Pushpinder Bhatia
Alumni Said Business School, University of Oxford, UK

Study Abroad Exams: A Comprehensive Comparison of PTE, TOEFL, and IELTS Tests

The dream of pursuing higher education in a foreign land often comes with the prerequisite of demonstrating proficiency in the English language. Standardized tests play a pivotal role in assessing this proficiency, and three of the most prominent exams in this domain are the Pearson Test of English (PTE), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
In this in-depth comparison, we will explore the intricacies of each exam to empower students to make informed decisions based on their unique needs and preferences.

Test Format: PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS:
  • PTE: PTE is a cutting-edge computer-based test designed to evaluate English language skills across four sections: Speaking and Writing, Reading, Listening, and Enabling Skills (Grammar, Oral Fluency, Pronunciation, Spelling, Vocabulary, and Written Discourse). Notably, PTE stands out as an entirely machine-scored test, utilizing advanced artificial intelligence technology for evaluation.
  • TOEFL: TOEFL is a comprehensive standardized test evaluating English proficiency in Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The Speaking section involves recorded responses, which are subsequently assessed by human graders.
  • IELTS: IELTS assesses proficiency in Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Notably, the Speaking section is conducted in person, involving a face-to-face interaction with a certified examiner.
Test Availability: PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS
  • PTE: Available 365 days a year, PTE exam  provides unparalleled flexibility, allowing candidates to schedule their exams at their convenience.
  • TOEFL: Conducted over 60 times annually, TOEFL exam offers frequent test dates, making it widely accessible to test-takers around the globe.
  • IELTS: In contrast, IELTS exam has limited test availability, requiring candidates to plan strategically and secure a slot well in advance.
Test Registration: PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS
  • PTE: Permits registration up to 24 hours in advance, allowing test-takers flexibility, even for those with last-minute decisions.
  • TOEFL: Offers a registration window up to 4 days before the test date, providing candidates with ample time to secure their spots.
  • IELTS: Requires a slightly longer lead time for registration, allowing candidates to register up to 15 days before the scheduled test.
Test Duration: PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS
  • PTE & TOEFL: With recent adjustments, both PTE and TOEFL now feature shorter test durations, taking approximately 2 hours to complete.
  • IELTS: Maintains a longer total test time of around 2 hours and 45 minutes, making time management a key consideration for test-takers.

Test Evaluation: PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS 
  • PTE: Utilizes automated scoring systems, ensuring objectivity and consistency in the evaluation process.
  • TOEFL & IELTS: Employ a combination of automated scoring for certain sections and human evaluators for the speaking component, offering a balanced assessment approach.

Speaking Evaluation: PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS
  • PTE: Relies entirely on automated scoring for the speaking section, maintaining consistency and objectivity.
  • TOEFL: Combines artificial intelligence with human evaluators to assess candidates' spoken English, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation.
  • IELTS: Incorporates human evaluators for the speaking component, emphasizing a personalized assessment of candidates' oral proficiency.

Types of Answers: PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS
  • PTE: Includes a combination of short answers and multiple-choice questions (MCQs), providing a diverse testing experience.
  • TOEFL: Primarily features multiple-choice questions (MCQs) as the main response format.
  • IELTS: Focuses on short answers, emphasizing precision and clarity in responses.

Score Reporting: PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS
  • PTE: Allows test-takers to download unlimited PTE score reports for free, providing flexibility in sharing results.
  • TOEFL: Permits sending free TOEFL score reports to four universities within 24 hours before the test. Additional reports incur a fee.
  • IELTS: Offers free IELTS score reports to five universities, with a fee for sending scores to more institutions.

Test Fees: PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS
  • PTE: Priced at INR 15,900, the test fee reflects its accessibility and affordability.
  • TOEFL: Priced at INR 16,252, the TOEFL test fee is competitive and aligns with its widespread acceptance.
  • IELTS: Priced at INR 16,249, the IELTS test fee reflects its position as a well-established English proficiency test.

Results: PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS 
  • PTE: Provides scores within 2 days, offering quick feedback to test-takers.
  • TOEFL: Delivers scores online within 7 days, allowing candidates to plan their next steps promptly.
  • IELTS: Typically releases results 13 days after the test date, maintaining a balance between efficiency and accuracy.
In conclusion, the selection between PTE, TOEFL, and IELTS should be a carefully considered decision based on a thorough understanding of personal preferences, target institutions, and individual strengths.

To help you out, many study abroad consultants like MapMyStudy offer such study abroad exams. Prospective international students are advised to delve into the specific requirements of their chosen universities, allowing them to align their goals and abilities with the most suitable exam.
Regardless of the choice made, adequate preparation guides and practice are integral to success in these study abroad exams, facilitating access to a world-class education.