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. The statements can also be seen on the website of Open School BC.

Examples of English proficiency at different levels

The website of The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks provides very helpful examples of speaking and writing at different CLB levels.

Occupational Language Analyses

Essential Skills, published by The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks, provides a portfolio of Occupational Language Analyses (OLAs) for various occupations.

Each OLA defines the Canadian Language Benchmarks levels required to perform tasks related to specific jobs in a given occupation. The OLAs identify a range of CLB benchmarks for  the requirements to speak, listen, read, and write, for both “typical” and “most complex” scenarios.

Tasks are broken out in considerable detail. For example, under listening tasks, taxicab and limousine drivers should be at CLB 4 for listening to instructions to confirm the destination with a passenger; understanding the route as instructed by a passenger; and confirming the location of a delivery. However, to understand dispatchers to receive fares and instructions and other drivers to share information, and to verify a passenger’s method of payment and determine if it is consistent with regulations and specific company policies, drivers should be at the CLB 7 benchmark.

Taking all of the required tasks into consideration, taxicab and limousine drivers, in a “typical” scenario, should meet the following CLB benchmarks, according to The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks :

  • Speaking:  CLB 5-10
  • Listening  CLB 5-10
  • Reading  CLB 6-9
  • Writing  CLB 4-7.

OLAs are available for the following occupations:

  • Entrepreneur
    • Small Business Owner Operators
  • Child care
    • Child Care Administrator
    • Early Childhood Educator
  • Driving
    • Taxicab and Limousine Drivers
  • Event planning
    • Event Coordinator
  • Healthcare
    • Respiratory Therapist
  • Hospitality
    • Hotel Front Desk Agent
    • Housekeeping Room Attendant
    • Guest Services Attendant
  • Restaurant
    • Cook
    • Bartender
    • Food and Beverage Manager
    • Food and Beverage Servers / Banquet Servers
    • Kitchen Helper
    • Line Cook
  • Retail
    • Food Service Counter Attendants
    • Floral Clerk
    • Grocery Clerk
    • In-store Baker
    • In-Store Cake Decorator
    • Produce Clerk
    • Retail Meat Cutter
    • Retail Sales Associate
    • Seafood Clerk
  • Tourism and recreation
    • Freshwater Angling Guide / Hunting Guide
    • Golf Club General Manager
    • Heritage Interpreter
    • Travel Counsellor
    • Tour Guide
    • Tourism Researcher