By British Council IELTS expert

09 May 2024 11:42

Young man from Sri Lanka chats to fellow students at an overseas university, after taking IELTS with the British Council to get a study visa

Which English language test is easier for studying, immigrating, or working in Canada, Australia, or other countries: IELTS or PTE or TOEFL? Which exam gives you more options? Does your accent make a difference to your results? Here are 8 important differences you need to know between these English language proficiency exams in Sri Lanka;   

1. PTE or IELTS exam: which is easier? 

The PTE and IELTS tests cover the same four English language skills: speaking, writing, reading, and listening. The test formats are also alike, except PTE is slightly shorter because it combines two sections together.  

IELTS has a big advantage because it's the only international English proficiency test where you can retake just one section. With IELTS One Skill Retake, you get a second shot at getting your best score because you can retake just one specific skill. You do not have to retake the whole test. This is not available with PTE or TOEFL. If you're unhappy with your PTE or TOEFL score, you must retake all four sections of the test all over again.   

2. IELTS is accepted by over 12,000 organisations 

It's common for people to apply to study or work in multiple universities and countries. It’s just a smart way to keep your options open.  

If you are applying to multiple countries for a study or work visa you need to know one important fact: PTE is not recognised in as many places as IELTS.  

Only 3,500 organisations accept PTE results. Over 12,000 organizations worldwide trust IELTS’ evaluation of English language skills. This includes immigration departments, universities, and professional bodies like nursing associations and medical boards in the UK, the USA, Canada, and Australia.  

IELTS makes it easy to apply to several different universities or countries. Because IELTS is the only English proficiency exam that has been trusted for decades in all countries, including Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Germany, and Singapore. This reliability and convenience is why IELTS is still the world’s number one English test for migration. 

3. PTE v IELTS: which score is better for work or study visas? 

Many countries use a points-based immigration system, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Germany, and the United Kingdom. For example, if you have "Superior English" skills you get 20 points toward your Australian Permanent Resident (PR) Visa. "Superior English" means scoring 7 in reading and writing, and 8 in speaking and listening in the IELTS test.  

Previously, a PTE score of 79 was equivalent to an IELTS score of 8. However,  you now need 84 points.  

So if you have a PTE score of 79 for speaking, what does this mean for your future visas or work permits? No one is sure. The recent change has created uncertainty about if, where, or when it will be enforced. This can make it very stressful for you to plan your life.  

In contrast, IELTS band scores are so respected they have remained consistent and reliable for over 30 years. With IELTS, you can be confident score standards will remain stable.  

4. IELTS vs PTE: which test gives you free preparation materials?   

The British Council gives you more free IELTS preparation material than any other test provider. It’s easy to find on the online IELTS preparation platform called IELTS Ready. It has 2 levels: 

IELTS Ready Member: This is free before you book your exam date. It includes preparation videos, mock IELTS computer tests for practice, model answers for Writing and Speaking tests, and more.  

IELTS Ready Premium: This is free after you book your IELTS exam date with the British Council – and you can book as far ahead as you like. It includes 40 practice IELTS tests, feedback on how to do well in the Listening and Reading tests, and personalized feedback on your Speaking and Reading skills.  

IELTS Ready Premium section is designed to help you improve quickly. In fact, 94% of people who use this IELTS preparation material from the British Council say they would recommend it to friends. And 94% of the users say it helped them prepare to get the score they need.  

5. IELTS offers multiple test formats – unlike PTE  

With the PTE test, you'll be recorded speaking into a microphone, and your score will be generated by artificial intelligence (AI). The PTE and TOEFL Speaking and Listening tests are conducted in a room with other test-takers. In chatrooms online many people say they found this constant noise very distracting.  

In contrast, IELTS offers more flexibility. For the IELTS Writing and Reading tests, you can choose to do them on paper, on a computer, or online, whichever makes you feel more comfortable. This helps you relax and get your best score. 

For the IELTS Speaking test, you speak face-to-face with an examiner in the same room or via a live video call. This option allows you to concentrate more easily because the examiners are friendly and you are in a smaller, quieter room. It’s all designed to help you feel more comfortable during your IELTS Speaking test. 

6. Is the PTE computer scoring system fairer than IELTS? 

PTE uses a computer-automated AI scoring system. There is no human involvement in the marking process. IELTS uses trained humans to score your test - for example if you do your IELTS test online in Sri Lanka you will be Speaking with a human on a video call. Some people wonder if the PTE way of marking by computer is “fairer” – especially if you have an accent.   

The truth is that your accent in the IELTS Speaking test is not a problem. IELTS examiners with the British Council are trained to understand a variety of accents.   

Also, an automated marking system is not necessarily fairer. A computer may not be able to capture the nuances of your speech or understand you as well as another person. This can affect your scores in the Reading and Speaking parts of the test.  

IELTS also allows you to skip questions and come back to them later so you do not waste time. With PTE, you must answer a question before you can move on to the next one. Plus, computer marking gives you no flexibility with your answers – there is always only 1 possible correct answer to each question. 

And remember IELTS One Skill Retake: this lets you retake just 1 section of the test to increase your score. IELTS is the only English language test in the world to offer this second chance. With PTE Core or TOEFL, if you want to improve the score for one part of your test, you must retake all four parts of the test all over again.  

7. PTE Vs IELTS Vs TOEFL: which test results are faster? 

  • PTE results are available in approximately 2 days.  
  • TOEFL exam lets you view your scores online approximately 6 days after your test date.   
  • IELTS exam on computer or IELTS Online in Sri Lanka, you can view your results in 3-5 days.  
  • IELTS exam on paper results takes 13 days, but you get up to 5 free hard copy Test Result Forms for your records.  

PTE, IELTS and TOEFL will all send your digital results to specified immigration departments if you let them know ahead of time.  

8. PTE vs IELTS vs TOEFL: test security compared 

For the TOEFL and PTE tests, you can only use your passport as identification., With PTE you also undergo mandatory biometric hand scans before the test. 

The IELTS exam allows you to use your national ID card or passport for identification. They take a photo of you instead of taking a biometric hand scan. 

IELTS exams by the British Council are also conducted at official test centers, with modern facilities and privacy to help you do your best.    

Find out more about how to book your IELTS test with the British Council:

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