IELTS What’s the Difference Between English Proficiency Tests?

What’s the Difference Between English Proficiency Tests?

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What’s the Difference Between English Proficiency Tests?

What’s the Difference Between English Proficiency Tests?

What’s the difference between english proficiency tests? If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely that you’re an international student thinking of pursuing education overseas, possibly in Canada or the United States. If that’s the case, there’s a very good chance that you must complete an English proficiency test. Most schools require international students to complete this type of test in order to apply for study. Your results are simply to show that you’re able to communicate in English and won’t face too many challenges later in your academic program.

There are several English proficiency tests to consider. It’s also important to consider which schools accept which tests. We’ve decided to take a closer look at the three major English proficiency tests to help you make your decision. By the end of this blog, we hope you understand the differences between the three major tests.

What’s the Difference Between English Proficiency Tests?

Test types

Before we look at their differences, here’s a quick rundown of the three widely-accepted standardized English tests.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

IELTS is often taken by international students to enter commonwealth countries. These include Australia, the United Kingdom, some European countries and Canada!

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

TOEFL is relatively similar to the IELTS test. However, U.S. graduate schools and various MBA programs typically require it.

Pearson Test of English (PTE)

The PTE test is created by Pearson, a well-known education publishing company in the U.S. Of the three tests, PTE is the newest addition to the roster.

Now that we know the test types, let’s get into the details.


  • If the length of a test is of great importance to you and plays a large role in your final mark, you’ll want to know that each of these tests has a different duration. The IELTS test is the shortest of the three and takes approximately two hours and 45 minutes to complete. Further, you may complete the IELTS test on paper. Following IELTS is the PTE test which typically takes three hours to complete. You may complete the PTE test on the computer. Finally, TOEFL is the longest test, taking up to four hours to complete. You may choose to complete the TOEFL test on paper or on a computer.

Score system

  • Each English proficiency test has a different score system. While IELTS scores measure on a 0-9 scale, PTE uses a 10-90 scale and TOEFL a 0-120 scale. For TOEFL specifically, each section receives a score between 0-30. Most programs require a minimum overall score of 90-95. For international students who may be applying for an Ivy League school, a score of 113 is typically the minimum. In all cases, it is important to consider the minimum score requirements of each individual school.

    In addition to the score system, each English proficiency test is graded differently. While humans grade the IELTS test, the PTE test is graded entirely by an automated system. TOEFL happens to fall right in between whereby some portion of the test is marked by humans, and some by an automated scoring system. For those individuals who prefer to have a real person mark their exam, this may play a big role in your decision.


  • All three English proficiency tests include the following sections: reading, writing, speaking and listening. However, each test has a different way of assessing these sections. TOEFL and IELTS have similar formats, taking after the standard American-style test: essays, brief spoken questions, multiple choice and/or fill-in-the-blank questions. PTE, on the other hand, avoids the standard test format. A single essay question and a variety of different types of questions make up the exam content.


  • Test fees may vary depending on the location you choose to take the test. The cost to take the IELTS exam in Canada is CA $320. Similarly, PTE exams cost between CA$300 and $375. Finally, the cost of taking the TOEFL exam is approximately CA$230.


  • This is something many international students forget to consider — which English proficiency test does your school of choice accept? Further, which tests are available in your immediate location? It’s important to note that different countries may require different test submissions. With this being said, we highly suggest doing the proper research and consulting your recruiter directly.

    NOTE : If you would like HFE to assist you please book your appointment or CLICK HERE FOR FREE ASSESSMENT

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