The Difference between PTE, TOEFL, and IELTS

TOEFL English MBA GMAT proficiency test

In 2015, there are three major English language proficiency exams that MBA and other programs use to test an applicant’s ability to speak in English. In the past, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) were the most common.

In 2009, Pearson–one of the most prominent educational companies and publishing houses in the US–launched its own Proficiency Exam: the Pearson Test of English, Academic (PTE Academic).

Although each exam claims to be a test of “English” in the most universal sense of that word, this is not exactly true. The IELTS relies on more British and Australian English, while TOEFL and PTE Academic draw from a more distinctly American idiom.

[Related: Learn more about what’s tested on the TOEFL.]

These three tests claim to deliver equatable results (see chart below); yet, not every MBA program, for example, accepts all three exams. In general, the IELTS is more accepted in Europe and Australia while the TOEFL is much more commonly accepted by MBA programs in the US. The PTE Academic, though the newest of the three, is making good headway into being accepted by MBA programs all over the world.

Because not every MBA program accepts all three tests, be sure you take the necessary exam for each program you apply to. This might mean you have to take two of these tests: The IELTS for one program and the TOEFL for another. Since the PTE Academic is the newest of the exams, most schools that accept it also accept one of the other two exams.

Ready to see how you’d score on the TOEFL? Take a free practice test!



If you are lucky enough to apply to a program that accepts more than one of these exams, you might want to think about which exam suits your testing style best. For example, the Speaking section of each test is very different. And since this language skill is often the most difficult for test-takers to master, you might want to consider which test’s Speaking section is best suited to your strengths.

On the IELTS, you speak face-to-face with the Rater, which for some test-takers is more comforting, while for others is more anxious-making. On both the TOEFL and the PTE Academic you speak into a microphone and the computer captures the audio. Again, this might be more relaxing for some people or more unsettling. (NOTE: your TOEFL speaking is evaluated by a human Rater, while your PTE speaking is evaluated by a computer program.)

In sum, familiarize yourself with all the options you have for each MBA program. Don’t just assume that a program will take a certain test, and don’t just assume that even though the tests say they all deliver equatable scoring, that you’ll score the same on each test. Find the exam that suits your testing personality best!

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  • Nikhil456

    in my opnion PTE is more advanced, one doesn’t have to be dependent on the Human Rater.

  • Makrammax

    The bad thing about the ielts which i experienced 7 times is the unstabilty of the levels of the different sections ,one time having 6 in writing anothe time 7,and when improving in one section on the bases that the other sections are determined you find dropping in anothe previously high section,,,,,,,,, it is an unbalanced test,so i think in trying pte.

  • Deepti Kumaria

    i think ielts should be replaced by pte

  • Silmara

    failed on pte twice, then got 7.5 in ielts. I think pte is good to who does not have accent and prefers to talk to a computer

  • Gaurav

    PTE Academic is much more convenient in test structure. Much better than IELTS

  • Maria Smith

    Nice post about TOEFL Speaking it is very helpful for students

  • Cathryn David

    Good post about TOEFL it is very useful for students

    TOEFL Exam overview

  • dhamu

    Can any 1 tell me, how pte is when coming to scoring… it too tough…

  • Jerry

    I’ve done both IELTS (twice) and PTE within 5 years, PTE being the latter. I got 8 in IELTS and 71 in PTE and think that PTE is very different and does not reflect the tasks or communication normally found within a university classroom/project team environment, at least not when I studied my MBA, 9 years ago.

    I’m not an education or English language specialist but think that there is place for improvement with the PTE. One thing is that it actually asked a trivia question, which I think was scored, about one of the Pearson companies! why do I need to know what Pearson owns or is legally part of? and how does that relate to English language proficiency?!

    In my opinion they put too much emphasis on spelling. In this day and age when the last time I used an actual pen was more than six months ago and where every app on your laptop, facebook, twitter, youtube, smartphone, word, chrome, or Microsoft is available with a spell checker. Also the questions are not presented in the correct way, sometimes the audio of a listening question starts playing without allowing enough time to read the question which leads to missing the answer and also I had the feeling that some were trick questions meant to separate the excellent (native speakers usually) from the less experienced.

    All in all, I think PTE is a very good exam, especially for using the enabling skills but gets it slightly wrong in terms of scoring. This might be improved with introducing a human touch to asking and scoring questions, similar to IELTS.

  • aso

    Who’s one is easy ielts or pte

    • allsi


    • Steve

      “Which one”, not “Who’s one”. You need to step up your english.

    • Harry Dhillon

      No doubt, go for IELTS. Much better than the other exams.

