IELTS Vs. TOEFL Vs. PTE – Which Test is Best For You?


Meridean Overseas

Updated On 02 April 2022 & Read Time 9 minutes



The IELTS (International English Language Testing System), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and Pearson Test of English (PTE) are three widely accepted standardized tests measuring English proficiency for non-native English speakers.

Every year, millions of people attempt one or another of the English proficiency tests to submit to universities or government in English-speaking countries.Whether you are trying any of these tests or you are still wondering which test will help you the most, this article is for you and chances are you will know which test among TOEFL, IELTS and PTE is best for you.

Although there are some similarities in the basic nature of TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE, the three tests also have some varying characteristics that make them unique. Students should identify their strengths and weaknesses and choose the test that will suit them best.

Similarities between IELTS, TOEFL and PTE

Before differentiating the three, let's see what these three tests have in common.

The first and most obvious similarity between the three is that they all have exactly the same test sections – reading, listening, speaking and writing. Any individual's proficiency in a language should be tested in the four fundamental sections of communication which are reading, listening, speaking and writing.


Similar goals:

IELTS, TOEFL and PTE all share the same goal of testing and certifying English proficiency. These tests play an important role when you apply to universities or for public relations / jobs from English-speaking countries. They work as a legitimate proof of your English language proficiency, which further ensures that you will not encounter any language barriers during your stay in an English-speaking country. So now you already know that TOEFL, IELTS and PTE share the same fundamentals. The major differences begin to emerge when we dig deeper and study their training, exam structure, and grading structure. Let's dig deeper and see what the differences are between TOEFL, IELTS and PTE.

What is the difference between TOEFL test, IELTS test and PTE test?

Although they share similar test sections and purposes, the differences begin to appear as we dig deeper into these tests. I'll start with the descriptions of the three tests and build more on the differences.


What is Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) measures candidates' ability to use and understand English at university level. The TOEFL exam measures how well you can combine your listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills to complete academic tasks. The TOEFL exam is the trademark of ETS and is more commonly accepted by universities in the United States than in Europe and Australia.


What is International English Language Testing System (IELTS)?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a standardized test of English proficiency. IELTS is as popular as TOEFL and is considered by many to be the most accurate English proficiency test. It is most widely accepted at universities in Europe and Australia. The IELTS test is in cooperation with the British Council and IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment.


Year of establishment:

Regarding the year of establishment, the TOEFL is the oldest of the three tests, followed by the IELTS and the PTE being the last test. The inception year of TOEFL is 1964. The inception year of IELTS is 1989. The PTE came two decades after IELTS and more than four decades after the inception of TOEFL and was created in 2009.

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Different test versions of TOEFL, IELTS and PTE

TOEFL Exam Versions:

There are two main versions of the TOEFL test, namely PBT and iBT.


What is the TOEFL PBT?
TOEFL PBT stands for the Test of English as a Foreign Language and it is a Paper-based Test. This is a paper version of the TOEFL test.


What is the TOEFL iBT?
TOEFL iBT stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test. It is a computer (Internet) version of the TOEFL test.
IELTS test versions:
There are two versions of the IELTS test, the Academic IELTS test and the General IELTS test.


What is the IELTS academic test?
The IELTS academic test is for students who are considering admission to a university in an English-speaking country.


What is the IELTS General Test?
The IELTS General test is intended for non-academic purposes (PR/work) and assesses the candidate's more realistic and general communication skills.


PTE test versions:

There are two versions of the Pearson Test of English - PTE Academic Test, PTE General Test.


What is the Academic PTE Test?
Just like in IELTS, the academic PTE test is for students who are considering admission to a university.


What is the general PTE test?
Again, similar to the IELTS General Test, the PTE General Test is for non-academic purposes and assesses the candidate's more realistic and general communication skills.

Testing Basics:

TOEFL Exam Basics:

Although the TOEFL has both paper-based and Internet-based tests, many test sites do not perform the paper-based (TOEFL PBT) format. The TOEFL iBT has over 50 test dates per year and is conducted at 4,500 test centres in 165 countries. The test can be retaken an unlimited number of times, but cannot be taken more than once in a 12 day period. Additionally, a candidate cannot register for another test date that is within 12 days of the existing appointment. TOEFL scores are accepted at more than 8,500 colleges, agencies, and other institutions in more than 130 countries. Candidates can register online, by phone, by mail or in person. Registration closes seven days before the test date when registering online, in person or by phone and 4 weeks before the test date when registering by mail. In India, the TOEFL registration fee is $165.


IELTS Exam Basics:

The IELTS score is accepted as proof of English proficiency by over 8,000 organizations worldwide. The test is performed at more than 900 test centres and sites in more than 130 countries. Each year, IELTS takes place on 48 fixed dates. While the Academic version of IELTS is available on 48 dates, the General Training version of IELTS is available on 24 dates. Candidates can enrol online or by email. Entry fee is INR 12,600 (Subject to change or variation).


PTE Exam Basics:

Being a relatively new test, the number of candidates taking the PTE or the number of organizations accepting it might be lower than the TOEFL and IELTS, but it is catching up fast. PTE Academic scores are accepted by top UK universities, top US universities and government organisations. It is also accepted by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for Tier 4 and Tier 2 visa applications and all universities in Australia. The PTE Academic test is conducted at a number of test centres in 46 countries. In India, the price of the test is INR 10,900* (*Subject to change or variation). Scheduling for the PTE Academic can be done either online or over the phone.

Sectional Analysis

TOEFL Exam Sections:

  • In the TOEFL Academic test for the speaking section, test takers speak into a microphone and the computer captures the audio. It is evaluated by a human evaluator. ii) The Writing section consists of writing essay answers based on reading and listening tasks and supporting an opinion in writing.


IELTS exam sections:

  • The IELTS Speaking test is a conversation with a certified IELTS examiner which is recorded on an audio cassette or digital recorder.
  • The academic writing section includes questions based on a diagram, graph, process or table, or argument.
  • The general writing section includes letter writing and essay writing.


PTE exam sections:

  • In the speaking section, PTE Academic test takers speak into a microphone and the computer captures the audio similar to the TOEFL. It is calculated by a computer programming only.
  • The writing section includes many innovative question formats. Also, the PTE has an computerized speech and writing PTE scoring program.

Scoring and results

TOEFL Scoring Structure and TOEFL Exam Results:

On the TOEFL exam, candidates are scored on a range of 0 to 120. Score reports for the TOEFL are received within two weeks and after 13 calendar days. The TOEFL transmits the scores free of charge to four universities of the candidate's choice. The TOEFL result (score) is valid for two years and the candidate must take the TOEFL exam again if he needs the TOEFL score after a two-year course.


IELTS Scoring Structure and IELTS Results:

IELTS assesses test takers using scores on a scale of 0 to 9, with a higher band score indicating better performance. IELTS Score band reports for this test are declared after the 13th day of the test day. IELTS transmits scores to five universities of the candidate's choice free of charge. Just like TOEFL, the IELTS score is valid for two years.


PTE scoring structure and PTE results:

PTE Academic grades students on a scale of 10 to 90. For PTE, results are available online in just five days. The PTE sends score reports offering samples of recorded speeches to admissions offices at universities around the world. Unlike TOEFL test and IELTS test, the outcome (score) is valid for 3 years only.
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