IELTS vs PTE vs TOEFL

“Which English language test is the right choice for me?”

Living in Malaysia there is a heavy focus on the IELTS, but in other sectors of the world, TOEFL is more popular and in recent times PTE is becoming the go-to option. The costs are similar, the structures are similar, so which direction should you go? I’ll have a brief look at the three exam options to help you decipher which test is the right fit for you.

“What’s the difference?” It is the question I hear all the time. Well, that depends on where you want to study/emigrate and how you prefer to be tested.

PROFICIENCY LEVEL IELTS TOEFL PTE
EXPERT 9 118-120 89-90
VERY GOOD 8.5 115-117 83-85
VERY GOOD 8 110-114 78-82
GOOD 7.5 102-109 73-77
GOOD 7 94-101 64-72
COMPETENT 6.5 79-93 58-63
COMPETENT 6 60-78 50-57
MODEST 5.5 46-59 42-49
MODEST 5 35-45 35-41
LIMITED 4.5 32-34 30-34
EXTREMELY LIMITED 0-4 0-31 0-30

IELTS and TOEFL are by far the most popular choices, as they are so widely accepted around the world. The IELTS exam was only paper-based until recently and was split over two days, with the speaking section being done on another day. Now with their computer-delivered examination, candidates can sit the exam at a test center but still must undergo a face-to-face speaking exam. The TOEFL and PTE exams, however, are done in a single sitting and are completely computer-based. I guess for the IELTS, changes had to be made, as the online option (with the introduction of PTE) was growing in popularity at such a fast rate, especially being the preferred method with the Australian and New Zealand Governments. The PTE is the shortest of the three exams (as there is only one writing task), the results come the quickest (sometimes within two days) and there isn’t a physical examiner present, which can ease the nerves.

However, if you are looking at studying in the US or Canada, then I’d go with TOEFL (the longest duration – almost 4 hours) as it’s been the chosen exam by their governments, there are so many test centers world-wide and it’s slightly more affordable than the other two options. Just be sure to register early as late registrations require an extra fee. If you are migrating to another country then avoid the TOEFL, as it doesn’t offer a general exam option so your likelihood of getting a high score like you’d get in a general exam with the other two is slim.

Overall, if your computer skills are good, then I’d go with the PTE as it has two options (academic and general), I think it’s slightly easier with just the one writing task, you get your results quickly and you don’t have the added pressure of having to speak with a present examiner. If you prefer to be examined on paper, then the IELTS is for you as it too has the two options, it’s accepted everywhere and because here at Kings College, we are a licensed IELTS test/registration center with IDP, so we can get you to where you need to be (shameless self-promoting! Haha). We hold IELTS preparation classes monthly for beginners and advanced learners, we have private teachers available and can offer PTE preparation upon request.

Bret@Kingscollege.edu.my

http://english.kingscollege.edu.my/

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