What are the language requirements for post-secondary education?

You may have to take an English language test to study at a college or university or enter a licensed profession or trade.

If you are planning to study at a college or university, or enter a licenced profession or trade, and your first language is not English, you might need to take a test to demonstrate your English ability.

Usually, you need to get a minimum score on an approved English test. Each institution sets the minimum score it will accept.

Here is a list of some tests that many colleges, universities and licensing and certification bodies accept. Check first with the institution to verify what test(s) and test scores they will accept. You usually have to pay a fee to write the test.


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Internet-Based Test (iBT) has 4 sections that test 4 language skills: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. It provides information about your ability to communicate and participate in an academic setting. Find out more about the TOEFL iBT.

The TOEFL Paper-Based Test (PBT) is still used in some places. The PBT uses multiple-choice questions. The test has 3 sections: listening comprehension, structure and written expression, and reading comprehension. You must also take a test of written English (TWE), which is a writing test. Find out more about the TOEFL PBT.

You can find information about both tests, including a list of test centres, test dates, registration and test preparation on the TOEFL website.


The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) is used by people who want to demonstrate their ability to use English in the workplace. In Ontario, the TOEIC test is accepted by the College of Nurses of Ontario and the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapists for licensing purposes. Many other licensing bodies across Canada also accept the TOEIC test. Find out more on the TOEIC website.


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) covers all 4 language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. It is available in 2 formats: Academic and General Training. All candidates take the same listening and speaking modules. For reading and writing, you can choose Academic or General Training.

IELTS is recognized by universities and employers in many countries. It is also recognized by some professional bodies, immigration authorities and other government agencies. For information, contact your IELTS test centre.


The Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) is a paper-based English language proficiency test that is accepted by many universities, colleges and professional bodies across Canada and the USA. It tests the 4 basic language skills. Preparation workshops, study guides and tests for people with disabilities are available.

Other Tests

The institution you want to apply to might accept other tests, too. Check with each institution to find out which tests they accept and what score you need.

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Last updated: July 14, 2016 4001157