for students who need to improve their English language skills before enrolling in regular academic programs.

10. Concordia University

Concordia University in Montreal may offer conditional admission to students who do not meet the English language requirements but demonstrate strong academic backgrounds.

Now that you know you can study in Canada without IELTS, maybe it’s time to start preparing for student life there! Here are some useful articles on studying in Toronto, Vancouver, and a handy list of things a student wishes she knew before studying there!

MOI accepted universities in Canada

Here is a list of the Canadian universities accepting the MOI and providing a much easier application to international students.

  • McGill University
  • University of Manitoba
  • University of Waterloo
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • University of Regina
  • Cape Breton University
  • Brandon University
  • Laurentian University

Frequently asked questions

Can I study in Canada without IELTS?

Yes, you can study in Canada without IELTS. Some Canadian universities and colleges like the University of Toronto, the University of Regina, etc. offer exemptions from IELTS for specific programs.

How to go to Canada without IELTS?

If you wish to study in Canada without IELTS, you can explore alternative English language proficiency tests like TOEFL, CAEL, Cambridge Test, or CELPIP.

Is IELTS required for a Canada student visa?

No, IELTS is not required for a Canada student visa. The Canadian government typically requires international students to provide proof of English language proficiency, and IELTS is one of the widely accepted tests for this purpose.

Can I get a student visa without IELTS in Canada?

Yes, you can get a student visa without IELTS in Canada.

Is it possible to study for a Master's in Canada without IELTS?

Yes, it is possible to study for a Master's in Canada without IELTS. Some institutions might offer conditional admission or consider other English language tests as alternatives.

Which country is best for without IELTS study in Canada?

Several countries offer opportunities for international students to study without IELTS like Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands.

What are the documents required for without IELTS study in Canada?

The common documents required for without IELTS study in Canada are alternative evidence of English language proficiency, such as TOEFL scores or proof of previous education in English, academic transcripts, a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and financial proof for your study permit application.

Does Canada accept only IELTS?

While IELTS is one of the most widely accepted English language proficiency tests in Canada, some universities may consider other tests like TOEFL or Cambridge English exams.

Can Indian students go to Canada without IELTS?

Yes, Indian students can go to Canada without IELTS. Indian students can demonstrate English language proficiency through tests like TOEFL, CAEL, Cambridge Test, or CELPIP.

Is IELTS compulsory for Canada?

No, but it's widely accepted for immigration and many universities.

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