Differences Between PTE, IELTS, TOEFL: Which Is Easier?


Differences Between PTE, IELTS, TOEFL

Proof of language proficiency is the key to unlocking the door to studying, working, or immigrating to English-speaking countries.

While IELTS and TOEFL are undoubtedly the big players in the English proficiency test field, PTE is a newbie gradually gaining worldwide recognition. At first glance, these three exams seem identical, yet they differ in various ways.

That’s why many students are struggling with “What is the difference between PTE, IELTS, and TOEFL?  or “Which exam should I take?”

In this post. the PTE Australia team from PTE Magic will provide you with an in-depth comparison of PTE, IELTS, and TOEFL in all aspects. Thereby you can decide which test is best suited to your skills and goals. 

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Don’t miss:

What is PTE and what are its pros and cons?

PTE or Pearson Test of English, introduced in 2009 by the Pearson PLC group, is a computer-based English test assessing an individual’s English listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.

The test has quickly gained popularity since its launch. Currently, PTE is accepted by many governments for visa applications. The number of institutes worldwide accepting PTE results for higher education is continuously rising.

Here are the pros and cons of the PTE exam:

Pros:

  • PTE is a computer-based test offering objective, fair, and consistent assessment, and results.
  • The PTE registration process is entirely online and fast.
  • PTE provides flexible exam dates and times for maximum convenience.
  • PTE is conducted and finished on the same day.
  • PTE results are available within 5 business days, quicker than other exams.
  • Computer scores on the PTE test, reducing human error and bias.
  • PTE scorecard shows the Skills Profile section, including eight language skill categories with test takers’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • You can share PTE scores with as many institutes as possible for free.

Cons:

  •  PTE test centers may be unavailable in some regions.
  • Some may find the computerized test version less intuitive and eye-pleasant than traditional paper tests.
  • The heavy accent in the PTE Listening section may be challenging for most test takers.
  • There is a possibility that the computer makes an error in assessing the PTE Speaking section since the speaker’s voice may not have been recorded correctly.
  • PTE scores are ineligible for immigration visas in Canada and several major countries.

What is IELTS and what are its pros and cons?

Differences Between PTE, IELTS, TOEFL

IELTS (International English Language Proficiency Testing System), launched in 1980, is one of the major English proficiency tests in the world.

It is now the top choice among students and professionals.

IELTS is co-administered by the British Council, the International Development Program (IDP): IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English.

Pros:

  • Over 11,000 institutions and immigration organizations worldwide accept and recognize IELTS scores.
  • IELTS offers both test versions: paper-based and computer-based.
  • IELTS provides two test formats, including Academic and General Training to meet the different test takers’ needs.
  • Many students prefer the face-to-face interview in the IELTS Speaking section as a practice for real-life situations.
  • IELTS gives detailed and well-defined test criteria.

Cons:

  • The IELTS exam cost may be high, especially if you need to retake the test multiple times.
  • The IELTS test takes place over two consecutive days. This may cause stress and reduce performance.
  • Some candidates may be unconfident and nervous in the face-to-face speaking test.
  • IELTS test centers may be inaccessible in several remote areas.
  • IELTS scores are available within 13 days, later than PTE and TOEFL.

What is TOEFL and what are its pros and cons?

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), released in 1964, is the oldest English proficiency test in the world. Along with IELTS, it is currently one of the most popular choices for English testing.

TOEFL is designed and delivered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

TOEFL is more widely accepted in the US and Canada as a common criterion for higher education purposes.

Pros:

  • There are over 4500 TOEFL test centers worldwide.
  • TOEFL is available as an internet-based test (iBT).
  • TOEFL delivers straightforward questions, making it easier to get higher scores.
  • The Speaking score is objective with many examiners comparing notes to provide accurate scores.

Cons:

  • TOEFL takes longer to complete. The exam can last up to 4 hours.
  • TOEFL may not be used for migration purposes in several Commonwealth nations as it doesn’t have a general training test.
  • The TOEFL test dates fill up quickly, and test takers will be charged a late fee after the registration deadline.

PTE vs IELTS vs TOEFL – The differences in exam structures

We have reviewed the PTE, IELTS, and TOEFL overviews. Let’s discuss how they differ in the test structure.

We will break down the differences into the following key factors.

Is British or American English being tested?

PTE, IELTS, and TOEFL assess the International English language, without being limited to British or American English.

