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What Exams are Required to Study in Canada?

Dec 17, 2022Date Published
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Charting a new course in your education to get a degree in Canada? You’re not alone in this pursuit - the country’s excellent higher education system puts Canada in the leagues of the world’s best study abroad destinations! Add to this Canada’s flexible post-study immigration opportunities and its great quality of life - the country is a top pick for international students! But since Canada is a honeypot of qualities attracting applicants, this also means getting into your dream Canadian school can be a bit of a competition. Canadian schools typically consider the applicants’ academic performance when evaluating prospective students. And they don’t just look at your performance in school. Other exams, like language proficiency tests and aptitude tests, can play a major role in that final admissions decision. So, how can you make sure you stand out as a great candidate for your chosen Canadian school? Here’s a breakdown of the exams required to study in Canada!

Requirements to Study in Canada for International Students

Proving Your Ability in Canada’s Official Languages

Canadian universities teach in English or French, depending on which part of Canada and which school you’re applying to. And so, to fit right into the academic environment, you need to have a good grasp of the language of instruction. Most universities will ask for proof of your language ability with language proficiency test scores! Note that the test scores universities accept and the score boundaries for each school (and programs within those schools) can vary. We highly advise looking into which tests and test scores your chosen programs and universities are asking for before booking a test!

Meanwhile, to get a study permit in Canada, you need to prove to Canadian immigration officers that you’re proficient in English or French, its two official languages. They want to know that you’ll be able to understand and communicate in the main language in use depending on where you’re planning to study as well as in everyday settings!

Since both your university application and your study permit have language proficiency tests as exams required to study in Canada, we recommend looking into an option that lets you kill two birds with one stone. Select a test that both immigration officers and your chosen school accepts. Then, make sure the score you’re targeting meets the requirements for both! And voila - you just potentially saved yourself from sitting two sets of tests.

English Language Proficiency Tests

A majority - if not all - of the schools you’re considering applying to likely conduct classes in English. So, it makes sense that they want to know whether you’ll be effective at learning in this language too, right? English ability goes beyond being able to read and write in the language. Can you hold a conversation in the language with ease? Do you understand complex texts in English? And would you be able to critically evaluate and present your thoughts on them, both in speech and writing? These skills fully optimise you for making the most of your learning experience at an English-speaking university. And so Canadian universities want to make sure that they accept students who can thrive in this environment!

Now, this doesn’t mean that if you’re not confident in your English, you can’t apply to Canada. Much like all the other tests we cover in this article, prepping and practising can help you meet or even cross over the minimum threshold universities are asking for. First, we recommend finding out what your current proficiency level is, through a range of free practice tests available for the most popular English proficiency tests! This helps you identify tests you might have an easier time with, areas you need to improve on, and what to expect on test day for your chosen test.

Below, we have a quick breakdown of the three most popular English language tests accepted by Canadian universities:

IELTS Academic
PTE Academic
  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking & Writing
  • Reading
  • Listening
2 hours 45 minutes
  • TOEFL iBT - 3 hours
  • TOEFL Essentials - 1.5 hours
2 hours
Exam Delivery
  • Computer-delivered
  • Paper-based
  • Computer-delivered
  • Paper-based
Test Location
  • Test centres
  • At home 
  • Test centres
  • At home
  • Test centres
  • At home
Score Breakdown
  • Overall score: Between 1 to 9, at 0.5 increments
  • Section scores: Between 1 to 9, at 0.5 increments


  • Overall score: Between 0-120
  • Section scores: 0-30

TOEFL Essentials

  • Overall score: Between 0-12
  • Section scores: 0-12

  • Overall score: Between 10 and 90
  • Section scores: Between 10 and 90


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is one of the most popular English proficiency tests out there, thanks to its widespread recognition among international universities and its great accessibility. Over 350 Canadian institutions accept IELTS scores as valid proof of your English language ability!

The test is two hours and 45 minutes long, consisting of four dimensions of your ability in the English language: Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing. You take this test in two sittings - the Speaking section happens separately, whereas the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections take place in a single sitting. This might mean that you have to do the Speaking part of the test on a different day than the rest of the sections.

Nonetheless, the IELTS is very accessible for students worldwide. Currently, over 1,600 centres in 140 countries run the IELTS tests! Depending on the centre, you can opt for a computer-delivered or paper-based test. And to make it even more accessible, an online version of the test that you can take at home is launching in 2022! Find out everything you need to know about the IELTS through our detailed IELTS breakdown.


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is another widely-recognised test of English proficiency. All Canadian universities accept TOEFL iBT scores! And, in fact, Canadian universities receive more TOEFL scores compared to all other English test scores combined.

Like the IELTS, the TOEFL is highly accessible. Alongside test centres in almost 190 countries around the world, you can also take the TOEFL iBT test at home! The iBT (internet-based test) version is three hours long, whereas TOEFL Essentials is a shorter 1.5-hour test. While TOEFL iBT scores are typically the standard most universities accept, an increasing number of schools are also accepting TOEFL Essentials scores! To figure out which test you want to sit for, be sure to look into which type of TOEFL scores your chosen university accepts.

