English Tests – TOEFL, IELTS, PTE & TOEIC: The Differences

Ever wonder the difference between the these prominent English tests for university admittance?  The TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC & the new PTE are the most common English tests administered at this time and prospective test-takers might wonder the differences between them.  Here’s a quick 101 on the differences between each.

  • TOEFL: Otherwise known as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, this exam is currently the most common for non-native English speakers.  The TOEFL is often a requirement at most colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada and other English-speaking countries.  In addition, government agencies, licensing bodies, businesses or scholarship programs might also require the TOEFL.  At this present time, an individual’s TOEFL score is valid for two years and then subject for re-evaluation after the two-year period.

The TOEFL itself was first administered in 1964 and has been taken by more than 23 million students since then.  There are two most common forms of the test, the Internet-based Test (iBT) and paper-based (PBT).  The iBT test is comprised of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking & Writing.  The PBT is made up of four sections, as well: Listening, Structure & Written Expression, Reading Comprehension & Writing.  The iBT has a total of 120 points, whereas the PBT ranges between 310-667 points.

  • IELTS: Otherwise known as the International English Language Testing System, the IELTS is administered by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council & IDP Education.  There are two primary versions of the IELTS: the academic version & the general training version.  Basically, the academic version is meant for students who want to enroll in universities and other higher education institutions, as well as for medical professions, such as doctors or nurses who need to work or study in an English-speaking country.  The general training version is meant for those looking to gain work experience or for purely immigration purposes.

Similar to the TOEFL, an IELTS score is valid for two years.  While both the academic version and the general version differ in terms of content, their structure is the same, dividing the test into three parts: Listening (40 minutes), Reading (60 minutes) and Writing (60 minutes).  A brand is given along with a score, ranging form the high score of an “Expert User” to the lowest score of the “Non User.”  The top three countries the test is administered in are China, India and Pakistan.

  • The New Pearson Test of English (PTE) was launched in October 2009. Its main differences from the TOEFL include:
  1. automated speech and writing scoring providing consistent and accurate grading
  2. score reports offering recorded speech samples to admissions offices at universities worldwide
  3. challenging question types including filling blanks, matching items, selecting multiple answer choices in the same question
  4. results will be available online in just five days
  5. the fee will range from $150-$220, depending on each country

Similar to the TOEFL test, the Pearson Test of English (PTE) will test in all four sections: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

  • TOEIC: The TOEIC is an acronym for the Test of English for International Communication.  As quoted from the TOEIC website: “The TOEIC is an English language test designed specifically to measure the everyday English skills of people working in an international environment.”  The point system ranges from 10 to 990 points and the test itself is two hours in length, multiple choice, testing listening comprehension and reading comprehension.

The TOEIC gives certificates to those who take the test, with different colors differentiating the range of advanced skills.  In 2006 a new TOEIC was released with longer reading passages and also British, Australian and New Zealand English-speakers, whereas the previous test only featured American speakers.

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Posted on January 21, 2010 by Manhattan Review

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