IELTS vs PTE: Which English Language Test Should You Take?


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The two most popular English proficiency exams for international students are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE). Both tests are designed to measure the English language proficiency of non-native speakers. However, there are some differences between these tests in terms of the format of the test and the evaluation methods.

To make sure that you choose the right test for yourself, here are some tips to help you decide which one is better suited for you.

What do I need to know about each test before taking it?

Both these English Language Proficiency Tests are designed to measure the English language skills of candidates from different countries.

However, there are some important differences between them. For example, the PTE Academic test is designed to measure the academic English language skills of candidates. IELTS has both general and academic versions, and can accordingly measure the general English language skills of candidates as well as academic skills.

PTE is a completely computer-based test. You do the entire test on a computer in one sitting and the evaluation is also done by a complex algorithm. IELTS can be done on a computer or on paper and the evaluation is done by human assessors. 

Who runs these tests?

Founded in London, Pearson PLC is a multinational corporation that is a leader in publishing and education. It runs the PTE Academic test.

The IELTS test is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge University.  

How long do IELTS and PTE take to complete?

Each test takes around 3 hours to complete. In PTE, the time taken depends upon how many questions you get in your test. In IELTS, the number of questions each candidate gets is almost fixed. So, the total amount of time taken is around 3 hours.

How long is each English test valid for?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and The Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE) are accepted for 2 years from the date of the test. If you need to prove your English skills after that period, you will need to retake the exam.

If you are doing these tests for immigration purposes in Australia, the tests are valid for 3 years instead.

How much does each language test cost?

The price of both of these English exams depends on the place where you take the test. Generally speaking, the cost of both tests are similar in most places. If you need specific information, you should check the local information.

Do these exams test British or American English?

These tests are designed to test your English proficiency. You are allowed to use any standard variety of English. It is recommended to use only one type of English while answering one question.

Where are the English language tests accepted?

Both of these tests are popular and recognised by thousands of institutions worldwide. You can do any of these tests, you are planning to apply for an Australian Student Visa.

IELTS is accepted by over 10,000 institutions in over 140 countries. IELTS is especially popular in the UK, Australia, Ireland, and South Africa. 

PTE Academic is also accepted by many educational institutes and governments. It is especially popular in Australia where both the Australian Universities as well as Australian government accept it as one of the English Proficiency Tests as proof of your English Proficiency Level.

How does your PTE score compare to the IELTS score?

Pearson uses an automated scoring system with a granular score scale from 10-90 where 10 is the lowest score and 90 is the maximum score.

IELTS, on the other hand, uses a 9-Band scale.

Following the completion of the test, the IELTS Test Report Form is posted 13 days later. It takes about five business days for PTE Academic scores to be available online.

You can check this link to compare the scores between these tests.

How long does it take to get the result?

IELTS results are available 13 days after taking the test, whereas PTE results are typically published within 5 business days. In some cases, students have received PTE results on the same day too.

How is the performance evaluated in these tests?

PTE Academic assessment is done through automated software Pearson developed, including evaluation of your speaking. It means that no one is listening to your speech or analyzing your writing. An automated algorithm evaluates everything. Your performance is compared against an English Speaker for the evaluation.

With IELTS, on the other hand, your performance is assessed against standard scoring criteria by human raters. IELTS’s speaking section is done separately and scored separately. In the speaking section, you need to interact and have conversations with them as part of the assessment.

Another important difference between these two tests is that PTE uses an integrated scoring system. As an example, in IELTS, when your writing skill is evaluated, you only get a score for writing. However, in PTE they also evaluate your reading and writing skills when they evaluate summarise written text, and use a similar approach in many other types of questions.

What is the format of the test?

In terms of structure, content and timing of the test, there are no major differences between PTE and IELTS. However, the types of questions and the difficulty level are certainly different.

The entire PTE test is conducted in one sitting. PTE has 4 sections: speaking, writing, reading and listening. There are 20 different types of questions in total. Candidates have to answer all questions and the duration of the test depends on the number of questions asked.

