September 11, 2020

Band Score Breakdown: Reading

For our first post in this series, we will take an in-depth look at what CAEL band scores mean, by discussing each of the four components of the test.

Overall Score:

When you take the CAEL Test, you will receive individual English proficiency scores for the Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking components, as well as an overall score. CAEL scores are reported on a scale from 10 – 90 with accompanying descriptors of what performance represents. These overall descriptors are available on our website, and provide you with a quick summary of what your score demonstrates.

Your overall score is calculated as an equally weighted average of the four component scores rounded to the nearest ten-point interval. However, this overall score, that is ultimately what you provide to post-secondary institutions and professional organizations, does not give a great amount of detail as to what each band level means, or how you can improve your English to reach higher levels. To begin with, we will break down the reporting scale for the Reading component of the test:

Reporting Scale: Reading

Band Score

Performance Summary


Expert – Fluent

Reads academic texts with ease demonstrating comprehension equal to that of experienced academic readers.



Reads and comprehends academic texts with ease. Can interpret information with flexibility.



Understands main ideas is able to identify most
relevant details. Can interpret information with some flexibility.


High Intermediate

Understands main ideas but may misinterpret information. Can identify some relevant details but reads slowly and with greater effort than most academic readers.



Understands main ideas but is restricted by limited vocabulary and a lack of familiarity with textual conventions.


High Beginner

Understands some of the main ideas but is unable to identify specific, relevant ideas; reads with limited accuracy and fluency.


Low Beginner

Understands the main idea at times but misses almost all supporting detail.

As you can see from the chart above, there are key differences between each score level, especially when it comes to issues such as vocabulary, comprehension, and comfort with academic texts. In order to improve your scores, and earn a higher score for each test component, we suggest adopting a comprehensive preparation strategy that includes the following:

Improving Your Scores

  • Create a daily study routine. As we outline in our Study Tips videos, taking even 5 minutes each day to focus on improving your English language skills can make an impact in your score. We have a comprehensive list of strategies for each test component, take some time to review these suggestions.
  • Take a free online practice test. This free test will give you a good idea of your current score level, and will allow you to focus on areas that you need to improve upon.
  • Attend a free online course. For each test component, we have hours of free online courses and webinars, hosted by a CAEL expert. These online courses are available live and on our YouTube channel.
  • Purchase additional CAEL study materials. We have created a wide range of study materials to help you prepare for your CAEL test, from additional practice tests, to Accelerate, our self-directed online study program, to CAEL Practice Test Plus, a complete practice test that includes sample responses and analyses.
  • Enroll in a CAEL preparation program. Contact your local test centre to see what preparation programs are available in your area and online.


  • Familiarizing yourself with the reporting scales for each test component will help you determine how to improve your scores, and what is required to achieve a higher score.
  • For information about the reporting scales for each test component, visit our results and scoring page
  • Improving your score will take preparation and a study routine. Learn more about study tips, preparation materials, and more to help you craft a successful study routine.
I appreciated the availability of test dates for CAEL, and found it convenient and inexpensive compared to other English proficiency tests.
- Aashima, CAEL - Test Taker
What I liked most about the CAEL was that you can do the test on the computer, it uses Canadian English, and the results are released quickly!
- Alinsson, CAEL - Test Taker
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