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IELTS vs PTE

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International students taking an English sufficiency exam

If you want to study in Australia, apply to get a scholarship in an education institution or migrate to an English-speaking country you have to take an English sufficiency test which could be either the IELTS or the PTE. 

However, if you are wondering which one is easier to do, let us tell you there is no one test that is easier than the other, it comes down to the individual, their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the English language and their needs. Also, each test focuses on slightly different areas and are laid out in slightly different ways as well.

It also has to do with what you are required to do, there are some institutions that ask specifically to take the IELTS, the PTE or any other kind of English-sufficiency test. For this reason, you need to be aware of each institution instructions. 

On the other hand, if you are in the freedom of choosing one, let us make a quick comparison for you to make the best decision.

Modality

In the beginning, there used to be a very clear distinction between the IELTS and the PTE test. The IELTS was delivered in a face-to-face format and handwriting. PTE was computer-based. However, IELTS is now offering more computer-based options, it may not be available in all test centres but it is becoming a new option.

So, that distinction between the IELTS and the PTE that was really clear now is getting blurred. Still, the main difference in modality is in the speaking section wherein IELTS takes the form of an interview while in the PTE you simply speak to a computer.

Objectives

Even though both tests are useful for studying in an English-speaking country, work and migration, both have some distinctions like for example, the IELTS Academic test features academic English and tasks for test-takers applying for higher education, professional registration, working visas or migration in an English speaking country.

On the other hand, the PTE Academic uses academically relevant tasks to measure skills in an integrated way. It is a test of English for study abroad.

International student travelling to Australia

Format

IELTS, especially with the reading and writing elements, tends to have fewer questions but it looks for very long and detailed answers, which means more of an essay format. On the other hand, when it comes to PTE you will be getting a lot of short questions that will require short answers. 

For example, in IELTS you may get 4 questions in the reading and writing sections while in the PTE you may get 20 questions in the same amount of time. 

Navigation

In the computer-delivered IELTS, you are able to skip questions and then come back to complete the answers later, in this way you have more time to think about the questions you are doubtful about.

Contrary to the IELTS, in the PTE test, you can only navigate forward through questions so you have to correct mistakes before going to the next question. 

Tasks

Writing

For the IELTS test, you have 2 tasks. For the first one, you have to describe a graph, table, chart or other visual information in your own words. In the second one, you need to write an essay from a point of view, problem, or argument. 

In the PTE test, the writing and speaking part is one section and you will have to complete tasks like introducing yourself, reading aloud, describing an image, writing an essay among others. 

Reading

In the IELTS test, you will have to read 3 texts and answers 40 questions about them. On the other hand, in the PTE test, you will have to complete tasks like answers multiple choice questions, filling the blanks and re-order paragraphs. 

Listening

In the IELTS test, you will have to answer 28 to 39 questions after listening to 4 records of native speakers. 

For the PTE test, you will have to answer a series of questions after listening to or watching audios and videos.

Speaking

In the IELTS you will have three parts where you will talk to the examiner about yourself, your opinion on a topic and discuss more abstract ideas whereas, as stated before, for the PTE you will have to introduce yourself to a computer and read aloud.

Remember that to dominate the IELTS test as well as the PTE test, it is better to have each task really clear as well as the structure.

Student taking a IELTS and PTE mocking test

Length of the test

The time you have to take both tests are distributed as follow.

IELTS test

  • Writing: 60 minutes
  • Reading: 60 minutes
  • Listening: 30-36 minutes
  • Speaking: 11-14 minutes

The maximum total time you will take for this test is 170 minutes

PTE test

  • Writing and speaking: 77-93 minutes
  • Reading: 32-41 minutes
  • Listening: 45-57 minutes

The maximum total time you will take for this test is 191 minutes

Processing times

To receive your results, IELTS can take up to 10 working days while the results from the PTE test are ready in a couple of days. For this reason, if you are really short of time and you need these results for your visa or university application, then we recommend you to take the PTE.

Migration

The IELTS test is the most common one when it comes to migration. Either the Academic of General one are accepted by the Department of Immigration, but sometimes skills assessing authorities require applicants to take the academic version. 

Now, the PTE is also accepted for all skilled subclasses by most territory governments and skills assessment authorities. 

In terms of score, if you are applying for migration you will need at least 8 for each of the 4 test components in the IELTS test and at least 79 for each of the 4 test components for the PTE test.

Remember that the only way for an application to find which test is better for them is by practising. Both IELTS and PTE offers free online tests and you may get a first glimpse of how they look like and how they are structured.

IELTS vs PTE summary

ParameterIELTSPTE
Who runs the testBritish CouncilPearson PLC
Who accepts the test?Education institutions and governments worldwideEducation institutions and governments limited
Test formatPaper-basedComputer-based
Test structure4 sections of a total of 2h45 divided into Speaking, writing, reading and listening 3 sections of a total of 3 hours divided into Speaking and writing, reading and listening
Processing times10 business days5 business days
Validity2-3 years2-3 years
PriceAUD 330AUD 330
CancellationPartial refund presenting a medical certificationPartial refund with no questions asked
DifficultyWriting section is the hardest oneReading section is the hardest one
Australian MigrationAccepted by the Department of ImmigrationAccepted by the Department of Immigration
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