Canadian Language Benchmarks

What is the Canadian Language Benchmark?

The Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) provides a common assessment method for individuals who are learning English as a second language.

A refugee newcomer must have his or her English assessed, according to the CLB framework, in order to become eligible for free enrolment in an English Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program.

CLB assessments are also frequently used to determine eligibility for enrolment in courses and training programs and as a reference point for job opportunities. On this website, in our Programs & Events section, there is a field to indicate any minimum CLB eligibility requirement and an opportunity for the visitor to filter out any content over a given CLB level.

A CLB self-assessment tool is available online, but the results are for information purposes only and are not official.

In the City of Toronto, the YMCA is the only organization authorized to conduct the official Canadian Language Benchmark test. In the rest of the GTA, the authorized CLB test centre is the Centre for Education & Training.

Formal description

As described in a publication entitled “Canadian Language Benchmarks: English as a Second Language for Adults”, published by Citizenship and Immigration Canada:

The Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) standard is a descriptive scale of language ability in English as a Second Language (ESL) written as 12 benchmarks or reference points along a continuum from basic to advanced. The CLB standard reflects the progression of the knowledge and skills that underlie basic, intermediate and advanced ability among adult ESL learners. The Canadian Language Benchmarks are:

  • a set of descriptive statements about successive levels on the continuum of language ability,
  • a description of communicative competencies and performance tasks through which learners demonstrate application of language knowledge (i.e., competence) and skill (i.e., ability),
  • a national standard for planning curricula for language instruction in a variety of contexts,
  • a framework of reference for learning, teaching, programming and assessing adult ESL in Canada.

Classification of 12 benchmarks into 3 stages

The following explains the classification of the 12 benchmarks within three Stages (Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced):

Stage I – Basic Language Ability Benchmark and Ability Level Listening Speaking Reading Writing

  • CLB 1: Initial
  • CLB 2: Developing
  • CLB 3: Adequate
  • CLB 4: Fluent

Interpreting and creating simple communication in routine, non-demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.

Stage II – Intermediate Language Ability Benchmark and Ability Level Listening Speaking Reading Writing

  • CLB 5: Initial
  • CLB 6: Developing
  • CLB 7: Adequate
  • CLB 8: Fluent

Interpreting and creating moderately complex spoken communication in moderately demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.

Stage III – Advanced Language Ability Benchmark and Ability Level Listening Speaking Reading Writing

  • CLB 9: Initial
  • CLB 10: Developing
  • CLB 11: Adequate
  • CLB 12: Fluent

Interpreting and creating complex spoken communication in demanding contexts of language use within the four Competency Areas.

‘Can Do’ Statements

The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks has issued a document containing Can Do Statements, based upon the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB). They describe what learners can do at benchmarks 1 to 12 in the skills of Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. The purpose of these statements is to present some of the information in the CLB document in language that is accessible to learners. The statements can help to facilitate discussions with learners about what they have accomplished and what they still need to develop.