The Difference between PTE, TOEFL, and IELTS

TOEFL English MBA GMAT proficiency test

For quite a while now, there have been two major English language proficiency exams that MBA programs use to test an applicant’s ability to speak in English: the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

But recently, Pearson–one of the most prominent educational companies and publishing houses in the US–has 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.

These three tests claim to deliver equatable results (see chart below); yet, not every MBA program 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.  Moreover, its partners (of which, in the interest of full disclosure, Strictly English is one) are gaining a sizable footprint in the Asian test-prep market.

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


  • 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

  • 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.