Both TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials test your ability in Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing. Unlike the IELTS, you sit the full thing in one sitting. For the TOEFL iBT, you can choose one of the following ways of sitting the test:

  • At the test centre - where you sit the test on a computer
  • Paper Edition - where you sit the same test as the computer-based version, but on paper. The Speaking portion happens at home under the watch of an online proctor. Note that the Paper Edition is currently only available in a few locations - Colombia, Mexico, India, and the USA. Keep an eye out for other locations where it may be available in the future!
  • Home Edition - where you sit the full test in a secure, private room at home, under the watch of an online proctor

The TOEFL Essentials test is exclusively an at-home test. It also tests the same four skills as TOEFL iBT, but is shorter and has a different scoring system. All the TOEFL iBT tests, on the other hand, regardless of where and how you sit them, have the same test content and score chart. Browse through our complete guide on the TOEFL for more details!

PTE Academic

Most Canadian universities accept the Pearson Test of English - Academic (PTE Academic) as valid proof of your English language ability! Like IELTS and TOEFL, this test also assesses the four major skills of Speaking, Reading, Listening, and Writing. Unlike the other two tests, though, the PTE Academic is entirely computer-based. You can opt to take the test at a centre or at home, making it pretty accessible for students around the world. At two hours long, the PTE Academic is also one of the shortest English proficiency tests you can opt to sit, out of the most popular options! Note, though, that the PTE Academic Online test is not valid for visa applications. So weigh this into your decision-making when choosing among the available English language tests! Find out more about the PTE Academic through our comprehensive guide.

Unsure which test is the right one for you? Check out in more detail how the IELTS, TOEFL and PTE Academic compare! We also offer detailed breakdowns of each test’s content, testing process, and scoring so you make a fully informed decision about the right test for you.

French Proficiency Tests

If, for example, you aim to study in Quebec, there’s a chance you might be considering a French or partially-French program. Of Quebec’s 19 universities, Bishop’s University, Concordia University, and McGill University are the only primarily anglophone universities. The remainder either teach exclusively in French or offer partially-French programs.

And just as English-speaking universities want to know that you’ll be able to understand and communicate fully in their programs, francophone universities want to know how proficient you are in French for the same reasons. If you’re applying to a French university in Canada, here’s the proficiency test you may have to sit for:

Test D'Évaluation du Français

Both Canadian schools and immigration offices accept the TEF as valid proof of your proficiency in French. The TEF consists of five tests. And which of the five you need to sit for depends on why you need the French proficiency scores in the first place. The five tests are as follows:

  • Written Comprehension
  • Oral Comprehension
  • Oral Expression
  • Written Expression
  • Vocabulary and Syntax

If you’re applying for a study permit to study in a French program in Quebec or Canada, you will need to sit the tests for Oral Expression, Oral Comprehension, Written Expression, and Written Comprehension. For institutions, you need to contact the school you’re planning to apply to directly for instructions on which of the five TEF tests you need to sit.

TEF Quebec

The Ministry of Immigration, Frenchisation and Integration in Quebec approves TEF Quebec scores as part of your immigration application to Quebec. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) also accepts these scores!

Applying for Undergraduate Courses in Canada

For some undergraduate courses, you might need to sit for specific exams to let admissions officers know you have the skill sets you need to succeed in those programs.


Canadian schools may ask applicants to sit for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) as a prospective undergraduate student applying for a law program. This test helps admissions officers and law faculties identify the students who have what it takes to succeed in their first year in law school. There are two components to this test - the first consists of scored 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions, while the second is an unscored Writing sample. The scored sections test you on the following:

  • Logical Reasoning
  • Analytical Reasoning
  • Reading Comprehension

Although the second part, the LSAT Writing sample, does not get a score, it’s just as important. Based on the given prompt, you need to take a stand and defend your position on the matter in writing. While there is no right or wrong answer, the schools you apply to will all get a copy of your written sample. Since this piece allows you to demonstrate the type of argumentative writing you’ll need to do in law school, we highly recommend putting in as much effort into the unscored Writing section as you would for the scored sections. You complete the LSAT Writing component up to eight days before your test date. Without sitting for this 35-minute component of the test, you won’t be able to see your score or send scores to your chosen schools.

Currently, you can sit the test online to accommodate for Covid-19 restrictions. In the future, depending on how the situation plays out, the LSAT may resume sessions at test centres.

Take a look at the Canadian universities which accept LSAT scores below:
University of Alberta Faculty of Law
Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
University of Calgary Faculty of Law
University of Ottawa Faculty of Law
Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Université d'Ottawa, Faculté de droit, Section de Common Law
Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law
Queen’s University Faculty of Law
University of Victoria Faculty of Law
University of Toronto Faculty of Law
University of Manitoba Faculty of Law
Western University, Canada
Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law
University of Windsor Faculty of Law
University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law
McGill University Faculty of Law
Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, Lakehead University
Faculté de droit de l’Université McGill

Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Ryerson University
University of Saskatchewan College of Law


Many medical school programs offered by Canadian universities may ask for Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores. This standardised test covers four sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

The exam consists of a series of multiple-choice questions assessing your problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as your scientific knowledge in natural, behavioural, and social sciences. Your MCAT scores help admissions committees gauge whether you have the skills you need to thrive in medical school.

