Language Exam Cave

TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE: Which English Test Should I Take?

Studying abroad in another language is difficult and taking a proficiency test to begin the process is no easy task. If you intend to study at an English-speaking university, nine times out of ten, you will be required to take an English exam and present your score to your university of choice.

However, there are several exams out there as well as different requirements from different schools and countries. It might be hard to decide which exam to take and if the places you are applying to recognize the exam and its results.

You will most likely take one of the following exams: TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. How do you know which is the right choice for you? Read this article to find out which one will be the right choice.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

TOEFL is a common exam to take, mainly because over 130 countries recognize the exam, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Therefore, the TOEFL exam results are accepted by many more universities than some other exams might be.

TOEFL exams are also frequently held (50 times per year!) and are accessible through the internet for your test location and date. You may take the exam online at your designated location. For those who have difficulty accessing the internet, a PBT version is done with pen and paper.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

IELTS differs from TOEFL in that it does not solely take the university-only approach. Many people require the IELTS exam for immigration purposes. For that reason, IELTS is available as the IELTS General Training exam and IELTS Academic.

IELTS General Training is an option for you if you plan to apply for immigration in countries including (but not limited to), the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Meanwhile, if you are aiming to attend university or an exam for a professional reason, you would take the IELTS Academic exam.

PTE (Pearson Test of English)

The Pearson Test of English is similar to IELTS in that it has General and Academic versions, the former of which is also used for immigration to Australia. PTE exam scores are also accepted in universities in Australia as well as parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom.

Differences in Test Format

A difference to consider between all of these exams is their format. Which one will you feel most confident taking? Which exam will you reach your highest score on? Read below to find the differences in each test section.


Both TOEFL and IELTS have different ways to answer after the reading and listening sections. TOEFL has multiple choice answers to each of these questions, while IELTS has you write your answers in different sections. PTE, meanwhile, has various answering formats, from multiple choice to fill in the blanks.


The listening sections on the exams are not all that different; however, there are varying settings or contexts. For example, the TOEFL listening section tends to offer samples of student and teacher dialogues, whereas IELTS is more conversational or may even have only one person speaking.


The IELTS exam offers more academic samples here and includes news articles or more “real world” content. TOEFL, as with its listening section, is purely academic. The difference here is that TOEFL texts tend to be longer with differing vocabulary.

PTE has you read a passage and fill in blanks or even rearrange its paragraphs to ensure your understanding. This theme with answering happens to crossover all parts of the exam.

Speaking: Oral Interview or Recording Your Speech

Speaking can be the most intimidating section of any language test. PTE and TOEFL are similar because each part of the speaking exam happens when the computer prompts you to speak. You then talk into the microphone. The computer records your speech, but it gets evaluated differently.

For the TOEFL exam, people will review your speech, while PTE is fully evaluated by the computer. IELTS, on the other hand, requires an interview with the person administering the exam. It is also done on a day separate from the written exam, while with TOEFL and PTE, you would complete the whole exam in one day.

So Which Exam Should I Choose?

The decision of which exam to take is personal. It depends on not only your ability but also your goals and strengths. Choose the exam that matches your goals and makes you feel the most comfortable.

Hopefully, this article helped you to choose the best exam to build your future.