Express Entry: How to Improve Your CRS Score

Canada’s Express Entry system is dynamic, meaning a candidate’s Comprehensive Ranking System score isn’t fixed but may be improved if she or he is willing to put in the effort.

There are two key ways that you can try to improve your CRS score:

  1. Perfect your profile.
    1. Language
    2. Education
    3. Spouse/partner as a primary applicant
    4. Work experience
  2. Proactively prepare for an ITA or provincial nomination

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To see if you’re eligible to enter the Express Entry pool, or how to improve your profile, please complete our free online assessment form.

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Perfecting your profile

Representing yourself accurately in your Express Entry profile is extremely important. Not only could it earn you extra Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points, but there are also serious penalties for misrepresenting yourself.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the credentials required to enter the Express Entry pool are not necessarily the same as those that will maximize your CRS score.


Language is an example of a valuable factor within the CRS and can be worth up to 290 CRS points.

Language is also an area that can often be improved because the levels required to enter the Express Entry pool are significantly lower than the level that awards the maximum CRS points.

For a Federal Skilled Worker candidate to enter the Express Entry pool, a minimum Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of 7 is required in each language ability — reading, writing, speaking and listening.

However, the highest language level for which points are awarded within the CRS is CLB 10.

Language is also valuable because it counts for points in several sections of the CRS:
  • Within the human capital factors;
  • Within the skill-transferability “combinations”;
  • Within the additional factors.

The following table shows how language combined with another factor, in this case, education, can be worth up to 50 points.

Educational Level CRS points earned
Secondary school 0
Post-secondary program credential of one or more years + first language CLB 7 or more in all abilities (at least one ability needs to be less than CLB 9) 13
Post-secondary program credential of one or more years + first language CLB 9 or more in all abilities 25
Two or more post-secondary program credentials (one at least 3 years) +  CLB 7 or more in all abilities for first language (at least one ability needs to be less than CLB 9) 25
Two or more post-secondary program credentials (one at least 3 years) + CLB 9 or more in all abilities for first language 50

A CLB of 9 or higher is needed in all four language abilitiesreading, speaking, writing and listening — in order to obtain the maximum of 50 points.

Having even one ability below CLB 9 could prevent you from getting the full 50 points. Conversely, improving a single ability could earn you many points.

Eric is 29, has a Master’s degree, three years of skilled foreign work experience and an IELTS score of 7 in each language ability.

As is, Eric’s credentials translate to a CRS score of 405.

If Eric redid the IELTS test and improved his listening ability by one point, from 7 to 8, Eric’s CRS score would jump to 469.

By improving his listening score, Eric would gain 25 points in two skill-transferability combinations, for a total of 50 points, and also increase his human capital language score by 14 points.


Education can count for up to 230 CRS points and may be improved by obtaining additional credentials, for example completing another degree, or by obtaining additional Educational Credential Assessments (ECAs) for existing degrees.

An ECA is required in order to obtain CRS points for education obtained outside of Canada.

For the Federal Skilled Worker Class candidates educated outside of Canada, only one ECA is required of the principal applicant in order to enter the pool.

For candidates in the Federal Skilled Trades Class or the Canadian Experience Class, no ECA is required to enter the Express Entry pool.

Johanna is 35 years old, married, has two foreign bachelor’s degrees, three years of work experience, advanced English language proficiency and a spouse with advanced English and one bachelor’s degree.

Johanna has only one ECA for one of her degrees, which was sufficient to enter the Express Entry pool immediately, and her spouse has never obtained an ECA.

Johanna enters the Express Entry pool with points for one degree and a CRS score of 405.

If Johanna obtains an ECA for her spouse’s bachelor’s degree, her score improves to 413. If, in addition, she has her second bachelor’s degree assessed, her score improves to 445.

Spouse or common-law partner might be a better Principal Applicant

If you have a spouse or common-law partner, it may be beneficial to compare your CRS scores as principal applicants.

Sometimes a main applicant’s CRS score may, in fact, be lower than that of their accompanying partner. In such cases, it may be advisable for a spouse or common-law partner to be the principal applicant.

Here’s an example of a situation where a spouse or common-law partner may actually be a better principal applicant.

Both George and Susan have bachelor’s degrees and are fluent in English. George has been working as a financial analyst for the last 10 years and has much more work experience than Susan, who most recently worked as a teacher from 2009- 2012.

What George may not realize is that his work experience and Susan’s work experience can earn the same amount of CRS points. Where they really differ is that 29-year-old Susan gets significantly more points for her age, as a principal applicant than 39-year-old George.

Due to her age, if Susan were to enter the pool as the principal applicant instead of George, their score would increase from 393 to 443.

Work Experience

Obtaining additional work experience or better documenting current work experience may both help increase a candidate’s CRS score.

Some candidates who have a job title that seems unskilled may, in fact, have performed duties that are considered skilled under Canada’s National Occupation Classification, or NOC.

Going beyond job title, and measuring the duties you performed against the duties listed in the NOC’s different occupations can help determine if your work is considered skilled or unskilled. This, in turn, can result in points you might have otherwise not claimed.

After selecting the right NOC for your work experience, the next step is calculating how much time you spent at each job. Points are awarded for full-time or equivalent part-time work experience.

Federal Skilled Worker Class candidates must have at least one year of continuous, skilled work experience in order to enter the pool. However, even non-continuous work experience can count toward CRS points.

Shiv is 35 years old. Since graduating with his Master’s degree, he’s obtained one year of full-time work experience as a software engineer. He has Advanced English language proficiency and has never worked or studied in Canada.

Before obtaining his Master’s degree, Shiv obtained four years of part-time work experience as a ‘salesman’ selling software.

