Canadian Express Entry: Language Proficiency

Now it’s time for us to talk about the part of the Express Entry application that I personally enjoyed the most. Okay, maybe I feel this way now since we were able to get pretty good scores, but I remember being nervous as hell while taking the tests since it was like being back in the high pressure environment of university. Many people get pretty nervous about taking the IELTS, but with an average level of English proficiency and with the right amount of preparation, you should be able to get a good IELTS score.

So let me share our IELTS experience, I’ll be splitting this post into two, with the first one talking about what the test is and how we prepared while the next one will be more about our experiences during the test itself.

What is IELTS?

IELTS (International English Testing System) is basically a test that measures one’s proficiency in English. It grades your skills in Speaking, Reading, Writing and Listening, with each skill having a maximum score of 9.0.

ielts_logo11

There are two types of test, Academic and General. The harder Academic test is for those who are part of a regulated profession (nursing, engineering etc) and plan to continue this work abroad, while the easier general test is for… well, everyone else I guess? 🙂

Register and Book Your Test

In the Philippines, there are two institutions that offer IELTS testing, the British Council and the IDP. We chose IDP because it was recommended by the person that was helping us with our application. Registering and booking your test with IDP is pretty easy, you can check IDP’s website for more information.

When booking your testing date, please make sure that you give yourself ample time to prepare and to book the proper test. For us, we took the (easier) general exam and we gave ourselves one and a half weeks or so to get ready for the test.

*The cost to take the IELTS test is P9,300 (as of January 16, 2016)

Prepare? But My English is Already Excellent!

Yes, of course you’re already pretty good at English! As Filipinos, I guess we take pride in naturally having a good grasp of the English language because of our education and media viewing habits, but trust me when I say that to get a score of either 8.0, 8.5 or 9.0 your knowledge in how to take the test would be more important than your skill with the English language.

With that said, I would highly recommend that you go and avail yourself of review classes to prepare for the test. After some internet research, we decided to go with 9.0 Niners Review Center, they have an Unlimited Review package for P6,000 and a Crash Course package for P3,500. We signed up for the Crash Course which includes eight lectures, one session of coaching and a final coaching session.

What Do They Actually Teach There?

Like what I said earlier, the value that going to an IELTS review center gives you is not improving your English skills (although it will improve if you take a lot of classes), but rather getting you familiar with how the IELTS is administered. Here are a few examples.

Speaking: Handouts were given with possible questions that may be asked during the interview.

Reading: Quickly browse the questions first before reading the passage / story / article.

Writing: There will be two essays to write, spend more time on the 2nd one since it will be worth a lot more than the first.

Listening: Practice tests were held which exposed us to the many different English accents that the characters in the recordings may use.

Since we took the (easier) general version of the IELTS, the margin of error in the tests was really pretty small. If I remember correctly, for the listening and reading tests, one mistake would already be equivalent to a .5 deduction in your overall score (9.0 – 8.5). With the recommended score for a high number of points pegged at 7.0 and above, that one mistake could really spell the difference.


That’s part 1 of our post on language proficiency and IELTS. In our next post, we’ll talk more about our experience during the test itself! If there’s anything you want to ask, feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you as soon as I can! Alternatively, we’ve also set up a Twitter account @tropics2rockies, so we can also talk there. 🙂

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