In IELTS, the Listening, Reading and Writing tests are done in one sitting. The Speaking test may be on the same day or up to seven days before or after the other tests. In the Reading and Listening section, you may not be asked all the possible types of questions.

OK, which one is easier then?

No matter what I think, at the end of the day, it is what you feel, but I personally find PTE Academic an easier test than IELTS Academic.

On the other hand, there are people who find the reading section of the PTE Academic to be slightly difficult than IELTS, and I agree.

Regardless, overall, I consider PTE an easier test (and also less accurate in assessing language proficiency, but that’s not the point).

Now, let me tell you why I consider PTE a better test compared to IELTS.


You get PTE results more quickly than IELTS results

Typically, you’ll receive your IELTS results within five to seven days if you are doing computer-based IELTS. If you are taking a paper-based test, you will receive your results 13 days after taking the test.

In the case of PTE tests, you should receive results within 1-5 days of taking the test.

It is easier to get scores in Speaking and Writing in PTE

You may find it a little hard to believe that a lot of questions in the speaking and writing sections of PTE can be answered by using pre-made templates. The only thing you have to do is pick up a few keywords from the question, include them in your templates, and then you’ll be able to get a perfect writing score or speaking score.  But anything like this is not even remotely possible in IELTS.

In IELTS, your entire performance is assessed by real humans. This means you will not be able to trick the system by using the same template repeatedly. Unless your answer is relevant to the question asked and is up to the standard required, you cannot expect to get a good score in IELTS. 

The passages are shorter in the Reading section in PTE

One thing that I specifically did not like about IELTS is that the reading passages are quite long. In comparison, the passages in PTE are shorter. Because of this, it is easier for you to read and understand the passage.

If you do not understand something, you can read the passage multiple times. On the other hand, in IELTS (Academic), if you do not understand something, then it takes a long time to read the entire passage and make sense out of it.

The recordings are shorter in Listening section in PTE

Similar to the reading section, the recordings in the listening sections are also shorter in PTE.

In IELTS, recordings are comparatively longer. Because of this, many students cannot maintain their concentration and cannot answer the questions asked. 

On the other hand, PTE recordings are not longer than 90 seconds in any question. Due to this, if your attention span is short and your listening skill is not that great, you may find it easier to do listening in the PTE as compared to the IELTS. 

You can do mock tests in PTE

Pearson offers mock tests to students who are planning to appear in the PTE test. These tests help you prepare yourself before appearing in the real exam.

According to Pearson, the technology used in the assessment of these mock tests is similar to the technology used in the actual test. This means even before your actual test, you can find out how good your English level is so that if you’re not ready for the exam you can prepare further and then appear in the actual test.

The Mock tests are comparatively cheaper than the actual test. So, you will be spending less to find out whether you are ready for the exam or not. Not just that, you can also find out where you need to focus to get your desired score.

If you find the Pearson’s mock test more expensive or if you want to get feedback on your mock test performance, then there are other third-party mock test solutions as well.

Roman PTE also offers mock tests to students. After completing our mock tests, you can discuss your performance and exam preparation with one of our tutors and get personalised help.

IELTS, on the other hand, doesn’t have any such official mock test.

In PTE, exam questions are often repeated

This is the most important reason why many students find PTE easier.

In addition to the questions where students can use templates, there are types of questions where you might get repeated questions from the previous test. Some of these questions, such as Write from Dictation, Fill in the Blanks or Repeat Sentence are also highly rewarding.

Because of this, if you prepare all the past exam questions, your chances of getting a good score becomes quite high. 

You can get a ton of free preparation and practice materials for PTE Academic Exam

As I said above, many questions from the past exam may repeat in your test. Many of these questions you can find on the Internet for free. And there are also many websites that offer practice materials as well as study materials.

You can practice these questions in an exam like environment and also attend live classes.

Roman PTE also offers study materials, practice questions, mock tests, and live classes. It is quite hard to find comprehensive solutions like these in the case of IELTS. 


We hope that after going through this article, you would know what makes PTE different from IELTS. However, we know that some of you may still have some doubts. If that’s the case, feel free to ask us anything about PTE via the comments below!

We wish you the best of luck!

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