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language proviciency iconLANGUAGE PROFICIENCY

Language Proficiency Criteria

Each province and territory specifies language proficiency as a requirement for licensure.

You should also review the language requirements described in Licensure Requirements for details on each jurisdiction.

NAPRA Language Proficiency Requirement

The National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) has established basic language proficiency standards to assess speaking, reading, writing and listening skills for international pharmacy graduates (IPGs).

Communication is seen as the biggest challenge for many internationally-educated health professionals in adapting to the Canadian workplace. 

According to the report Moving Forward: Pharmacy Human Resources for the Future, despite the fact that the majority of IPGs easily meet the minimum language fluency requirements as determined by the provincial/territorial pharmacy regulatory authorities (which generally use scores on standardized language tests as a measure of proficiency), employers and stakeholders continue to highlight communication difficulties as the major barrier hindering IPGs’ performance in practice.1


It is important to understand that, although you may meet the standards on one of the available language tests, this will demonstrate only a basic level of ability. Health professionals require much more advanced communication skills in order to function with greater confidence and provide safe and effective care.

Communication also involves non-verbal interactions and cultural rules, norms and traditions such as eye-contact, hand gestures, facial expressions and personal space. People of different cultures and different regions in Canada will often speak using slang terms and informal language, and communicate with non-verbal gestures acceptable within the culture of their community.

Testing requirements

All of the provincial and territorial regulatory authorities require IPGs to take a language proficiency test and achieve a minimum score in each of the categories for reading, writing, speaking and understanding.

If you have received a degree in pharmacy from an accredited Canadian or American university program, you will not be required to take English language proficiency testing, except in these special circumstances:

  • If a supervising pharmacist notices that you have difficulty with language proficiency during your training period;
  • If a training program or a provincial regulatory authority receives a complaint from a patient, customer or health professional about your language skills.

(1) Management Committee, Moving Forward Pharmacy Human Resources for the Future. Integration of International Pharmacy Graduates into Canadian Pharmacy Practice: Barriers and Facilitators. Canadian Pharmacists Association, March 2008.