You can either choose British or American English while taking PTE, IELTS, and TOEFL. Both languages are acceptable English variations.

However, you should be consistent in the pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar.

Time allocations

PTE
IELTS
TOEFL iBT
Total test time
2 hours and 15 minutes
2 hours and 45 minutes
3 hours (3.5 hours including check-in time)
Question range
52-64 questions
85 questions
64-85 questions
Question types
20 types
40 types
7 types

Each test gauges a candidate’s four main English language skills including speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Unlike the PTE and TOEFL, the IELTS Speaking test takes place in person between a test taker and an examiner. Besides, PTE combines Speaking and Writing into a single section.

The content of each section in these three tests differs significantly. Let’s discuss more in the following parts!

The Reading section

PTE
IELTS
TOEFL iBT
Test time
29-30 minutes
60 minutes
54–72 minutes
Number of questions
13-18 questions
40 questions
30–40 questions
Question types
5 types
11 types
10 types

PTE Reading

The PTE reading section consists of 4 to 5 passages with five different question types including:

  • Reading & Writing: Fill in the blanks
  • Multiple-choice, multiple answers
  • Re-order paragraphs
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Multiple-choice, single answer

Each text is 80-300 words long.

IELTS Reading

The IELTS reading paper consists of three passages with 40 questions. The text length ranges from 2,150 to 2,750 words.

There are 11 different tasks, such as multiple-choice, matching information, diagram label completion, and identifying information (true/false/not given).

TOEFL Reading

The TOEFL iBT Reading part assesses test takers’ ability to read and understand academic texts.

This section consists of 3 to 4 passages, each approximately 700 words long. 

The Speaking section

PTE
IELTS
TOEFL iBT
Test time
40-50 mins
11–14 minutes
17 minutes
Number of tasks
5 tasks
3 tasks
4 tasks
Exam format
On a computer
Face-to-face interview
On a computer

PTE Speaking

PTE Speaking will begin with a personal introduction. The next tasks include:

  • Read aloud
  • Repeat sentences
  • Retell lectures
  • Answer short questions

IELTS Speaking

The IELTS Speaking consists of three parts:

  • Part One is a personal introduction.
  • In Part Two, you will get a cue card with a topic to speak about.
  • Part Three is linked to the task in Part Two. You have to speak about the topic more detailedly and abstractly.

TOEFL Speaking

The TOEFL Speaking part includes 4 tasks. You need to show your opinion on a topic and submit responses based on reading and listening activities.

The Writing section

PTE
IELTS
TOEFL iBT
Test time
30-40 minutes
60 minutes
50 minutes
Number of tasks
2 tasks
2 tasks
2 tasks

PTE Writing

The PTE Writing section combines with the Speaking section. After completing all speaking tasks, you will have to summarize the written text of up to 300 words and write an essay of 200-300 words.

IELTS Writing

In Task One, you have to describe various types of visual information such as graphs or diagrams in a minimum of 150 words.

In Task Two, you have to write on a topic in more than 250 words.

TOEFL Writing

In Task One, you must complete an integrated task based on your reading and hearing within 20 minutes.

In Task Two, you write an essay on a topic to support your opinions within 30 minutes.

The Listening section

PTE
IELTS
TOEFL iBT
Test time
30–43 minutes
30 minutes (plus 10 minutes of transfer time)
41–57 minutes
Number of questions
18-25 questions
40 questions
28–39 questions
Question types
8 types
6 types
Over 8 types

PTE Listening

In the PTE Listening section, you will listen to audio or watch video clips to complete tasks including

  • Summarize written text
  • Fill in blanks
  • Multiple choice, multiple answers
  • Select missing words
  • Highlight incorrect words
  • Highlight correct summary
  • Multiple-choice, single answer
  • Write from dictation

The section uses different English accents like British, American, or other international accents.

IELTS Listening

You will listen to 4 different recordings in native-speaker accents including British, North American, Australian, and New Zealand, and complete the following tasks:

  • Multiple-choice
  • Matching
  • Plan/map/diagram labeling
  • Form/note/table/flow chart/summary completion
  • Sentence completion
  • Short-answer questions

TOEFL Listening

The TOEFL Listening includes daily-life conversations. You will listen to 2 to 3 3-minute conversations with accents from North America.

PTE vs IELTS vs TOEFL: The differences in scoring methods

The three exams use different scoring methods due to the different exam structures.

