IELTS vs PTE vs TOEFL: Which English Test to Take?

The IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exams are the most widely used and recognized language proficiency exams available for non-native English speakers. 

Moreover, these exams are highly accepted by various educational institutions, government agencies, immigration offices, and other private organizations worldwide. And also, these exams deliver high-quality and reliable language assessments of an individual’s English language skills. 

These language exams are designed to assess the primary English language skills, including writing, speaking, reading, and listening abilities. In addition, these exams are standardized and follow specific structures and scoring systems. 

Many test-takers are confused about which language exam to take, and you might be one of them. Therefore, to ease your burden, we will compare these exams, for you to know which one you should take. 

Read on below to find out the differences between these language exams, how they differ, and whether they have similarities and all other exam features. This article will help you in some way in choosing the right language exam for you. 


What is the IELTS?

The IELTS or the  International English Language Testing System is an English language assessment test widely accepted and recognized by well-known universities and colleges in different countries worldwide. 

And this standardized language test was created by the British Council, which aims to assess the different English language skills, including writing, speaking, listening, and reading.

In addition, this exam is also preferred by prominent multinational companies, which is commonly used for work applications. It is also highly recognized by government and immigration offices in most English-speaking countries worldwide. 

The IELTS offers two exam formats to its test-takers: the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training Test. And these two test formats differ in test contents, especially in the writing and reading test sections and their purpose. 

It also accepts British and American English terms, and you can also encounter different English accents in its speaking test section. However, you can choose to take this exam in a paper-based or computer-based test, whichever is convenient to you. 

In addition, the IELTS exam is known to deliver a reliable and accurate English language proficiency certification for non-native English speakers. 

What is PTE?

One of the key features of the PTE or commonly known as the Pearson Test of English Academic Test is that it is a computer-based English language proficiency test. In addition, this exam is also using AI technology in its grading system.

And also, the PTE is preferred by most of its test-takers because it delivers quick test results within 48 hours after taking the test. In addition, this language proficiency exam is also made accessible to over 70 countries around the world. 

There are three types of PTE, including the PTE Academic, PTE General, and PTE Young Learner Test, that you can choose from depending on your need and purpose in taking the exam. And also, this exam can be taken in any age group as it does not have any age requirement in taking the exam. 

Moreover,  the PTE is designed to assess real-life English language skills, meaning the test is anchored more on how the individual uses the English language in communication. It contains four test sections for listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills. 

This language proficiency test is also accepted and used by many educational institutions, visa applications, and industrial organizations to assess the language proficiency of their applicants and workers.

What is TOEFL? 

The TOEFL exam is a standardized English language proficiency exam for non-native English speakers. It is also known as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, and this exam is highly recognized and accepted by most academic institutions worldwide. 

In addition, the TOEFL exam is used for academic admissions, such as in exchange programs and other courses offered in colleges and universities. 

And also, the TOEFL language proficiency certification can be used for student visa applications and work requirements if you plan to apply to multinational companies here and abroad. 

The TOEFL exam offers two formats, including TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT. In addition, the TOEFL iBT is preferred by most test-takers over the TOEFL PBT. 

Note that the TOEFL PBT does not assess the speaking skill; however, it has another test section, the Structure, and Written Expression, which evaluates the grammar skills of an individual. These TOEFL formats contain four test sections, wherein the TOEFL iBT includes the speaking test section. 

Moreover, this exam is designed to assess all four English language communication skills, which include reading, listening, speaking, and writing. One of the TOEFL exam features is that it uses formal, academic language and high-level vocabulary rather than casual or conversational English in its test contents. 

Since this exam is quite challenging for its test contents, the TOEFL test makers recommended that it is best suited for 17 years old test-takers or those who are at least in the 11th grade. 


Exam Fees of IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL 

The IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exams differ in terms of exam fees, and it ranges from USD 180 to USD 200 approximately. Moreover, these language proficiency exam fees also vary per country worldwide. 

For example, the IELTS Academic costs around PHP 11 650 in the Philippines, and in India, it costs INR 14 700. On the other hand, the PTE costs USD 275 in China, while in Australia, it costs around AUD 375, including taxes. 

Consequently, the TOEFL iBT exam fee is around USD 185, and the TOEFL PBT costs around USD 180. Note that there are also additional fees for the different services offered by these exams. 

