TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE - which should I take?

TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE – which should I take?
Standardized Tests

TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE – which should I take?


One of the most important criteria for students who wish to pursue their further studies at an English-speaking university abroad is proficiency in English Language. Taking English Language Proficiency tests is essential for students from countries like India, where English is not the first language. The proficiency of international students in the English Language is assessed through certain popular standardized tests such as TOEFL exam, IELTS exam and the relatively new PTE exam. Due to the availability of so many options, students often get confused as to which test they should choose. Hence a comparative analysis of TOEFL, IELTS and PTE will enable students to understand all the aspects of these tests and make the right decision.

About the tests:

TOEFL: The Test of English Language as a Foreign Language, popularly known as TOEFL, measures a student’s ability to use and understand English. It tests how well a student can combine their listening, reading, speaking and writing skills

while performing academic tasks. The TOEFL exam is the trademark of ETS and is older than the IELTS exam and PTE exam.

IELTS: The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a standardized English Language Proficiency Test, which is one of the most popular tests taken by students who wish to study abroad. It is owned by British Council, IDP, IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment.

PTE: The PTE (Pearson Test of English) was launched in 2009. It assesses the English language skills of non-native English speakers. PTE is accredited by the QCA and is managed by Edexcel, which is UK’s largest examining body.

Test Versions (TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE):

TOEFL consists of PBT (Paper-based Test) and IBT (Internet-based Test).  IELTS has two versions: Academic and General Training and PTE has three versions: Academic, General and Young Learner Test.  The Academic version is for students who wish to secure an admission into a university whereas the General version is for non-academic purposes. The PTE Young Learner Test assesses how well children can use language structures and communicate.

Basic information about the tests:

  • TOEFL has, both, paper-based and Internet-based tests, but the internet-based test is more popular. Although a student can retake the test unlimited number of times, they cannot take it more than once in a 12-day period. TOEFL scores are accepted by around 8,500 colleges and other institutions in approximately 130 countries. Students can register for the test either online or by mail, phone or in person. To register online, by phone or in person, one should note that the registration closes seven days before the test date. While registering by mail, note that registration closes four weeks before the test date.
  • Around 8,000 organizations accept IELTS scores as evidence of English language proficiency. IELTS is conducted on 48 fixed dates. The IELTS Academic Version is available on all 48 dates and the General Training Version is available on only 24 dates. Students can register for the test either online or via mail.
  • Since PTE is a relatively new test, the number of students giving this test and the number of universities accepting it might be lower than that of TOEFL and IELTS. However, PTE Academic scores are accepted by top US and UK universities as well as certain government organizations. The PTE Academic test is conducted in a number of test centers across 46 countries. Students can register for the test either online or via phone.

Test Sections:

All three tests have similar sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. However. there are certain features which differentiate them from one another.

In the IELTS exam, during the speaking test, students are required to conduct a conversation with a certified IELTS Examiner, which is then recorded into a digital recorder. On the other hand, in TOEFL and PTE Academic, students are required to speak into a microphone and the computer records the audio. In TOEFL, the Speaking test is evaluated by a human rater. In PTE, the Speaking test is evaluated through a computer program. In TOEFL, during the writing section, students are required to write an essay based on reading and listening tasks. They are also required to support an opinion in writing. In IELTS Academic, questions are asked based on an argument or through a diagram, graph or chart. PTE includes a lot of innovative question formats and has an automated speech and writing scoring as well.


All the three tests have different scoring patterns. In TOEFL, scores are given to students on a scale of 0 to 120. In IELTS, students are given scores from 1 to 9 based on their performance. In PTE, students are assessed on a scale of 10 to 90.


Students receive the TOEFL score reports within two weeks, and IELTS score reports after 13 calendar days. In the case of PTE, students receive their results online in five days. If students have taken TOEFL and IELTS, their scores are forwarded to 4 to 5 universities respectively for free. If students take PTE, their score reports, as well as recorded speech samples, are sent to the university’s admission committee. However, the TOEFL, IELTS and PTE Academic scores are valid for two years.

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