PTE Scoring

PTE scores range from 10 to 90.

PTE uses the Global English Scale to determine the overall score. The scale of each section is from 10 to 90 points.

Moreover, your performance is measured in various aspects such as speaking and writing fluency, pronunciation, spelling, and vocabulary.

The PTE scorecard provides scores for Communication Skills and a Skills Profile with a detailed performance assessment.

IELTS Scoring

IELTS band scores range from 0 to 9.

You will receive a band score for each English skill. Your IELTS overall band score is the average of four section scores.

IELTS scores are computed to the closest 0.5. For example, a score of 6.75 is rounded to 7.

TOEFL Scoring

TOEFL scores range from 0 to 120.

TOEFL tests are graded by a centralized scoring network.

TOEFL iBT marks each section with a scale score from 0 to 30. For the final score, you will get raw scores and scaled scores.

The raw score is the total number of questions answered correctly in each section. However, the report card only shows a scale score.

Here is a score comparison chart converting PTE scores to IELTS and TOEFL scores.

PTE Academic
IELTS
TOEFL iBT
N/A
9.0
118-120
89–90
8.5
115-117
84–88
8.0
110-114
76–83
7.5
102-109
66–75
7.0
94-101
56–65
6.5
79-93
46–55
6.0
60-78
36–45
5.5
46-59
29–35
5.0
35-45
23–28
4.5
32-34
10–22
0-4.0
0-31

Note that these three tests have no passing or failing scores set. Each institution sets its score standards for specific purposes.

What are the differences in fees?

This is one of the most common questions among students when choosing the international English proficiency test.

Each exam has different exam fees varying by country and region.

PTE
IELTS
TOEFL
Exam fees
USD$167 to $315

(including taxes)

USD$140 to $310

(Typical flat fee of $215)

USD$150 to $225

You can check the test fee by visiting the official website of each exam and entering your country name.

Where can you take the tests?

PTE
IELTS
TOEFL
Test centers
400+ test centers in 117 countries

(PTE Home online test version is available)

800+ test centers in more than 130 countries
3,000+ authorized TOEFL iBT test centers worldwide

(TOEFL iBT Home Edition is available)

TOEFL has the largest network of test centers worldwide, followed by IELTS.

However, if you cannot go to the test center, you can opt for PTE or TOEFL online test version at home, monitored online by a human proctor.

Where are the test results accepted? And how long are the results valid?

PTE
IELTS
TOEFL
Who accepts?
3,000+ institutions worldwide accept PTE scores.

It is also accepted by the Australian, UK, and New Zealand governments for visa purposes.

11,000+ institutions in over 140 countries accept IELTS scores for education, employment, and immigration purposes.
10,000+ institutions, organizations, and governments in over 150 countries accept TOEFL scores.
Score validity
2 years

(3 years for immigration purposes in Australia)

2 years
2 years

In general, IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE are all recognized globally by many institutions and organizations.

However, these three exams have different advantages in different countries depending on the specific purpose or requirements of the institutions.

For example, universities and colleges in the US prefer TOEFL. IELTS is more welcome in the UK, Australia, Canada, and Germany. Institutes in Australia and New Zealand widely use PTE.

Which test should you choose?

We’ve arrived at the most interesting part. However, we cannot give you the exact answer to this question.

It all depends on your preferences and purposes.

Remember to define your goal before making a decision.

You may wonder, “Which is easier PTE or IELTS” or struggle to compare TOEFL vs PTE. Understanding your current English proficiency level is a must to determine which test is the easiest and most convenient.

For example, TOEFL is the right choice if you are familiar with an academic environment and online interview.

Look no further than PTE if you need to prove your English level to your school within a few days.

Go for IELTS if you feel confident with a face-to-face interview.

Furthermore, you should consider the nearest test center and exam fees to best suit your financial situation.

Each test offers you various advantages to satisfy your needs and help you complete the test with flying colors.

Conclusion

Our post has comprehensively compared three world-renowned English proficiency exams: PTE, IELTS, and TOEFL.

These three exams are great English tests allowing people to pursue their dreams in English-speaking countries. Whatever test you choose, put your heart and effort into completing it successfully.

Do you choose the PTE exam? Contact us to get more helpful information about this exam.

Last updated on 22/08/2023

I am a firm believer that the best teachers educate with their hearts not just their minds.

Moni | PTE MAGIC International Founder

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