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New language testing option offers hope for citizenship-seekers: College brings IELTS testing to Interior
Okanagan College is providing a new service to would-be citizens whose first language is not English.

Recently, the College became an official venue for IELTS (the International English Language Testing System) – the only location in B.C.’s Interior.

“Before, if someone wanted to take the IELTS test, they would have to travel to the Lower Mainland,” explains Dr. Ardiss Stutters, chair of the College’s English as a Second Language department. “Now they can take it at our Kelowna campus.”

There are two versions of the IELTS, Academic and General. The academic version is used for entrance into post-secondary institutions and the general is used for work or immigration purposes.  

While both versions have the same listening and speaking sections, they have different reading and writing sections. The general version is one of the measures that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will accept as part of an immigrant’s application for citizenship. Currently, CIC requires that people between 18 and 54 prove they have adequate knowledge of English or French in order to apply for citizenship.

While there are a number of ways to demonstrate those language skills (including successful completion of a post-secondary credential program), one of the acceptable ways involves IELTS scores.

“The tests are offered regularly on the weekend to accommodate working people,” explains Stutters. Tests have been scheduled for Jan. 18-19, March 8 - 9, and May 10 - 11. They are offered at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus through Global Village Vancouver, a 25-year-old English language school in Vancouver that administers IELTS in Canada. (To register for one of the exams or to learn more, go to

Beyond providing tests, Okanagan College is also offering English Language Development for IELTS, an intensive 10-hour-a-week course focused on development of language skills assessed by IELTS. The program runs three evenings a week from January and finishes just in time for the March test.

The course goes beyond simple exam practice. Rather, it develops the micro skills that IELTS assesses including topic-relevant vocabulary and academic and general reading and writing tasks typical to IELTS. If the evening course does not suit the student’s lifestyle, Okanagan College has a four-level Academic English program that can be taken part-time for permanent residents. To find out more about the course, email

IELTS is not only used by CIC, it is also one of the standards used by many academic institutions (including Okanagan College) for admission to various programs. More than 20 years old, it is used by 8,000 organizations and last year, more than two million IELTS tests were administered. It is offered at 900 test centres in more than 130 countries.

For the IELTS administered at Okanagan College, people are coming from as far away as Alberta and Saskatchewan.