Before non-native English speaking students are accepted into University they are required to have taken an English test. These exams test the student’s ability to communicate well in English, at an academic level. There are three main tests that are accepted worldwide in places such as the UK, America and Australia. These are IELTS, TOEFL and Pearson’s PTE Academic.
IELTS is an acronym for ‘International English Language Testing System’. It is over 25 years old and is one of the first English Language tests to incorporate all four skills, these being: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Over 9 000 organisations worldwide accept this test as evidence of the ability to communicate English. Around 2.2 million tests were taken last year with 900 test centres in over 130 countries.
There are two versions to the test: academic and general training. The academic version is suited to people that want to go to university or into higher education. It is also ideal for professionals such as doctors etc. The general training version appeals to people who want to do non-academic training or to gain work experience. It can also help with immigration.
There is no minimum score required to pass this test; instead it is scored using bands. Band scores start from 0 – “did not attempt test” all the way to 9 – “Expert User”. The test duration is two hours and 55 minutes with it being organized into four sections, one for each skill.
TOEFL stands for ‘Test of English as a Foreign Language’ and examines your ability to communicate English at a university level, in order to complete academic tasks. Over 9 000 colleges in over 130 countries accept this test as one of the factors in their admissions process.
This is a four hour, internet based test, again broken into four sections testing each skill. Each task focuses on language that would be used in an academic environment.
The minimum TOEFL score to get in alters, depending on what University you are applying to. It is scored using points ranging from 0 to 120, with each section being scored out of 30.
Pearson’s PTE Academic
The PTE Academic test examines you on real life English skills needed for going to university or living abroad. Each of the four skills are tested but in a way that reflects real life settings, whilst also testing academic skills. This test is recognised by thousands of universities worldwide and can also be used for VISA purposes in the UK and Australia.
The test is taken on a computer and is a three hour session. It appears in twenty different formats, from multiple choice questions to essay writing. Also, throughout the test you will hear different accents as it changes from an English accent, to an American etc. This tests how well you can understand all types of spoken English.
Getting your results is often quick, with over 85% getting their results in only two days. The PTE Academic is scored against the Global Scale of English; this is the scale that allows people to track their progress on learning English.
For more information about studying for, applying to take and differentiating between various English Language Tests.