Which exam is easier – IELTS or CELPIP?

“Should I take the IELTS or the CELPIP? I don’t know the differences between these exams!”
“I’ve heard that CELPIP speaking is very tough.”
“The IELTS is so tough!
I tried three times but I was unable to get the scores I needed!

“IELTS writing is very hard and it is impossible to get over band 6.5.”
“There is a great lack of availability of CELPIP material, so it will be hard to practice for this exam.”
“IELTS listening is very easy!”
“CELPIP writing looks much easier than IELTS writing”

Over the course of my teaching career, I’ve heard so many of these proclamations from test-takers and students that I decided to write a detailed post describing these tests to help prospective test-takers decide which one suits their purposes.


Time 30 minutes + 10 minutes’ transfer time 47 – 55 minutes
Task types 6 2
Sections 4 6
Accents All British (i.e. Irish, Received Pronunciation, etc), American (i.e Coastal, Mid-Atlantic, etc), Australian and Canadian accents Canadian accent only
Types of recordings Two conversations, two monologues [two for social contexts and two for academic contexts]. One to four people. Conversations, monologues and a video. One to four people.
Extra unscored parts? No Yes
Questions are… read heard for Parts 1-3, read for Part 4-6


Time 60 minutes 55 – 60 minutes
Sections 3 4
Questions per section 10-13 8-12
Task types 11 4
Extra unscored parts? No Yes

On the IELTS, you are expected to manage your time. You are given 60 minutes to finish all sections.
On the CELPIP, time is strictly enforced per section. You cannot continue working on section 1 once the timer has gone down to 0.


Time around 11-14 minutes around 20 minutes
Type Conversation with an examiner Speak into a microphone. Your answers are recorded by the computer.
Sections 3 8
Time to prepare 1 minute for section 2, no time for section 1 and 3 30 to 60 seconds for every section
Time limit appropriately enforced Strictly enforced
Questions are… heard read
Task fulfilment criteria? No Yes

On the IELTS, the examiner may stop you at any time to go to the next question once he/she feels like they have had a good sample of your speech. There are no task fulfilment criteria here.
On the CELPIP, the computer will simply stop recording once the timer has gone down to 0 and if you haven’t finished your answer by then, there is nothing that can be done. If you haven’t fulfilled the criteria laid down by the question (i.e. give advice, describe a situation, deal with a difficult situation, etc.), your answer will be considered incomplete. Task fulfilment is important!


Time 60 minutes 53 – 60 minutes
Word count – Task 1 150 150 – 200
Time – Task 1 20 minutes* 23 minutes
Word count – Task 2 250 150-200
Time – Task 2 40 minutes* 26 minutes
Task weight Task 2 is worth 2x Task 1 Both tasks are equally important
Written task 1 Letter or Report# E-mail
Written task 2 Essay Survey response

*Note that on the IELTS you are given one hour to complete both tasks and are expected to manage your time based on the 20-minute and 40-minute recommendations for tasks 1 and 2 respectively. You can choose which task you’d like to attempt first.
On the CELPIP, the time limit is strictly enforced by the computer. You cannot continue working on task 1 after the time limit is over, nor can you choose which task you’d like to do first. 

#The report is only for the academic exam.

On both exams, you are always expected to write a bit more than the recommended minimum word count if you want a good score (over 6.5 or CLB 8)

Some other differences between the IELTS and the CELPIP


  1. It was specifically developed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for potential immigrants to Canada.
  2. It is a 19-year-old exam and is still undergoing development, as is evident by the fact that the last revision was 2 years ago.
  3. There are experimental sections on the CELPIP. You may be asked questions that will not be graded and there is no way for you to know which questions are the ones that aren’t graded.
  4. Little-to-no information is available about what it takes to become a CELPIP rater.
  5. You will always have a timer on the screen to remind you of how much time you have left for your tasks.
  6. The CELPIP is accepted only by Canada.
  7. Currently, it is available only in select cities in Canada, the United States of America, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines and India
  8. Scores are given as whole numbers. There is no ‘half-band’ system on this exam. If your raw score is 8.850, your final reported score will be band 8, not 9!


  1. It is a 29-year-old standardised exam that doesn’t change much; this is evident by the fact that the last IELTS revision was 7 years ago.
  2. Not only do IELTS examiners undergo rigorous training in order to become examiners, but the information regarding their required work experience and qualifications is publicly available to everyone.
    Each IELTS examiner was previously an English teacher for three years and has the right set of educational qualifications, such as a CELTA, or DELTA, or an MA TESOL (or all three). 
  3. There are no developmental or experimental sections on the IELTS. The only questions you are asked are the ones you will be graded on.
  4. It is accepted by all English-speaking countries.
  5. There are thousands of test centres in hundreds of cities around the world for the IELTS.
  6. The IELTS awards bands scores in increments of 0.5. For writing and speaking, there are four major areas you are tested on, and you receive a band score between 1-9 for each area, which can come out to an average of 6.125 or other such numbers with decimals. When the average score is under .150, it gets rounded down (so 6.125 would become 6) but if the average score is .250 and above, it gets rounded up to the next half-band.

For scores that are around band 6.5 this becomes very crucial. If a test-taker receives band 6.625, they will get rounded down to the nearest half-band, but if they receive a score of 6.725, they get rounded UP to band 7!

So which test is the best for you? Take this quiz and find out now!

5 thoughts on “Which exam is easier – IELTS or CELPIP?”

    1. That is not true. Please do not believe rumours. As with all language tests, there are different ways to approach the tasks. It is best to seek the guidance of a well-trained, qualified teacher.

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