For example, the TOEFL has additional charges for late registrations, rescheduling of exams, reinstatement of canceled scores. You also need to pay an additional USD 20 for every other score report you request. 

Notice that the IELTS exam fee is slightly higher than the PTE and TOEFL exam fees. However, the TOEFL has many additional charges if you wish to avail of their other services. 

Here is a comparison table showing the different exam fees of IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exams. 

IELTSPTETOEFL
Registration Fees: 
  • IELTS Academic – USD 200
  • IELTS Computer-Based test – USD 200  
  • PTE Academic – USD 180 to USD 210
  • TOEFL iBT Fee USD 185
  • TOEFL PBT USD 180

Additional Fees:
  • Rescheduling Fee – USD 47
  • Rescheduling Fee – USD 85
  • Late Registration  USD 40
  • Rescheduling  USD 60
  • Reinstatement of Canceled Scores  USD 20 each
  • Additional Score Report  USD 20 each
  • Speaking or Writing Test Section Score Review  USD 80 each
  • Speaking and Writing Test Section Score Review USD 120 each
  • Returned Personal Check (Paper or Electronic) USD 20

Exam Structure Comparison between IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL

These three language proficiency exams are designed to assess the four English language skills, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking. However, they have a significant difference in the exam structure, duration, mode of delivery, and other exam features. 

In addition, the IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exams differ in terms of their test sections.

For example, the IELTS has different test sections for the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training Test

And also, if we compare these three language exams, the PTE is the only language proficiency test that offers only computer-based and does not offer a paper-test version of the test. 

Consequently, the IELTS and TOEFL offer paper-based and computer-based tests for their language exams. And the duration of these three language exams is quite similar and lasts for approximately two to four hours maximum. 

To know more about the difference between these three language exams, check the table below for more comprehensive details for each of their exam structures. 

Here is a table showing the comparison of the IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exam structures. 

Exam StructureIELTSPTETOEFL
Test Sections
  • Listening
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Speaking
 
4 Test Sections:
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening
  • Speaking
TOEFL PBT Test Sections:
  • Listening Structure and Written Expression
  • Reading
  • Writing
TOEFL iBT Test Sections:
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing
Test Versions/Types 
  • IELTS Academic
  • IELTS General Training Test
  • PTE Academic
  • PTE General
  • PTE Young Learner Test
  • PTE Home
  • N/A
Test Mode of Delivery
  • Paper-based IELTS Test
  • Computer-based IELTS Test
Computer-based Test only
  • TOEFL PBT (Paper-based Test)
  • TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test)
Test Duration
  • 2 hours and 45 minutes 
  • 3 Hours
  • 3 to 4 Hours  with additional 30 minutes check-in period

Exam Frequency Comparison Between IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL

Many universities and colleges recognize and accept the IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exams to provide a reliable language proficiency level certification for their admission requirements. 

Aside from this, these language proficiency exams are also trusted by multinational companies located in different countries worldwide. Moreover, different testing locations are scattered in various countries to answer the increasing demand for these exams. 

For example, the IELTS has 1,200 available testing centers, while the TOEFL exam has 4,500 testing centers in different countries globally. In comparison, the PTE only has 350 testing centers available for its test-takers here and abroad.

Consequently, the PTE Academic offers its test whole year-round, meaning it conducts the exam every day, and for the PTE General, it is only scheduled five times annually. 

And there are 60 pre-scheduled test dates for the TOEFL exam available yearly, and the IELTS has 48 pre-scheduled test dates available once a year. 

It is recommended to contact your nearest testing centers should you wish to take the following mentioned language proficiency exams. In advance, it will help you know if they accept test schedules because some testing centers in certain countries or locations are restricted or closed due to the pandemic. 

In summary, the PTE Academic is more accessible since it offers the test every day, compared to TOEFL and IELTS exams. Moreover, in terms of the availability of testing centers, the TOEFL exam is leading among the two other language exams wherein it has 4 500 testing centers available globally. 

Here is a table showing the comparison of the IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exam frequencies. 

Exam FrequencyIELTS PTETOEFL 
Test days per year48PTE Academic with daily test schedules 
PTE General with only five times test days
60
Testing Centers (worldwide)1200350 4500
Countries where the test is available1490116190

Scoring Difference between IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL 

The IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exams differ in their scoring system. First, the PTE uses an automated scoring algorithm for its computerized scoring system. And it is also based on a global score scale, and it can also be interpreted using the CEFR levels. 

