Benchmarked Professions


CELBAN is a test of language proficiency for internationally educated nurses (IENs) who have completed their nursing education in another country and who speak English as a second language.

It was developed in 2004 by the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CCLB) in consultation with members of the nursing community from regulatory bodies, associations, unions, nursing refresher programs as well as IENs. It was designed to ease the nursing shortage in Canada by providing access to the pool of IENs who arrived in Canada but encountered obstacles to obtaining employment, such as:

  • Recognition of international credentials
  • Relevant assessment of English language skills in a nursing context

CELBAN is recognized as proof of language proficiency by all Canadian nursing regulators. In its 10th year, CELBAN has been a preferred option for many IENs, with 1,100 test administrations at six sites in Central and Western Canada.

Feasibility Study

In 2000, a survey of 50 nursing profession stakeholders by the CCLB indicated a strong need for a specialized English language assessment tool to evaluate the English language communication skills of IENs seeking registration in Canada. As a result, the CCLB embarked on a multi-phase project.

Phase I: Analysis

In 2002, CCLB hired a team of consultants to evaluate the English language skills required by the nursing profession in Canada. This project, called Phase I, involved doing a needs analysis of nurses’ English language communication requirements within a variety of healthcare organizations. For the first time, a benchmark level was applied to describe the minimum English language communication standards required for nurses in speaking, listening, writing and reading. View the report

Phase II: Development

In 2002 – 2003, the development of an English language assessment tool for the nursing profession was undertaken based on the research and benchmark results defined in the Phase I report. The assessment tool was pilot tested in six cities across Canada with nurses, student nurses and non-native speakers of English. This assessment tool is now known as the Canadian English Language Benchmark Assessment for Nurses (CELBAN). View the report 

Phase III: Implementation

CELBAN was piloted at three assessment sites: Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto with 63 test candidates. A central administrator, national advisory committee (NAC) were established and feedback was gathered from trainees and IENs to refine the materials and processes. View the report

Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy

CCLB was retained by the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators to benchmark the language demands of occupational therapists and physiothera-pists in Ontario. The Alliance worked in partnership with the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario and the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario. This is part of a larger initiative funded by the Government of Ontario which may include the development of an oc-cupation-specific language test for both professions.

CCLB’s research team gathered qualitative data about authentic language use through observations and inter-views with occupational therapists and physiotherapists in a wide variety of professional practice settings throughout Ontario including hospitals, private clinics, rehabilitation units and specialized service clinics. The CLB standard was used to identify the complexity of observed and reported language tasks to determine the CLB levels associated with typical job tasks. CCLB’s final report will inform the development of the proposed language assessment tool.


CCLB, in consultation with the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) and with funding from HRSDC’S Foreign Credential Recognition Program, is benchmarking the language demands (in both official languages) of pharmacists in Canada.

Following an initial planning phase in late June 2010 in which a National Advisory Committee was established to provide guidance throughout the project, a benchmarking team was contracted to collect qualitative data through job shadowing and on-site workplace observations of authentic language use. Benchmarking data is currently being collected and analysis of the data has begun.

The final report will describe the benchmark level needed to complete speaking, listening, reading, and writing tasks required of pharmacists in Canada and will provide a clear blueprint of the language requirements required to work safely as a pharmacist in Canada, based on national standards. It may also inform the development of a nationally validated language assessment for internationally trained pharmacists. CCLB is working in close consultation with the NAPRA and other pharmacy industry and regulatory stakeholders on this initiative.

Audiology and Speech Language Pathology

The board of the Canadian Alliance of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Regulators (CAASPR) has unanimously accepted CCLB’s report describing the type, scope and composition of language use in the audiology and speech-language pathology workplaces. The report had two purposes: to inform the identification of existing language tools that can be used to determine the likelihood that internationally educated professionals will be able to handle the communication requirements associated with safe and effective practice in their chosen profession; and to inform a discussion regarding the need to develop a profession-specific language assessment tool.

CCLB’s research team gathered qualitative and quantitative data about authentic English language use through observations and interviews at 20 audiology and 20 speech-language pathology sites and about authentic French language use at five audiology and five speech-language pathology sites. Data was also collected through telephone interviews, focus groups, surveys and analysis of a selection of workplace materials that audiologists and speech-language pathologists read and write. Interviews and observations took place in a wide variety of employment settings in regions throughout Canada.

A comprehensive list of language tasks that audiologists and speech-language pathologists perform as part of their jobs was compiled for both professions in English and French. Benchmarks were then assigned to the tasks. The number of tasks at specific benchmarks was tabulated and the level where most tasks fell was determined as the required Canadian Language Benchmark Level, understanding that audiologists and speech language pathologists also do many tasks at a lower and higher benchmark levels.

The findings showed that audiologists and speech-language pathologists carry out language tasks at a range of levels that are almost identical for both professions. The findings for French were also similar to those found in English.

Data analysis determined that the following benchmarks appropriately reflect the language tasks associated with the typical job tasks for full working capacity in English and French in both professions:

Listening: CLB 9

Speaking: CLB 9

Reading: CLB 9

Writing: CLB 9

CCLB was also able to map CLB/NCLC competencies onto CAASPR’s competency profiles for both professions which confirmed that the language experts had seen a full range of tasks.

Information & Communications Technology Council

CCLB was retained by the Information & Communications Technology Council (ICTC) to carry out a language analysis of fourteen different workstreams or occupations in two work clusters based on the ICT Competency Profiles at the full working level. The main purpose of the project was to assess the language requirements in the sector for internationally trained individuals (ITIs) who seek work in the ICT sector in Canada, including those already in the country as well as potential immigrants still in other countries; and for people in the sector who may be required to work in the other official language or in both official languages of Canada.

An additional purpose of this project was to inform the content being developed for an online, self-directed assessment for ITIs to help improve their English and/or French skills.

This project required extensive facilitated consultations, surveying and/or testing in English and in French (where applicable) with stakeholders (ICTC partners, ICT industry experts, and people working in the industry) to establish both evidence and substantiation to validate and benchmark the ICT Competency Profiles and training materials.

CLB/NCLC levels determined as required to work in these occupations largely ranged from CLB/NCLC 7-10+. CCLB also developed some modules for the ICTC online learning website and a detailed description of the CLB/NCLC standards which is also posted on the ICTC website.

Marie-Elyse Gauthier