English Proficiency Tests: A Complete Guide

Meridean Overseas
Meridean Overseas

Updated On 14 October 2023 & Read Time 8 minutes



English language proficiency tests are a must to study abroad; we all know it. The requirement of the scores and the acceptance of one or the other exam entirely depends on the university and its program. But with so many exams, deciding which one to take becomes challenging. In order to decide the most appropriate one for yourself, it is better to be aware of all the English language tests and gain knowledge about relevant topics.


With the same thought in mind, we curated this guide on English language tests and touched on a few important things. Let’s move forward then and take a look at them.


What are the English Proficiency Tests?

English proficiency tests are your getaway to study, work, or immigrate to English-speaking countries. These assessments evaluate one's ability to understand, speak, read, and write in English.


In this context, two of the most widely recognised tests are the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Understanding the nuances of each test and making an informed choice is crucial for success.


Different English Language Proficiency Tests

There are different English language proficiency tests that students take worldwide in order to gain admission to their dream universities and colleges. These universities have their set requirements for English proficiency that must be fulfilled.


This gives the institute the assurance that you will be able to comprehend the lessons offered there and won't have any problem communicating with your classmates and professors.


Let us take a look at some famous English language proficiency exams.


TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

The TOEFL English test is primarily used in academic settings, especially for admission to universities in the United States. The test examines proficiency in academic English and is recognised by institutions worldwide. It is divided into four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Further, TOEFL features academic content and focuses on testing a candidate's ability to understand and use English in a university setting.


IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

IELTS is a versatile test used for both academic and general purposes. Divided into four sections – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking – IELTS assesses a candidate's ability to use English in real-life situations, which makes it suitable for those seeking employment, immigration, or academic pursuits. Moreover, IELTS often employs a mix of British, Australian, American, and Canadian accents, making it a well-rounded evaluation of English proficiency.


CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program)

Canada's top general English proficiency test is called the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Programme (CELPIP), which evaluates your English skills in various contexts from daily life and is mainly used for immigration and professional purposes.


The CELPIP General Test and the CELPIP General LS Test are the two test kinds that are offered. Only speaking and listening are covered in the shorter test, while the lengthier test covers all four language abilities.


Cambridge English Tests (KET, PET, CAE, FCE, and CPE)

Developed by the Cambridge English department of Cambridge University, these tests are widely recognised by universities, employers, and government ministries as valid proof of English language proficiency. One unique feature of these tests is that, unlike other exams, they don’t have an expiry date, which makes them valid for life.


Let us look at these exams in brief.

  • Key English Test (KET): The exam tests your ability to communicate in English in relatively simple situations at an elementary level.  

  • Preliminary English Test (PET): The exam is of intermediate level and tests practical language skills for usage in everyday life. 

  • Certificate in Advanced English (CAE): CAE is a high-level qualification exam with an in-depth base of assessing skills. It shows that you have the appropriate skills required for university or employment and are proficient in English. 

  • First Certificate of English (FCE): This test helps you prove your language skills and competency to live or study independently in a foreign English-speaking country. 

  • Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): The Certificate of Proficiency in English is the highest level of qualification provided by Cambridge English. It proves you can easily communicate elegance and fluency like a native English speaker.


TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication)

The TOEIC, or Test of English for International Communication, evaluates your workplace communication abilities. When the hearing and reading exam scores are combined, a final score of 990 (corresponding to the CEFR C1 level) may be obtained. The writing and speaking portions of the test have various grading patterns. TOEIC results are likewise suitable for two years, just like the results of the other tests.


It is highly regarded by businesses, multinational firms, international organisations, and governmental agencies all around the world since it enables you to demonstrate your capacity for cross-cultural communication with clients and coworkers.


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Tips on Choosing the Right Test for Yourself

Now that we have drawn a sound comparison between IELTS and TOEFL, two of the most famous English language proficiency exams for international students, let us look at some tips you can keep in mind while choosing the proper test. 

  1. Identify Your Purpose: Determine whether you need the test for academic, professional, or immigration purposes, as identifying this will guide you in choosing a test that aligns with your goals.

  2. Check Institution Requirements: Verify the English proficiency requirements of the institution or organisation you are applying to. Some institutions may prefer a particular test over the other.

  3. Consider Test Format: Choose a test format that aligns with your preferences. If you are comfortable with online testing, TOEFL might be suitable. IELTS could be preferable if you prefer a mix of accents and a paper-based option.

  4. Evaluate Accent Preferences: Consider your familiarity with different English accents. If exposure to various accents is important for you, IELTS might be a better choice.

  5. Scoring System: Understand the scoring system of each test and determine which aligns better with your strengths. Some individuals may find one scoring system more aligned with their strengths than the other.


Comparison Between IELTS and TOEFL

IELTS and TOEFL are two of the most popular English language proficiency exams, which are accepted by the majority of universities across the globe. Let us examine some of the differences to determine which one suits you better.

  1. Format: TOEFL is administered exclusively online, while IELTS can be taken on paper or computer, providing flexibility for test-takers.

  2. Accents: TOEFL generally uses American accents, while IELTS incorporates a variety of accents, exposing candidates to different English-speaking styles.

  3. Purpose: TOEFL is primarily for academic admission, while IELTS serves academic and general purposes, accommodating a broader range of goals.

  4. Scoring: TOEFL is scored on a scale of 0-120, with each section receiving a score. IELTS scores are reported on a 9-band scale.



Q1. Which test is better, TOEFL or IELTS?

A. The choice depends on your goals and preferences. TOEFL is often preferred for academic purposes, while IELTS is versatile, serving both academic and general needs.


Q2. Can I take both TOEFL and IELTS?

A. Yes, you can take both tests, but focusing on the one that aligns more closely with your goal is advisable.


Q3. Should I be a native English speaker to pass these tests?

A. No, these tests are designed for non-native speakers, wherein success in these tests depends on your proficiency, regardless of your native language.


Q4. How long are TOEFL and IELTS scores valid?

A. Typically, both TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid for two years from the test date.


Q5. Is there a minimum score requirement for admission or immigration?

A. Institutions and immigration authorities set their score requirements. So, check the specific requirements of the organisation you are applying to.



In conclusion, the English language proficiency exam is one of the most important factors contributing to your application to gain admission to your dream university.  In the realm of English proficiency tests, TOEFL and IELTS stand out as robust assessments with distinct features along with other tests like TOEIC, CELPIP, Cambridge English, etc.


Choosing out of the exams discussed in the blog requires careful consideration of your goals, preferences, and the specific requirements of your desired institutions. Ultimately, success in either test hinges on thorough preparation, consistent practice, and a strategic approach tailored to the nuances of the chosen exam. Moreover, we suggest you research well and select the exam that your desired university accepts and in which you are confident that you can do well.


We hope you enjoyed learning about the complete guide on English proficiency tests and got great insights on the topic. Still, if you would like to get a deeper understanding or have any questions about how to study abroad, we encourage you to speak with our team of expert counsellors at Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC).


Visit our website for free online counselling, or contact us at application02@meridean.org or 1800-1230-00011 for personalised support.

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