Accepted Language Proficiency Tests

Communicating effectively in English or French is a critical factor to provide safe nursing practice. All applicants are required to demonstrate language proficiently prior to attaining registration.

French and English language tests are one way CNO assesses language proficiency required for registration.The Canadian Nurse Regulators Collaborative sets the minimum language proficiency sores required for registration. The benchmark scores are scientifically defensible and aligns with language demands required for safe, ethical and effective nursing practice.

Applicants can meet the language proficiency requirement by achieving the minimum scores for one of the following tests. 

Applicants must achieve the test scores for all test components during one complete attempt of the test. If necessary, applicants can re-take tests to demonstrate language proficiency

Visit the examination websites below to learn more about testing locations and times, fees and re-takes

NOTE: Effective Jan. 1, 2023, new regulations take effect that require CNO to accept Language Proficiency tests approved under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada), when CNO approved benchmarks are in place.  

On Jan. 1, 2023 CNO will accept:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – General Training 
  • Test d'évaluation de Français pour le Canada (TEF) 

See the tables below for the required benchmark scores on IELTS General Training and TEF tests.   

Benchmark scores for two other tests, the CELPIP and TCF, are currently being developed. We will update this webpage with these scores once they are approved.

Canadian English Language Benchmark Assessment for Nurses (CELBAN)
Test Component CELBAN Scores
Writing 7
Speaking 8
Listening 9
Reading 8

These are the minimum benchmark scores that must be achieved; they include the standard error of measurement.

NOTE: CNO accepts scores from a CELBAN test at CELBAN administration sites, as well as virtually, written at any time within two years of registering. CNO does not accept results from CELBAN tests that educational institutions have administered for educational purposes.

Website: Canadian English Language Benchmarks Assessment for Nurses

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) General and Academic
Test Component IELTS Scores
Writing 6.5 
Speaking 7
Reading 6.5
Total 7

These are the minimum benchmark scores that must be achieved; they include the standard error of measurement of 0.5.

NOTE: CNO will accept scores from both the General and Academic format of the IELTS test as follows: 

  • Results from the IELTS General will only be accepted when written within two years prior to applying for registration. CNO will not accept results from IELTS General if you write it any other time.
  • Results from the IELTS Academic test will be accepted when written any time within two years of registering.

Website: International English Language Testing System  

Test d'evaluation de francais (TEF)
Component Minimum benchmark scores
Writing 400
Speaking 500
Listening 400
Reading 400
Total Not applicable

These scores are the minimum benchmark scores that must be achieved

Website: Test d’évaluation de français 

CNO will accept results of TEF Canada if it is written either two years prior to the date of applying, or within two years of the date of registering.

Page last reviewed March 01, 2023