For work experience, Shiv only claimed one year because it was the minimum needed to enter the Express Entry pool. He was unsure if his sales position was considered a skilled occupation under the NOC, or if part-time work would count towards his CRS score.

As is, Shiv’s CRS score is 423.

Shiv, however, could have claimed three years of work experience because of the full-time equivalent of his part-time work, and the fact technical sales (NOC 6221) is considered skilled.

By claiming these two additional years of skilled work, Shiv could have a CRS score of 448.

Job offers 

Candidates with a valid job offer may obtain either 50 or 200 additional points towards their CRS score depending on the position. 

Candidates with a valid job offer in an occupation at the NOC 0, A or B level may earn 50 additional points towards their CRS score. Candidates with a valid job offer in an occupation under the Major Group 00 Senior Management Occupations classification may be awarded an additional 200 points under the CRS. 

IRCC says a job offer must be in writing and must detail the job requirements, including pay/deductions, job duties and conditions of employment. 

Work Experience and Provincial Nominee Programs

Documenting your work experience as precisely as possible can also make you eligible for a nomination by one of Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program, better known as PNPs. Express Entry candidates nominated by a Canadian province for permanent residence are awarded an additional 600 points toward their CRS score.

Provinces sometimes look for candidates with specific work experience that you may, in fact, have, but do not consider to be relevant because it is not related to your principal occupation.

Yasmine is 35 years old, has a Bachelor’s degree, an advanced English language proficiency and claimed three years of work experience as an IT Manager.

Based on those credentials, Yasmine has a CRS score of 408.

However, in addition to her declared work experience, Yasmine also obtained two years of experience as a programmer. Since she was already obtaining the maximum CRS points for foreign work experience and didn’t feel like pursuing reference letters from an old employer, Yasmine did not declare her work experience as a programmer.

Had Yasmine done so, the programming experience could have made her eligible for the province of Nova Scotia’s Express Entry Demand Stream. A programmer is one of the professions that Nova Scotia considers an Opportunity Occupation, for which there may be employment opportunities in Nova Scotia.

The 600 points she could have been awarded by obtaining a Nova Scotia nomination would have inflated Yasmine’s CRS score to 1,008.

Proactive Preparation

Regardless of your CRS score, everyone in the Express Entry pool should be proactively preparing for an ITA or provincial nomination.

You might only have a CRS score of 299, but a provincial nomination could suddenly increase your score by 600 points, making an ITA in the next Express Entry invitation round all but guaranteed.

Candidates have only 60 days to submit their complete application after receiving an ITA, and several PNPs afford even less time. Having documents prepared in advance means you can hit the ground running as soon as you’re invited.

Express Entry Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)

Among these are several programs that:

  1. do not consider a candidate’s CRS score among their eligibility requirements; and
  2. are open to candidates with no ties to Canada (such as a relative, job offer, or previous Canadian work or study).

These PNPs can be valuable to Express Entry candidates and are therefore extremely popular.

Some operate on a first-come, first-served basis and reach their intake quotas within a day of opening, and proactive preparation is sometimes the only hope for applying successfully.

A popular example of a first-come, first-served PNP stream is the Nova Scotia Demand: Express Entry.

Nova Scotia’s Demand: Express Entry

Does it function based on a first-come, first-served basis?

Does it consider your CRS score? NO
Is it open to specific occupations? YES
What is the selection system? Unique eligibility and points-system
Do they provide advance notice of before the next intake? 1 DAY
How many times has the program opened since January 2017? 3
How long does it take for the intake threshold to reach its capacity? LESS THAN A DAY

The stream does not consider a candidate’s CRS score, and has a unique points-system and a list of eligible occupations.

Nova Scotia provides little notice and the application-intake threshold is often reached just hours after opening.

Given this small application window, many applicants prepare well in advance in anticipation of these streams re-opening.

There is an element of risk to preparing in advance, namely that PNP requirements and eligibility criteria can change without notice.

But even if that’s the case, the silver lining is that many of the documents required by PNPs are also needed to pursue an Express Entry ITA.

Ontario Human Capital Priorities Stream

Another PNP that may reward proactive candidates is Ontario’s popular Express Entry-linked Human Capital Priorities Stream.

This active stream is not first-come, first-served, but instead follows a so-called passive model that allows Ontario to search the Express Entry pool and select candidates with a CRS score above 400 and the skills that match the province’s labour needs. It is worth noting, however, that Ontario once waived the 400 CRS point requirement for IT professionals.

Express Entry candidates who receive an invitation through the Human Capital Priorities Stream must submit their application within 45 days, which can be a tight timeline in which to collect all the required documents.

Besides collecting documents, Ontario has advised Express Entry candidates interested in the Human Capital Priorities Stream to create a new profile in the Express Entry system. This is to make it easier to identify their profile when Ontario searches the Express Entry pool.

As is the case with the Nova Scotia Express Entry stream mentioned above, candidates who are interested in the Ontario Human Capital Priorities Stream should keep a close eye on new developments with the stream, and take steps to be proactive if or when an opportunity presents itself.

Other Express Entry-linked PNPs

The provinces of Manitoba and Prince Edward Island both introduced streams where eligible Express Entry candidates can also proactively submit profiles to the provinces, which then rank candidates within their own pools and ranking systems.

The Province of New Brunswick has also opened its Express Entry Labour Market Stream for limited periods, both to IT professionals and others.

One factor all of these different PNPs have in common is that they reward proactive, informed candidates.

PNPs will continue to play a prominent role in terms of economic immigration to Canada through 2020, with 11 per cent increases in admission targets forecasted in both 2019 and 2020.

So keep your eye on PNPs, and get busy preparing those documents!

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