IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE: Which test you should take?

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You want to study abroad but you don't have English as your native language, so you need to attempt an English language proficiency test to get admission to an international university. But which English language test should be taken? The answer depends on many factors, like which test is accepted by your chosen university, what test centres are available near you, how much you are willing to spend, etc. You may get confused regarding it, but don’t worry. In this article, we will compare the 3 most popular English language exams:

Structure of English language tests

IELTS Academic

The IELTS Academic exam is divided into 4 parts:

  • Listening: You will listen to four recordings of native speakers. Then you need to give answers for the 40 questions. The time given to complete this module is 40 minutes.
  • Academic Reading: You need to read the 3 texts, and then you will have to answer 40 questions. The time taken to complete this module will be 60 minutes.
  • Academic Writing: 2 tasks are given here. In the first task, you have to describe a graph, table, chart, or other visual information in your own words. In the second task, you need to write an essay on a given point of view, argument or problem. The duration of this module is 60 minutes.
  • Speaking: There are three parts, during which you will be talking with the examiner about yourself, you will describe or express your opinion about a particular topic and end with discussing deeper points about the topic. The duration of this module is 11-14 minutes.

Get complete information here: IELTS exam pattern


The TOEFL iBT exam has 4 sections:

  • Reading: You will have to read 3 or 4 passages from academic texts. Then, you have to answer the given 30-40 questions. The duration of this module is 54-72 minutes.
  • Listening: You will have to listen to 4 recordings, and then you will have to answer 28-39 questions. The duration of this module is 41-57 minutes.
  • Speaking: You need to express your opinion on a familiar topic and provide answers based on reading and listening tasks. The duration of this module is 17 minutes.
  • Writing: There are 2 tasks in this section. You will need to write essay responses and support your opinions. The duration of this module is 50 minutes.

PTE Academic

The PTE Academic test is conducted in 3 parts:

  • Speaking & Writing: You will have to complete several tasks, including introducing yourself, reading aloud, describing an image, summarizing a text, writing an essay, and others. The duration of this part will be 77-93 minutes.
  • Reading: You will have to complete tasks like filling in the blanks, answering multiple-choice questions, and reordering paragraphs. The duration of this part is 32 – 40 minutes.
  • Listening: You will have to answer a series of questions after listening to or watching audio or video clips. The duration of this part is 45-57 minutes.

Get complete information here: PTE Exam Pattern

Duration of the IELTS, TOEFL and PTE tests

The duration of the 3 English language tests are:

IELTS Academic   2 hours and 45 minutes
TOEFL iBT  #3 hours for the computer-based test 
   #2 hours and 25 minutes for the paper-delivered test
PTE Academic:  3 hours

IELTS, TOEFL, PTE test results 

The different test has a different grading system. It is discussed below: 

  • The IELTS Academic test is graded on a 0 – 9 bands of scale. Each test module receives a score. Then these 4 scores are averaged and rounded to obtain an overall score between 0-9 bands. Read more: IELTS scores
  • The TOEFL iBT test is graded from 0 – 120. Each section, you can gain a maximum of 30 points. Read more: TOEFL scores
  • The PTE Academic test is graded using the Global Scale of English from 10 – 90. Read more: PTE Scores

Minimum score of IELTS, TOEFL and PTE test required to get admission in the international institution.

Each institution is free to establish its own minimum grade required to get admission. Most educational institutions require:

  • A minimum of 6.0 or 6.5 bands is required in IELTS Academic. Some institutions also accept scores as low as 5.0-5.5.
  • A minimum TOEFL score of 70-80 is required. Some institutions also accept scores as low as 65.
  • A minimum PTE Academic score of 55-60 is required. Some institutions accept scores as low as 50.

Validity of IELTS, TOEFL and PTE test scores 

All the three tests, IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE have a validity of 2 years after the results are released. If you have to prove your English skills after that period, you will have to retake the exam.

Cost of IELTS, TOEFL and PTE

The exams are offered in many other countries and test centres around the world. You should always use the official IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE pages to find the closest exam centre and register. You should also keep in mind that prices will increase if you choose to register late.

  • IELTS: Each test centre has its own IELTS registration fee. However, most IELTS testing centres charge around $225 for registering a seat in IELTS. Read more: IELTS Exam Fees
  • TOEFL: The fee of TOEFL registration varies from location to location. It may range between $160-$250. Read more: TOEFL Exam Fees
  • PTE: The cost differs from country to country but is in the range of $150-$210. Read more: PTE Exam Fees

In which country are the tests of English language accepted?

All 3 English language tests are popular and recognized by thousands of institutions worldwide:

  • IELTS is accepted by over 10,000 institutions in over 140 countries. IELTS is more prefered in Australia, the UK, Ireland, and South Africa.
  • TOEFL is accepted in almost 150 countries by more than 10,000 institutions. TOEFL is usually accepted by universities from the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany and France
  • PTE Academic is also accepted by thousands of institutions in numerous countries. It is especially popular in Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.

It is not uncommon for universities and colleges to accept two English language proficiency tests, with some institutions accepting all three of them. If you plan on studying at a specific university, make sure you check what language tests it accepts so you know which English test to take.

Which English language proficiency test should I take?

Now you are aware that the IELTS, TOEFL and PTE tests are similar in their structure, fee, and availability. Your choice can depend upon the university acceptance where you want to apply. While some institutions accept all 3 English tests, others only accept IELTS or TOEFL.

Even if you can choose between these tests, you should first see which test dates and test centres are available according to your convenience. You should also try free online materials and see if which test would be easier than others. This is an easy way to make up your mind.

Overall, it doesn’t matter if you choose IELTS Academic, TOEFL iBT, or PTE Academic. They are all popular and reputed tests which enable students to go abroad and fulfil their study abroad dreams. If you have the ambition and willpower to work hard and prepare yourself, you can crack any English proficiency test and fly to your study abroad destination.