By British Council IELTS expert

09 May 2024 11:44

Smiling young man from Sri Lanka in a park in Canada, after taking IELTS with the British Council to get his work visa

Which English language test is faster and easier for studying, immigrating, or working in Canada: IELTS or PTE Core? What about TOEFL? Which exam gives you more options? Does your accent make a difference to your results? Here’s what you need to know about these English language proficiency exams in Sri Lanka.  

1. PTE Core or IELTS exam: which is best for Canada Immigration? 

PTE Core and IELTS English language tests cover the same four skills: speaking, writing, reading, and listening, so their difficulty is similar. The test formats are alike, but PTE Core combines two sections. IELTS takes 2.45 hours, PTE takes 2.15 hours.  

IELTS has a big advantage for Canada immigration: it's the only test where you can retake just one section to improve your score. This helps you because Canada immigration uses a points system – and better marks in your English test get you more points toward your visa application.  

IELTS is the only English language test that lets you retake one section of your test, so you can improve your overall score. With IELTS One Skill Retake , you do not have to retake the entire test to improve your score. With other English language tests, including TOEFL and PET Core, you must retake all four sections all over again if you want to get a better mark. This costs you more time, money and stress.   

2. IELTS is accepted by many immigration departments. PTE Core is only accepted in Canada  

It's common to apply to study or work in multiple universities and countries, not just Canada. It is a good way to keep your options open.   

If you are applying to multiple countries for a study or work visa you need to know 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. 

PTE Core is accepted by Canada’s Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC). But PTE Core is not accepted by Australia or New Zealand immigration. To apply to those countries, you must take a different PTE exam - PTE Academic. And TOEFL is not accepted by UK immigration for work or study in the UK.    

IELTS is the only English proficiency exam accepted in all countries, including Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, and Singapore. That’s why it’s the world’s number one English language proficiency test for migration. 

3. You can trust IELTS scores if you want to live or work abroad 

Many countries use a points-based immigration system, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Germany.  

To apply for Canadian Permanent Resident visa (PR visa) you need a minimum of 67 points out of 100. The highest amount of these points (28 points) come from your language ability. You need to score at least Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 to be eligible for the Canadian Federal Skilled Worker Programme. This translates to an IELTS score of at least 6.0 in each of the four sections of the language test.  

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

Will the scores change again in the future? And what if you have a PTE Core score of 79 for Speaking, will it affect visas or work permits?  This uncertainty can be stressful. 

In contrast, IELTS band scores have remained consistent and reliable for over 30 years. With IELTS, you can be confident your score standards will remain stable and respected by Canadian immigration.  

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

The British Council gives you more free online preparation material than any other test provider. And these preparation materials work so well that 93 % of people recommend them to friends.   

The British Council offers an online IELTS preparation platform called IELTS Ready , which has 2 levels: 

IELTS Ready Member: This level 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. You can book as far ahead as you like. You get 40 practice IELTS tests, feedback on Listening and Reading tests, model answers for Writing and Speaking tests, and personalized feedback on Speaking and Reading skills from real teachers, plus exam skills.  

IELTS Ready Premium is like a VIP section designed to help you improve quickly. It's worth it!  

5. IELTS offers multiple test formats, so you can choose what you prefer  

With the Speaking part of the PTE Core test, you will be recorded speaking into a microphone. The test is conducted in a room with other test-takers, all talking at the same time, entering, or leaving.  If you get distracted by noise or disturbances around you this can make the test harder for you, especially the Listening and Speaking sections. 

With IELTS you get to choose what format of test suits you best. You can do IELTS 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 don’t have to listen in a noisy and crowded room. You speak face-to-face with a friendly examiner in the same room or via a live video call. Again, the goal is to help you feel more comfortable during your Speaking test so you can focus and do your best.  

6. PTE Core is marked by AI. Is this better than human examiners? 

The PTE Core test is evaluated by a computer-automated scoring system. There is no human involvement in the marking process. In contrast, IELTS is marked by human examiners. Some people wonder if marking by computer is “fairer” – especially if you have an accent.  

The truth is an automated system is not necessarily fairer.  A computer may not be able to capture nuances of your speech and understand you as well as another person. This can affect your scores in the Reading and Speaking parts of the test. The human ELTS examiners with the British Council are trained to understand a variety of accents. They are also friendly and help you feel comfortable – for example, they ask questions are about real-life situations, which helps you feel confident when you answer.   

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

And remember, you can do IELTS One Skill Retake and improve your score for any one section of the test. You do not have to retake the whole exam. 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 Core Vs IELTS: which test results are faster? 

You get PTE Core results in 2 days. With IELTS on Computer or IELTS Online, you get your results in 3-5 days. If you do your IELTS exam on paper results take 13 days, but you get up to 5 free hard copy Test Result Forms for your records.  

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

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