The ability to communicate in English is essential for individuals who want to study, work or settle abroad. For non-native English speakers, standardized tests like IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE Academic are widely accepted by universities and organizations to evaluate their language proficiency. These tests assess the individual’s skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking, and provide a score based on their performance. However, it can be confusing for test-takers to choose between these tests. In this article, we will provide a detailed comparison of IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE Academic, to help you decide which test is best suited for your needs.
What Are IELTS, TOEFL, And PTE?
IELTS: The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a test that measures the language proficiency of non-native speakers who want to study or work in countries where English is the primary language.
TOEFL: The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is an English proficiency test that measures the ability of non-native speakers of English to use and understand English as it is spoken, written, and heard in college and university settings in North America.
PTE: The Pearson Test of English (PTE) is a computer-based English language proficiency test that measures the skills of non-native speakers of English in reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
|Test||Purpose||Sections||Test Time||Score Range|
|IELTS||Measures English proficiency for academic or immigration purposes||Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking||2 hours 45 minutes||0-9 (in 0.5 increments)|
|TOEFL||Measures English proficiency for academic purposes||Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing||3 hours 10 minutes||0-120|
|PTE||Measures English proficiency for academic, professional, or immigration purposes||Speaking & Writing, Reading, Listening||3 hours||10-90 (in 1 point increments)|
Format of IELTS/TOEFL/PTE
The format of the IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE exams varies in terms of the types of questions, the timing, and the scoring. Here is a breakdown of the format of each test:
- Listening: 4 sections, 40 questions, 30 minutes
- Reading: 3 sections, 40 questions, 60 minutes
- Writing: 2 tasks, 60 minutes
- Speaking: 11-14 minutes
- Reading: 3-4 passages, 12-14 questions each, 60-80 minutes
- Listening: 4-6 lectures, 6 questions each, 60-90 minutes; 2-3 conversations, 5 questions each, 60-90 minutes
- Speaking: 2 tasks, 20 minutes
- Writing: 2 tasks, 50 minutes
- Speaking and Writing: 77-93 minutes
- Reading: 32-41 minutes
- Listening: 45-57 minutes
|Exam||Format||Number of Questions||Timing|
|IELTS||Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking||40 (10 in each section)||2 hours 45 minutes|
|TOEFL||Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing||76-81 (Reading: 36-56, Listening: 34-51, Speaking: 6, Writing: 2)||4 hours|
|PTE||Speaking and Writing, Reading, Listening||20 (Speaking and Writing: 6, Reading: 5, Listening: 9)||3 hours|
Content of IELTS/TOEFL/PTE
The content of the IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE exams is designed to test the four language skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. However, each test differs in terms of the types of questions and the level of difficulty.
- Listening: Multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labeling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion
- Reading: Multiple choice, identifying information, identifying the writer’s views/claims, matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary/note/table/flow-chart completion, diagram label completion, short-answer questions
- Writing: Task 1: Describing a graph, diagram, or chart; Task 2: Writing an essay in response to a problem or argument
- Speaking: 3-part conversation, individual long turn, discussion
- Reading: Multiple choice, identifying information, identifying the writer’s views/claims, matching information, summary completion, sentence insertion, vocabulary, inference
- Listening: Multiple choice, summary completion, lecture and conversation comprehension, vocabulary, inference, function
- Speaking: Independent task, integrated task
- Writing: Integrated task, independent task
- Speaking: Personal introduction, read aloud, repeat sentence, describe image, re-tell lecture, answer short question
- Writing: Summarize written text, write essay
- Reading: Multiple choice, re-order paragraphs, fill in the blanks, multiple choice and single answer.
|Reading||Three passages with increasing difficulty, followed by comprehension questions||Three to five passages with increasing difficulty, followed by comprehension questions||Five to eight passages with comprehension questions, multiple-choice, and fill-in-the-blank questions|
|Listening||Four sections with monologues and conversations, followed by comprehension questions||Six sections with monologues and conversations, followed by comprehension questions||Eight sections with monologues and conversations, followed by comprehension questions|
|Speaking||Three sections, including a personal introduction, a short talk on a familiar topic, and a discussion on a given topic||Six sections, including a personal introduction, two independent tasks, and four integrated tasks||Seven sections, including a personal introduction, a short essay, and a spoken response to a given prompt|
|Writing||Two tasks, including a short essay and a longer essay on a given topic||Two tasks, including an integrated essay that combines reading, listening, and writing, and an independent essay||Seven sections, including a personal introduction, a short essay, and a spoken response to a given prompt|
The speaking section in TOEFL and IELTS is quite different. TOEFL speaking section involves 6 tasks that require you to express your opinions on various topics. On the other hand, IELTS speaking test is a conversation with an examiner that involves 3 tasks, covering different topics. In both the tests, the speaking section is recorded.