Applying for Graduate Courses in Canada

Graduate programs can be pretty competitive to get into. Universities want to know whether prospective students have the critical, analytical, evaluative, comprehension, problem-solving, and communication skills they need to truly succeed in their programs. And to pinpoint the candidates that best fit the program, it’s not uncommon to find graduate exams required to study in Canada on your application checklist.

GRE General Test
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing Assessment

  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing

Entry into graduate business programs
Entry into graduate programs
3 hours 7 minutes
3 hours 45 minutes
Exam Delivery
Test Location
  • Test centres
  • At home
  • Test centres
  • At home

  • GMAT

    If you’re applying for a business program in Canada, there’s a strong chance that the GMAT is one of the exams required by Canadian universities. The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is the oldest and most widely-recognised test for graduate business program applications! In fact, this test exists for this sole purpose. Business schools design the test and its contents to help select the best candidates for their programs.

    The GMAT is just above three hours long and tests you across four sections:

    • Analytical Writing Assessment - evaluates how well you analyse an argument in writing
    • Quantitative Reasoning - evaluates your problem-solving and logical reasoning skills using quantitative data
    • Verbal Reasoning - evaluates your ability in reading, understanding, drawing conclusions and inferences from, making connections within, and making and evaluating arguments in text, in conjunction with your knowledge of proper grammar and syntax
    • Integrated Reasoning - evaluates your ability to analyse, synthesise, and draw conclusions from information in multiple formats

    Rather than testing your knowledge in specific fields and subjects, the GMAT tests the underlying abilities you would use to succeed in a graduate-level business program. This computer adaptive test (CAT) is available in both test centres worldwide as well as at home. With over 7,000 MBA and master’s programs and over 2,300 schools accepting this test, great GMAT scores give prospective master’s in business students a huge advantage! Find out more about the GMAT in our detailed guide.

    GRE General Test

    Where GMAT is typically for graduate business programs, the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test is more widely accepted for graduate programs overall. This includes business and law programs as well as master’s and specialised master’s courses! The three-hour 45-minute exam tests you in the following areas:

    • Analytical Writing - assessing your ability to critically analyse and evaluate arguments and claims and express your ideas in writing
    • Verbal Reasoning - assessing your ability to critically analyse and evaluate text
    • Quantitative Reasoning - assessing your ability to understand and analyse quantitative data and apply this to problem-solving using basic mathematical models and concepts

    GRE scores can make a big difference in your graduate program application! Strong scores let admissions officers know you have all the underlying skills they’re looking for in the best graduate-level candidates. Even if the GRE isn’t one of the exams required to study in Canada for your chosen schools, adding it on with your application doesn’t hurt! If anything, it could be the deciding factor sealing the deal for you. Check out our complete guide covering the GRE General Test to learn more!

    Our Concluding Thoughts on Exams Required to Study in Canada

    Language proficiency tests are usually one of the exams required to study in Canada applicable to most international students. Whether this is an English proficiency test or a French proficiency test depends on where and what you’re applying to study! Alongside proving your language ability, you may have to take specific aptitude tests to show admissions officers you have the qualities they’re looking for in students of a specific program. For example, you might need to sit for the LSAT as a prospective law student or the MCAT to enter medical school. To secure a stronger chance of getting admission into a graduate program, GMAT or GRE scores might make all the difference. It pays to start your course research and application process early considering these entrance exams to study in Canada! You get more time to plan, prepare, and sit for the exams, giving you a better chance to show universities your best performance when you apply.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    What is required to study in Canada?

    This depends on which course and university you’re applying to! Generally, Canadian universities look at your academic performance (the admissions average) as a strong predictor of how you’ll do in their programs. Different programs within the same university may have different score boundaries you need to meet! For undergraduate programs, you will be citing your secondary school leaving qualifications. In some cases, you may need to get a credential evaluation from services like World Education Services (WES). For graduate-level programs, universities will want to see your most recent bachelor’s degree and above qualifications. Some degree programs may even require a period of work experience! Be sure to check into the program requirements of each course you’re planning to apply to.

    Alongside these requirements, some programs may require you to take specific aptitude tests to show program directors that you have what it takes to succeed in the course. The MCAT, for example, is a standard requirement for many medical school programs. Meanwhile, if you’re planning on enrolling in undergraduate law, you might have to take the LSAT! At graduate level, many schools may ask for GMAT or GRE scores. These competitive exams in Canada, much like other major study abroad destinations, can help candidates stand out among a crowd of applicants.

    Aside from academic qualifications and subject-specific exams, as an international student you likely also have to prove your language proficiency. Canadian universities may ask for either English or French language proficiency test scores, depending on which school and course you’re enrolling in. The IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE Academic are generally widely-recognised by Canadian universities to prove your English ability. Francophone or bilingual universities, meanwhile, typically accept TEF scores for French proficiency.