Moreover, the PTE Academic uses an overall scoring from 90 points as the highest up to 10 points which is the lowest for its test sections. In addition, the PTE overall scoring is the total sum and average of your overall test scores, enabling skills and communicative skills test scores.

The enabling skills include grammar, oral fluency, pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, and written discourse English language abilities. And as for the communicative skills, it includes your listening, writing, speaking, and reading skills.

On the other hand, the TOEFL uses a centralized scoring network for its test. And it uses an overall scoring of 120 to 31 points. Note that the Reading and Listening test sections are also scored by the centralized scoring network in the computer. 

And for its writing and speaking, test sections are scored using a combination of automated AI scoring and highly-trained professional TOEFL test raters.

Moreover, the IELTS test uses a band scoring system to score its test sections. The score ranges from 9 to 0, which the highest score is 9 while the lowest given score is 0.

Note that these three language proficiency exams differ in their scoring system and score points. However, it does not affect the reliability and accuracy of its language proficiency assessment. And all the test scores from these exams are valid for two years.

Here is a table showing the scoring difference between the IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL. 

IELTS Exam
Band Scoring
PTE ScoringTOEFL Overall
Score Conversion
985 to 90118 to 120
8.576 to 84115 to 117
859 to 75110 to 114
7.543 to 58102 to 109
730 to 4294 to 101
6.510 to 29 79 to 93
660 to 78
5.546 to 59
535 to 45
4.532 to 34
0 to 0 to 31

Test Requirements: IELTS vs. PTE vs. TOEFL

This section will differentiate the test requirements of IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exams. All of these three language exams differ in their test requirements. 

We will also present the different identification documents needed in each exam, how to register, and other requirements. 

Below is the comparison table between IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL test requirements. 

Test RequirementsIELTS PTE TOEFL
Minimum Age
  • Minimum age of 16 years old
  • Minimum age of 16 years old. 
  • If you are below the minimum age, you need to present parental consent with the signature of parents or guardians.  
  • No age requirement for test-takers. 
  • However, the ETS recommends ages 17 or 11th grade to take the TOEFL exam. 
  • For those test-takers who are 15 years old and younger, it is advised to be accompanied by an adult or guardian to sign the release form. 
Profession
  • Any profession 
  • Any profession
  • Any profession
Things needed to register
  • A valid passport
  • Active debit or credit card 
  • Any form of ID is accepted but needs to be valid, not expired, and is not issued more than 10 years ago. 
  • A valid passport or admit card. 
  • A valid passport
  • Any national ID with name, photograph, and signatureAny Government-issued driver’s license
  • Any national/state/province identity card
Where to register
  • For PTE General Test Registration:There is no official website that caters to this test. You can directly contact Pearson Education Ltd. for your registration.
  • You can register for the TOEFL iBT by walk-in at their official testing centers. 
  • Or you may register online through their official website by creating an ETS account. 

IELTS vs. PTE vs. TOEFL: Test Recognition

Among the leading computer-based English language proficiency tests available in the market is the PTE. And the other prominent English language proficiency exams are the IELTS and TOEFL. 

These three exams are highly recognized and accepted by most universities and colleges located in various countries worldwide. Moreover, they are also used by multinational industrial companies, government agencies, and other private sectors to provide a reliable and accurate language proficiency certification. 

The PTE Test is also accepted in more than 70 countries and trusted by over 3,000 plus educational institutions located worldwide. In addition, the IELTS exam is widely used and trusted by over 140 countries internationally, with over 1,200 official testing centers in different locations. 

And also, the TOEFL exam is recognized by more than 10,000 educational institutions in 150 countries globally, and it has an acceptance rate of 100% in the United Kingdom universities. So you can assure that you will be accepted into these well-known universities and colleges. 

These language exams are accepted by most English-speaking countries, including Canada, the United States, the UK, Australia, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates, and other countries. Consequently, the IELTS and TOEFL exams are accepted by government agencies and immigration offices. 

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Canadian Embassy, the UK Trade and Investment, and many more also recognized the IELTS exam to provide a reliable language proficiency certification. 


Which Is Easier: IELTS, PTE, or TOEFL? 

These three language exams are created to measure an individual’s English language skills and provide a proper language proficiency certification. In addition, the IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exam all differ in exam structure, length, duration, and other exam features. 