The writing sections in both TOEFL and IELTS are different. The TOEFL writing section consists of two tasks where you have to read a passage and then listen to a lecture or a conversation and write an essay based on that. On the other hand, the IELTS writing section also consists of two tasks where you have to write an essay on a given topic and then write a letter in response to a situation given in the question paper.
The scoring of both TOEFL and IELTS is different. In TOEFL, you get scores ranging from 0 to 120, whereas in IELTS, you get scores ranging from 0 to 9 for each section, and the final score is the average of these scores.
The validity of both TOEFL and IELTS is different. The TOEFL score is valid for two years from the date of the test, whereas the IELTS score is valid for two years as well, but some universities may accept it for up to three years.
The cost of both TOEFL and IELTS is different. The cost of the TOEFL exam ranges from $160 to $250, depending on the location, while the cost of the IELTS exam is around $250 to $300.
Both TOEFL and IELTS require preparation, and it’s crucial to take practice tests to familiarize yourself with the format and content of the exam. There are several test-preparation materials available for both exams, such as study guides, practice tests, and online courses.
|IELTS||0-9 band scale, in increments of 0.5||2 years||varies by country, typically $200-$250 USD|
|TOEFL||0-120 score scale, in increments of 1||2 years||varies by country, typically $180-$300 USD|
|PTE||10-90 score scale, in increments of 1||2 years||varies by country, typically $150-$210 USD|
IELTS, TOEFL And PTE – Advantages And Disadvantages
Here is a table providing a quick overview of the advantages and disadvantages of these tests. It is important to note that these are generalizations, and what may be an advantage for one person may not be for another. However, the table can be helpful in identifying key differences between the tests. It is important to consider factors such as personal strengths and weaknesses, test format preferences, and target schools or institutions when deciding which test to take.
|IELTS||– Accepted by most universities and employers||– Speaking test may be intimidating for some|
|– Measures both British and American English||– More expensive than TOEFL|
|– Reading and writing sections are easier||– Not computerized|
|TOEFL||– Computerized test||– Less familiar with British English|
|– More affordable than IELTS||– Less accepted in Europe|
|– Speaking section is less intimidating||– Longer test duration|
|– More widely recognized in North America|
|– Shorter test duration|
|– Can be taken more frequently|
|PRE||– Can be taken at home||– Not widely recognized by universities|
|– More affordable than IELTS and TOEFL||– Limited availability|
|– Adaptive testing system||– Speaking section not included|
|– Faster results|
These resources offer a range of study materials and practice tests to help you prepare for your IELTS, TOEFL, or PTE exam. The links provided will take you directly to the respective resources. Make sure to take advantage of these resources to improve your chances of success on the test.
Does These Test British or American English?
The IELTS and TOEFL exams test both British and American English, as they are designed to assess the English language proficiency of non-native speakers for academic and professional purposes. The PRE exam, on the other hand, focuses more on American English and is specifically designed to assess students’ readiness for academic study in the United States. However, all three exams may include accents and idiomatic expressions from various English-speaking countries.
How and where can I take These tests?
You can take the IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE tests both in-person and online.
IELTS: To register for the IELTS, you can visit the official IELTS website and select your location to find a nearby test center.
TOEFL: The TOEFL test can be taken at official test centers worldwide, and you can register for it on the official TOEFL website.
PTE: To register for the PTE Academic test, visit the Pearson PTE website and select your location to find a nearby test center.
In addition to in-person testing, all three tests also offer online testing options. The IELTS Indicator test, TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition, and PTE Academic at Home are available for test takers who are unable to take the test in person. You can find more information about these online testing options on the respective official websites.
It’s important to note that the availability of in-person and online testing may vary depending on your location and the ongoing pandemic situation.
Which Test Should You Choose?
Choosing between TOEFL and IELTS depends on your personal preference, the institution’s requirements, and the country you want to study in. However, there are some general factors to consider when making your choice:
- Applying to a US university: TOEFL
- Applying to a UK university: IELTS
- Applying to a Canadian university: Both TOEFL and IELTS are accepted, but some universities may prefer one over the other.
- If you’re more comfortable with a computer-based test, TOEFL might be a better choice for you.
- If you prefer a face-to-face speaking test, IELTS might be a better choice for you.
Useful Learning Resources – IELTS, TOEFL, PRE
Here are some useful learning resources to prepare for IELTS, TOEFL, and PRE.
|IELTS||IELTS Sample TestQuestions|
|||IELTS Preparation Course by Leap Scholar|
|||Road to IELTS|
|TOEFL||TOEFL Practice Online|
|||TOEFL Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide|
|||TOEFL Course Online|
|PTE||PTE Practice Tests|
|||PTE Course Online|
Choosing between TOEFL and IELTS can be a daunting task, but understanding the format, content, scoring, and other factors can help you make an informed decision. Both exams are widely accepted and recognized worldwide, and it’s essential to research the specific requirements of the institutions you’re applying to. Regardless of which test you choose, remember to prepare thoroughly and take practice tests to increase your chances of success.