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What is the Canadian Language Benchmark?

Posted by: Gavin Au-Yeung Date: December 12, 2019 Category: Blog Internationally Trained Individuals Education

Learning English is a common challenge among new Canadians who come from all corners of the world. Language barriers is one of many reasons for why many Internationally Trained Individuals (ITI’s) may have difficulties returning to their desired career path in Canada.

Programs such as Career Loans offer low-interest loans to help ITI’s get Canadian-recognized credentials, so that they can resume their careers as soon as possible. The loans can go towards credential assessments, accreditations, exam and licensure fees, and even training at colleges or university. One of Career Loan’s eligibility criteria is that candidates must posses a minimum Canadian Language Benchmark level of five (5).

Today, we will look at what the CLB is, what a level five benchmark looks like, and how you can prepare for the assessment.

What is the Canadian Language Benchmark?

The CLB is a scale used to describe the English (or French) abilities of an English as a Second Language (ESL) learner. The scale is divided into the four essential skills of any language: speaking, listening, reading and writing. These skills are further categorized into 12 levels – basic (levels 1 to 4), intermediate (5-8) and advanced (9-12).

Perhaps you have heard of other English proficiency tests. Well-known proficiency tests such as TOEFL are generally designed to test English in a college or university setting. The CLB, on the other hand, is not meant to be a test of technical English abilities (grammatical structures, pronunciation, vocabulary, etc.). Rather, the CLB is used to gage communication skills that are needed for daily life in Canada.

What does CLB Level Five look like?

As mentioned earlier, ITI’s who are interested in applying for a microloan with Career Loans must possess a minimum CLB level of five. So, what does a level 5 benchmark mean?

  • Listening: CLB 5 listeners are able to understand main ideas and some details when listening. Language which is not simple is difficult to understand. The speaker should speak at a slow-to-normal pace. Example: understanding a classmate speaking about their likes and dislikes.
  • Speaking: CLB 5 speaker are able to communicate in short routine situations. While a good understanding of basic grammar is present, speakers may still pause and hesitate. Grammatical mistakes and mispronunciation may make it difficult for others to understand the speaker. Example: giving some advice to a friend
  • Reading: CLB 5 readers can understand short and predictable material. Difficult vocabulary and structures are not understood. Example: reading and following instructions on how to access a company database.
  • Writing: CLB 5 writers can write short messages on familiar topics. The writer struggles with complex grammar and often uses awkward word choices. Example: writing a short email to a friend.

Please visit this webpage for more information about the CLB scale of ability.

Taking the Assessment

While official CLB assessments can only be taken at specific locations, there is an online version of the test which can help you prepare. Visit the CLB-OSA webpage and click the red "start assessment" button. Create an account to gain access to practice reading and listening portions of the CLB assessment. Testers will have one hour to take each portion of the test. Remember, the results of the online self-assessment is unofficial.

When you feel ready for the official assessment, find and contact the testing centre closest to you. Contact information and directions to can be found on this webpage.

Good luck!

About Career Loans

ITI’s living in Alberta and Saskatchewan may be eligible for Career Loans. This program offers free one-on-one career and financial counselling. Members can also apply for microloans of up to help $15,000 to help pay for training, materials, and fees used to help ITI’s return to their original career path. For more information, please visit

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