Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Why should Jamaicans do an English exam?

Published:Tuesday | October 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Deidre S. Powell
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Dear Ms Powell,

Why do I have to do an English exam to immigrate to Canada? I have a bachelor's degree from the University of the West Indies. I also hold a master's degree. Why do I need to sit an English exam when I am from an English-speaking country and have a master's degree?

- MK

Dear MK,

The requirement to prove your language skills is not unique to Jamaicans. Everyone submitting an application under certain immigration programmes must provide proof of language proficiency. This is a requirement for most of the immigration programmes that have been established by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). The test results are mandatory for the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) programme and must be submitted with your application, or your application will be returned.

The acronym IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, which is one of the three recognised language tests that will be accepted by CIC as part of your application for permanent residence in Canada. This test is required for programmes such as FSW, Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Trade, and Start-up Visa.

The other acceptable language examinations are the CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Programme) and TEF (Test d'Evaluation de Francais).

Why is the test needed?

Canada is constitutionally a bilingual country with English and French as the official languages. Your test results will assist CIC in determining whether you will be able to adapt and quickly integrate into Canadian society. Your test results will also give CIC a fair indication of your ability to become socially and economically established in Canada. This language results determine your overall points under the FSW programme and how you will be ranked under the new express entry programme.

The examination cannot be done online. You must physically attend one of the test centres to complete the test. The IELTS seeks to test an applicant's level of proficiency in four areas, namely: listening, reading, writing and speaking.

If you are planning to apply under the FSW class, the minimum benchmark that will be accepted by CIC is the CELPIP benchmark of seven. This is the national standard used in Canada for measuring the English language proficiency of adult immigrants and prospective immigrants. The IELTS equivalent is that the applicant must score a minimum of six for listening, six for speaking, six for writing and six for reading.

Although this is the minimum grade required, you should strive to get an overall average of eight in each category in order to receive the maximum of 24 points for language, which is one of the many factors taken into account when assessing an applicant's eligibility.

With your master's degree training, no doubt you will do well and get the maximum points under this category. There is no way around it. You must submit your test results or your application will be rejected. I know that the IELTS exams are fully booked in Jamaica, however, there are test centres all around the world and many of our clients have opted to travel to sit them in other countries.

I must close with a word of caution. Although you may be fluent in English, do not take the test for granted. You should review the examination structure to ensure that you are prepared. It's not a walkover. Practice reading aloud and with expression. There are several free and paid practice tests online. Take the online tests to ensure that you get the best possible score in all four categories. The only way to pass an exam is to prepare and put in the extra time and effort required.

Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator, and notary public who is a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada bars, with main office located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Her areas of practice are in immigration, personal injury, commercial, family, and administration of estates. She is on the roster of mediators for Ottawa, Toronto, and the Dispute Resolution Foundation of Jamaica. Submit your questions and comments to: Email:info@deidrepowell.com. Subject line: Immigration. Find her on Facebook: jamaicanlawyer. Tel: 613-695-8777.