by Heidi Riley
The International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) is available for anyone who needs to prove their English language ability for immigration, work, or study purposes in an English-speaking environment.
Results from the test are used as part of the citizenship process and by employers. As well, post-secondary educational institutions use the results in their criteria for admission.
The IELTS test is recognized by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Immigration Quebec as proof of English language proficiency for immigration programs such as Express Entry (Skilled Immigrants), Quebec-selected skilled workers, Provincial Nominee, and Skilled Immigrants program.
There is a high demand from immigrants living on PEI to take the IELTS test. However, until recently, some people were unable to take the test due to lack of availability and long waiting lists.
“Two companies offered monthly venues to write the paper-based tests on the Island, but those were often completely booked six months ahead of time,” says Maureen Duffy, Program Manager for Adult Education at Holland College. “People living on PEI often had to travel off Island to take the IELTS test in a timely manner.”
Holland College Vice-President Natalie Mitton heard of the demand, and shortly thereafter, the College contacted the British Council (one of the IELTS owners) to begin the process of opening an official IELTS Test Centre at Holland College.
In September 2022, the first and only IELTS Test Centre on the Island was officially opened, providing test takers with a more convenient option for taking the test. The new centre is located at the Prince of Wales Campus in Charlottetown.
The three-hour test can be delivered electronically or on paper. “The paper-based test is most in demand, but with the new generation, more and more people are asking to take the computer-delivered test, which is only available on PEI at the Holland College centre,” says Sharon Campbell, Site Administrator, IELTS.
“At the Holland College IELTS Test Centre, people can come in ahead of time to get information, and someone will physically help them register for the exams. When English is not your first language, and if you have problems accessing the registration or uploading documents electronically, it’s nice to have someone in-person to ask for help.”
The Test Centre allows people to pick up their Test Report Form in person the day the results are ready, instead of waiting to receive them in the mail, which could take an additional seven to 10 days.
“I think having that option will bring more people our way, because they can get a hard copy of their results quicker, and we are here for people who want to ask questions or need other help,” says Sharon. “People feel more comfortable if they can make a personal connection with our staff.”
Sharon feels real empathy for those writing the IELTS test. “I can’t imagine moving to a new country and learning a new language and a new culture.”
At the Holland College IELTS Test Centre, paper-based academic and general tests are administered once a month. The computer delivered test is offered one day a week. “The fact that we are a small centre puts people at ease. We offer tests weekly, so we don’t have huge groups completing the test at the same time.
“Registrations have been slowly climbing, which means the word is getting out. People are traveling to Charlottetown from as far as Tignish and Souris to take the test.
“We are surprised by how busy the service already is, and we anticipate the demand to grow. We have been talking with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and with post-secondary institutions, who have also indicated that they are happy that there is an official IELTS Test Centre on PEI that will be able to meet the needs of their clients and future students.”
IELTS test details
The IELTs test assesses four different areas: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Each component is graded on a scale of 1 to 9. There are two types of IELTS tests:
- IELTS Academic tests the English skills needed in a learning environment like a university or college. “Holland College Admissions requires a score of 6.5 with no other band below a 6,” says Sharon.
- IELTS General Training test is used for immigration and work purposes and tests everyday language skills.
Help to prepare for the IELTS test
Those who book the IELTS test through the Holland College Test Centre get free access to the British Council’s online resource that offers interactive activities, tutorial videos, and practice tests. In addition, Immigrant and Refugee Services PEI (IRSA PEI) offers in-person classes to help people prepare to write the test.
Security during the test
A high level of security protects the integrity of the IELTS test. The test material is kept behind multiple locked doors in two-tier locked cabinets, and only two designated people have access. Staff invigilators who oversee those writing the test undergo rigorous training. Test writers are identified by Passport, finger scan, and photograph.
Testimonial from users of the Holland College service
- “The process was smooth, the educators were friendly, and the testing center atmosphere was just right.”
- “Having an IELTS centre on PEI saves me so much time. I don’t have to worry about the travel, because Holland College is close to my home. The staff at the front desk were very nice, they are helpful and responsive!”