Canada Student Visa: IELTS General or Academic – Choosing the Right Test

If you’re planning on pursuing your studies in Canada as an international student, obtaining a student visa is an essential step you can’t skip. One of the most critical aspects of the visa application process is taking an English language test. Canada accepts two different language tests: the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) General and the IELTS Academic. While the difference between them may seem minor, it can impact your chances of obtaining a Canadian student visa. Let us explore the differences between the two tests and which one would suit your needs better.

Key takeaways

  • When applying for a Canadian student visa, taking an English language test is essential.
  • Canada accepts two English language tests: IELTS General and IELTS Academic.
  • IELTS General is for people who want to immigrate to Canada or apply for a work visa, while IELTS Academic is for those who want to pursue higher education in Canada.
  • Candidates can choose which version of the test they prefer to take.
  • Test takers need to achieve a minimum score in each of the four language areas – reading, writing, listening, and speaking – to be eligible for a Canadian student visa.
  • Taking the right test can maximize your chances of obtaining a Canadian student visa.
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IELTS General vs. IELTS Academic

In essence, IELTS General and IELTS Academic have a similar structure, the same length, and are scored according to the same band system. The main difference between the two tests lies in their purpose.

IELTS General gauges the candidate’s ability to communicate in English in everyday work and social situations. It’s the preferred test for immigration to Canada or obtaining a work visa, and it assesses everyday English, such as ordering food or asking for directions.

On the other hand, IELTS Academic is more challenging and is suitable for those who are planning to pursue higher education, such as studying at a university or postgraduate level or applying for scholarships. It tests the candidate’s English language proficiency in academic contexts, such as interpreting texts and writing academic essays.

Which one to choose?

Choosing the right test will depend on your situation and future plans. Here are some examples and scenarios that could help you decide between IELTS General and IELTS Academic:

  • If you are immigrating to Canada for work and plan to apply for a work visa, you should take the IELTS General.
  • If you are planning to study in Canada and are applying for a Canadian student visa, you should take the IELTS Academic.
  • If you are applying for Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker program, you can choose the IELTS General or the IELTS Academic, depending on which test you feel more comfortable with.
  • If you are pursuing further education in Canada after completing your initial studies, you should take the IELTS Academic.
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Test score requirements

No matter which test you choose, you need to obtain a specific score to be eligible for a Canadian student visa. The score requirements vary depending on the institution and the program you’re applying to, so it’s best to check their website to verify their requirements explicitly. However, in general, most universities and colleges require a minimum score of 6.0 in each language area of the IELTS Academic test.

Final thoughts

Taking an English language test is a crucial aspect of obtaining a Canadian student visa. The choice between IELTS General and IELTS Academic can impact your chances of success in the visa application process, so make sure that you choose the test that is best suited for your future plans. Keep in mind that while you need to meet the minimum score requirements, achieving a score higher than the minimum can enhance your chances of acceptance to your chosen institution.


1. Can I take both IELTS General and IELTS Academic?

Yes, you can take both tests. However, you will need to pay for each test separately, and it’s essential to plan and schedule your tests correctly, given that the tests are only offered at specific times.

2. What happens if I don’t pass the test?

If you don’t achieve the minimum score, you will not be eligible for a Canadian student visa. You can retake the test. However, you will need to pay for the test fee again. Make sure to schedule your test correctly to ensure that you have enough time to retake the test if necessary.

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3. How long is the test score valid?

Your IELTS test scores are valid for two years from the date you last took the test. If your test scores expire, you will need to retake the test to be eligible for a Canadian student visa.

About the Author

Latasha W. Bolt

Latasha is a travel writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a degree in journalism and has been traveling the world since she was a teenager. Latasha is experienced in navigating the visa and passport application process and shares her knowledge and experiences on the blog. Her articles are personal and engaging, providing readers with a unique perspective on the joys and challenges of international travel.

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