The Difference between PTE, TOEFL, and IELTS

TOEFL English MBA GMAT proficiency test

In 2016, 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!

58 replies
  1. Makrammax
    Makrammax says:

    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.

  2. Silmara
    Silmara says:

    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

  3. Jerry
    Jerry says:

    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.

    • Naveen
      Naveen says:

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

  4. Annie
    Annie says:

    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
      Jeff says:

      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
        Nadeem says:

        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
      Payal says:

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


      Totally dismayed….frustration at its peak….

    • susan
      susan says:

      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.

  5. fuckthewest
    fuckthewest says:

    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.

  6. Emilie Rich
    Emilie Rich says:

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

    • Nadeem
      Nadeem says:

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

  7. Sam
    Sam says:

    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

  8. Syed Arifuddin
    Syed Arifuddin says:

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

    • grockitstaff
      grockitstaff says:

      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.

  9. swapnil
    swapnil says:

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

  10. Aftab Rizvi
    Aftab Rizvi says:

    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…

  11. Aryan
    Aryan says:

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

  12. Michael Rahul Angora
    Michael Rahul Angora says:

    I’m a P.T.E/ I.E.L.T.S/ T.O.E.F.L trainer here in Chandigarh, Punjab. I have to agree with all who say that P.T.E and I.E.L.T.S are fraud money making and shitty tests.

    I.E.L.T.S GT Module:- EVERY SINGLE ONE of my students in the General Training module has lost by 0.5 bands in their tests (with an average of 7.5-8 bands in other sections) at least twice. They clear them after like 3 – 4 attempts. I have taught 145 students so far.

    P.T.E- Students who have taken PTE for Australia immigration have literally been f***ked by ONE MARK (you read that right- L-90 R-90 S-80 W-78- with 79 being requirement in each). Every single student has been screwed this way. One student Akshay- applied for PR he scored between 65-80 in all modules and reading 63 and then second time 62 with minimum requirement of 65 in each.
    (No human intervention my foot! They screw the scores on purpose).

    For this reason, I’m quitting this S.E.L.T.S shit for good. I cant take the moral burden of shitting my students anymore because of these fucked up cunts who only want to make money!!

  13. Nirmal Kumar
    Nirmal Kumar says:

    hey guy, Can anyone suggest, I’m an equity analyst and trader and wants to work overseas, whether its Australia or UK or USA, will TOEFL or IELTS do any good for me.

  14. Abhi Kaur
    Abhi Kaur says:

    Hi..i want to go australia…inbetween my masters which test is best ielts or pte…please suggest …


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Here’s another great post to get to know the difference between the PTE, TOEFL, and IELTS. Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Research: Using smartphones for frugal driving Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>