  • harpreet kaur

    which one easy ielts or pte

    • Shad

      I think Pte is easy if u r good in computer…

  • salman

    how many countries will accept this PTE exam

  • Navya

    So what is the format of PTE test actually i had completed btech in computer

    • Naveen

      The Major differenece b/n PTE and others is No human intervention in PTE..Automated system will judge your writing,speaking and reading

  • Annie

    PTE automated testing is not reliable. My tests scores read (Overall 86, Listening 90, Writing 90, Reading 89 and Speaking 64). this difference in scores cannot exist for a human being and since I am the concerned person, I ‘know’ my speaking is not 64. It is obviously a software glitch and since there is no human intervention at all, who is providing the check whether the test results are accurate or not.
    PTE is riding on the factor that its is fastest, in appt scheduling and gives scores fast( within 24 hrs in my case) but speed does not guarantee accuracy.

    • Jeff

      I totally agree with this. I have taken IELTS and PTE, and while I got a 9.0 in IELTS speaking, I only was given 48 which equals a 5.5. Such huge difference is not humanly possible, it is only the rubbish speaking software which is making candidates suffer and waste their money.

      • Nadeem

        In pte the marks are based on fluency,pronunciation as well as how you speak.for instance,if you speak low the microphone won’t be able to record your voice

    • Payal

      Same experience.. ( PTE-A )
      Writing – 90
      Listening – 90
      Reading – 80
      Speaking – 58


      Totally dismayed….frustration at its peak….

      • Mujahid

        Hi did you reappear in exam again, and suggest preparation mechanism

    • susan

      You should be lucky you scored 86 and not complained.I wrote PTE yesterday too and my result cam eout in less than 24 hours and i scored 54.I am happy because that test is very very tough.

  • fuckthewest

    just do not give these unfair test . white people are still rulling the world by doing so… just find other ways to stay in native country and make it better… there are more scope in our country. stay with the family and live happily. trust me these white moron are still cruel.

  • Emilie Rich

    Hello there! I need your help! Tell me please, PTE and IELTS have the same structure of the essay, haven’t they?

    • Nadeem

      Essays are same.The difference is in ielts you have two essays which are hand written,whereas in pte its one essay on keyboard

  • Sam

    I would say stay away from TOEFL if you have other options. PTE is a good substitute. The problem with ETS, the administrators for TOEFL is that they are too strict in their assessment of what THEY perceive to be a fair score. Consequently, I know of many students who have had their scores cancelled because ETS suspects a malpractice even if there was nothing going on. They have the right to cancel scores without refund or retest. Bottom line: Stay away from TOEFL if you have a choice of other tests

  • Syed Arifuddin

    Hi…. i am not good at English , so which exam will be easier for me either … IELTS or PTE …?

    • grockitstaff

      It depends on what type of testing you’re most comfortable with in terms of your speaking abilities. This is where the way in which you are tested differs greatly. On the TOEFL and the PTE, you speak into a microphone and your speech is then rated by a person listening to the recording (on TOEFL) or by a computer (PTE). If you’re more comfortable being tested by a person face-to-face, you might be more comfortable taking the IELTS.

      Most importantly, however, you need to make sure that the test you take is accepted by the program to which you’re applying. IELTS is more likely to be accepted at European and Australian universities, while TOEFL is much more common to institutions in the USA. PTE is widely accepted in many regions, and is the newest of the three exams.

  • Karandeep Walia

    I am applying for Canadian PR so which test will be better for me? IELTS or PTE?

    • Nadeem


  • John

    Karandeep. IELTS is the exam needed for CANADA PR and not PTE

  • Anil Bomma

    Guys I’m applying for only US which one is better?

    thnxs in advance

  • swapnil

    Has anyone appeared for ielts first and then attended pearson? how was the experience? if possible please share both results. Thank you. :)

  • Kavita sharma

    Hi! I want to appear for the test which will be more comfortable because my English is not very good

  • Harman Kaur Panesar

    hii i wish to go Australia for master degree which is best way ielts or pte

    • Lavish Bansal

      Ielts is the best.

  • Rachpal Singh Dhiman

    hii i wish to go Australia base of Technician
    which is best way ielts or pte

    • annie

      Both are acceptable

  • Jit Sankar Bhattacharya

    How many countries will accept this PTE exam

  • jaspret singh

    How many countries will accept this PTE exam

  • jaspret singh

    hi my wife study gnm nursing..
    after his study we wanna go for abroad. which study is better ielats or pte?

    • Abbasi

      You are using “his” for your wife :D
      For you no test has been invented on this earth yet lol.

  • Aftab Rizvi

    wanna go to new york university and being an Indian, I’m confused among IELTS or TOEFL i.e., TOEFL draws on american idioms and we have british english…

  • Aryan

    IELTS is a money making machine with no values or integrity. Try PTE it provides an honest evaluation of your English language skills

  • Teju Tejaswini

    I got 58 in pte i am trying to get above 65 is it mandate to take coaching?