Moreover, these exams are equally difficult, so we cannot determine which one is easier and which one is not. However, most test-takers find the TOEFL exam challenging compared to the IELTS. 

It is because the TOEFL uses more complex test contents than the IELTS. While others find the PTE very accessible and more manageable because it is computer-based, and they find it more relatable in terms of English terms used. 

Note that the concept of an easier exam depends on the test-takers. If you are prepared and well-equipped with the knowledge, you might find the exam easy, and those who only took it lightly and did not do a proper review will find it difficult. 


Summary Table of Comparisons : IETLS vs PTE vs TOEFL  

Below is a comprehensive comparison table for the IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL exams. 

Exam FeaturesIELTS PTETOEFL
Accepted By
  • Educational Institutions
  • Multinational Companies
  • Government Offices
  •  Immigration Offices 
  • Educational Institutions
  • Multinational Companies
  • Government Offices 
  • Immigration Offices
  • Educational Institutions
  • Multinational Companies
  • Government Offices 

  • Immigration Offices
Test FeesUSD 200 With additional charges for other services USD 180 to USD 210USD 180 to USD 185 With additional costs for other services 
Test Sections
  • Listening
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening
  • Speaking
TOEFL PBT Test Sections:
  • Listening Structure and Written ExpressionReadingWriting
TOEFL iBT Test Sections:
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing
Test Versions/Types
  • IELTS Academic
  • IELTS General Training Test
  • PTE Academic
  • PTE General
  • PTE Young Learner Test
  • None
Test Modes of Delivery 
  • Paper-based IELTS Test
  • Computer-based IELTS Test
  • Computer-based Test only
  • TOEFL PBT (Paper-based Test)
  • TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test)
Scoring UsedScore Band of 9 points to 0 pointScore Points of 90 points to 29 pointsOverall Scoring System 120 points to 31 points
Scoring SystemBand Scoring SystemComputerized Scoring System Centralized Scoring Network
Test Scores ValidityTwo YearsTwo YearsTwo Years
Age RequirementMinimum age of 16 years oldMinimum age of 16 years oldNo age requirement for test-takers.
ID Accepted 
  • A valid passport
  • Active debit or credit card 
  • Any form of ID is accepted but needs to be valid, not expired, and is not issued more than 10 years ago. 
  • A valid passport or admit card. 
  • A valid passportAny national ID with name, photograph, and signature.
  • Any Government-issued driver’s license.
  • Any national/state/province identity card.
Exam Frequency48 scheduled test days per year 
  • PTE Academic with daily test schedules 
  • PTE General with only five times test days
60 scheduled test days per year
Number of Testing Centers Worldwide1,200 Testing Centers 350 Testing Centers4, 500 Testing Centers
Number of Countries Where Both Exams are Available 140 countries116 countries190 countries

Additional FAQs

Which is Easier: IELTS, PTE, or TOEFL?

The IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL are comparable in terms of difficulty level, so we cannot declare which one is easier or not. These three proficiency tests are designed to measure the individual’s English language abilities and provide accurate results. 

All of these language exams aim to deliver a quality and reliable assessment of your English language proficiency level. And also, their exam structures differ depending on the exam purpose. 

Which is Better: IELTS, TOEFL, or PTE?

Many find the IELTS better than the PTE and vice versa. In addition, the idea of which exam is better is subjective and depends on the test-takers ability and preparedness in taking the exam. 

However, if we compare them technically, both language tests feature equally demanding test questions and measure the individual’s English skills and abilities. As a result, these language proficiency exams are relatively equal in difficulty and deliver quality and reliable test results. 

Is IELTS Better or PTE?

Many find the IELTS better than the PTE and vice versa. In addition, the idea of which exam is better is subjective and depends on the test-takers ability and preparedness in taking the exam. 

However, if we compare them technically, both language tests feature equally demanding test questions and measure the individual’s English skills and abilities. As a result, these language proficiency exams are relatively equal in difficulty and deliver quality and reliable test results. 

Is PTE Easier than IELTS?

These two language proficiency exams are equally challenging. The PTE and IELTS assess an individual’s English language skills, and both of these English exams require extensive preparation. 

Moreover, we cannot consider that the PTE is easier than the IELTS. These language proficiency exams are designed to provide an accurate and reliable assessment of one’s language proficiency. And it also differs in terms of difficulty level and exam structure. 

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