If one wants to study abroad and English is not their native language, schools often ask them to take a standardized test to prove their proficiency in English. Three standardized tests are generally accepted for this purpose: the TOEFL, the IELTS, and the PTE.
Structure & Fee of the test:
IELTS Academics (Organizer: British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English):
The IELTS Academic exam is structured in 4 parts. Duration: 2 hours 45 minutes
- Listening: 30 minutes. You will listen to four recordings of native speakers. Afterward, you’ll need to answer 40 questions.
- Academic Reading: 60 minutes. You will read 3 texts, and then you’ll have to answer 40 questions.
- Academic Writing: 60 minutes. There are 2 tasks. For the first one, you have to describe a graph, table, chart, or other visual information in your own words. For the second one, you need to write an essay as a response to a point of view, problem, or argument. You need to write in a formal style for both tasks.
- Speaking: 11-14 minutes. There are three parts, during which you will talk with the examiner about yourself, you will describe or express your opinion about a particular topic and end with discussing more abstract ideas or concepts.
Fee: Depends on the country. Ranges between USD 245-255. Valid for 2 years after the results are released.
TOEFL® iBT (Organizer: ETS – Educational Testing Service):
The TOEFL® iBT exam has 4 sections. Duration: 3 hours for the computer-based test.
- Reading: 54 – 72 minutes. You’ll read 3 or 4 passages from academic texts. Then, you’ll need to answer 30-40 questions.
- Listening: 41-57 minutes. You’ll listen to 4 recordings of native speakers, and then you’ll have to answer 28-39 questions.
- Speaking: 17 minutes. You need to express your opinion on a familiar topic and provide answers based on reading and listening tasks.
- Writing: 50 minutes. There are 2 tasks. You’ll need to write essay responses and support your opinions.
The number of questions in the Reading and Listening sections for TOEFL® varies. Why? Because the number depends on the length, type, and difficulty of the text(s) and audio recording(s).
Fee: Depends on the country. Ranges between USD 180-265. Valid for 2 years after the results are released.
PTE Academic (Organizer: Pearson PLC Group):
The PTE Academic or Pearson Test of English has 3 parts. Duration: 3 hours
- Speaking & Writing: 77 – 93 minutes. You’ll have to complete several tasks, including introducing yourself, reading aloud, describing an image, summarizing a text, writing an essay, and others.
- Reading: 32 – 40 minutes. You’ll have to complete tasks like filling in the blanks, answering multiple-choice questions, and re-ordering paragraphs.
- Listening: 45 – 57 minutes. You’ll have to answer a series of questions after listening to or watching audio or video clips.
Fee: Depends on the country. USD 200.
Results and Grading System
- All the test scores are valid for 2 years after the results are released.
- Each exam uses a different grading system. The IELTS Academic test is graded on a 0 – 9 scale. Each test part (or section) receives a score. The 4 scores are then averaged and rounded to obtain an overall score. Results come 13 days after the test date.
- The TOEFL® iBT test is graded from 0 – 120. Each section has a maximum of 30 points. To receive an official score, you must answer at least 1 question in both Reading and Listening, write at least 1 essay, and complete at least 1 Speaking task. Results come 6 days after the test date.
- The PTE Academic exam is graded from 10 – 90 using the Global Scale of English. PTE scores are available with five business days
Each university or college is free to establish the minimum grade you need to be admitted. Most educational institutions require:
- A minimum score of 6.0 or 6.5 for IELTS Academic. Some universities accept scores as low as 5.0 – 5.5.
- A minimum score of 70 – 80 for TOEFL® iBT. Some universities accept scores as low as 65.
- A minimum score of 55 – 60 for PTE Academic. Some universities accept scores as low as 50.
Major differences between the three
- IELTS is more inclined towards the UK or Australian English, while TOEFL and PTE are more towards American English. PTE being quite new compared to the other two is still not accepted at many major universities.
- You will interact face-to-face with the examiner who is also the rater in IELTS, in TOEFL and PTE you are talking into the microphone.
- IELTS and TOEFL have human raters. PTE test scores are determined by the computer itself.
While a lot of schools give exemptions as well, it is always good to check in advance regarding the requirement of a language proficiency test score. You can always check such eligibility requirements on the school’s website.