What is the CAEL Test?

The Canadian Academic English Language Assessment (CAEL) is a standardized test of English for academic purposes. It is designed to assess the language level of test-takers planning to study at Canadian colleges and universities.

The CAEL Assessment tests ability to use English as it is used in Canadian universities and colleges. It allows test takers to experience what it is like to participate in a Canadian post-secondary classroom.

The CAEL Assessment offers a unique alternative to other standardized tests of English because it is a topic-based performance test. It comprises an integrated set of language activities. Test takers read articles, listen to a lecture, answer questions and write a short essay – all on one subject.

The language tasks and activities in the CAEL Assessment are systematically sampled from those which are commonly undertaken within the academic community.

The content for the tasks on the CAEL Assessment is drawn from introductory university courses, at times when professors are introducing new topics to their students, with the expectation that the students know little or nothing about the content.

The CAEL Assessment comprises tasks that characterize academic study, for example:

  • speaking about academic experience, information or understanding
  • reading and applying information from academic articles and texts about a particular topic
  • listening to a lecture, taking notes, transferring or applying information on the same topic as the readings
  • incorporating what has been learned from the lecture and readings in writing a formal, academic response to an academic task

The CAEL Assessment is available in a number of locations around the world, including many where other standardized tests are not available (e.g., Iran, Cuba, Greenland). It is also offered at test sites throughout Asia and Europe.

CAEL Assessment results are accepted by most Canadian and many American and European universities and colleges.

The fee for taking the CAEL Assessment in Canada is $140.00 CAD. For information about the fee for taking the CAEL Assessment outside Canada contact your local test centre or the CAEL Assessment Office.

The CAEL Assessment was developed in 1987 at Carleton University, in response to requests from the faculty and a motion of the University Senate, to provide an alternative to other standardized tests. The CAEL Assessment was designed to more effectively identify students who could participate actively in academic study. Since its first use in 1989, test takers in many parts of the world have taken the CAEL Assessment as part of the process of admission to universities and colleges in Canada, Europe, and the United States.

The CAEL Assessment is managed and run by the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Carleton University. Under the auspices of the Language Assessment and Testing Research Unit (LATRU) at Carleton University, the CAEL Assessment Advisory Board evaluates the quality and appropriateness of testing practice in the development, analysis and use of the CAEL Assessment.

For more information about the CAEL Assessment, contact the CAEL Assessment Office.