IELTS, TOEFL, PTE: a detailed guide


International Exams in English

IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, and a dozen other English tests are standardized programs to test the language level of non-residents of English-speaking countries. That is, only foreigners need them to prove their level of English. TOEFL and IELTS are the most popular exams recognized by most educational institutions and companies in English-speaking countries.

More than 35 million people have obtained TOEFL certifications in the nearly 60 years since the exam. The number of IELTS tests is also impressive - over 3.5 million foreigners take it every year.

The PTE test is also accepted in most countries around the world. And although it is taken by order of fewer people, it is also worth considering - as an alternative to TOEFL or IELTS, it passes in most cases.

To study or work officially in an English-speaking country, you must obtain an international language proficiency certificate. Today there are several dozen different test programs that issue certificates of English proficiency.

But the most popular among them are IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE. So what are they? Where are these certificates relevant? How much does it cost to pass the exam and the difference between them? We will tell you today in the article.

TOEFL and IELTS comparison

Now let us explore the components and organizational specifics of the exam. First, it is clear that to assess the level of language. It is necessary to examine how a person understands the text and receives information by ear and speaks. But each test has its characteristics that must be taken into account.

In general, the rule "IELTS for the UK, TOEFL for the USA" almost always works. Business is more loyal to it. If official confirmation of language knowledge is required, then in most cases, any certificate is suitable. If you take it for yourself, we recommend PTE.

Knowledge is assessed by a computer reasonably accurately, but at the same time, it takes less effort to pass the test. After IELTS and TOEFL, the tester resembles a squeezed lemon, and the PTE is considered a little easier. But if you have a specific goal, play with it. Personal preference sucks. I wish you success and high results.

IELTS Academic

There are two types of IELTS: Academic IELTS and General IELTS. Normal IELTS will be sufficient for living in an English-speaking country, but academic IELTS is often required for study and work. In this article, we will consider it.

When do you need to take the IELTS exam?

If you are applying for a visa to the UK, you will need to pass IELTS. Since 2016, UK Visa Application Centers have only accepted certificates issued by the Cambridge English Language Assessment (CELA) and Trinity College London.

The IELTS test is part of the CELA group. That is, even if you have a TOEFL certificate for the maximum score, you still need to take the IELTS to prove your level. Such a strict policy is the response of the UK Defense Department.

Facts of fraud with the TOEIC tests (another international test for knowledge of English) when obtaining a study visa. Most UK universities are more willing to accept IELTS certificates. Detailed requirements for certifications and results should be read on universities' websites.

Registration and organizational issues are assigned to IELTS only in specialized centers. You cannot take the exam online. You can only take a trial version of the test on the Internet. Previously, IELTS was usually written by hand - only in the last few years in service centers did they start taking it on a computer.

You can register for the test online. All the sites of the centers are built according to the same template, so it is difficult to make a mistake. But each service center has its website, so you will have to search through a search engine. The template looks like this: Next, you need to select the type of exam, a convenient date, and go through a simple online registration process.

You can pay through online banking or using bank details at any physical department of the bank. This is given three days after completing the online form. If payment is not made within this period, the registration for the examination will be automatically canceled and must be repeated.

Be prepared to be photographed and fingerprinted before the exam. Access to the examination halls is given precisely to them to exclude the possibility of cheating. If you leave class during the exam, your fingerprint is scanned again.


The cost of the IELTS test varies by country. In Ukraine it is about $ 140, in Russia - $ 170, in Kazakhstan - $ 150, in Belarus - $ 200.The structure of IELTS and the characteristics of passing the exam consists of four parts:

  • Listening : 30 minutes You listen to up to four audio recordings of native speakers. After that, you need to answer 40 questions.
  • Academic Reading : 60 minutes. You need to read three texts and answer 40 questions about them.
  • Academic Writing : 60. minutes
  • Speaking : 11-14 .minutes

The test takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. The oral part of the exam may even be conducted on a separate day, separate from the written piece. You receive all questions with accompanying texts and audio recordings. That is, you can deliberately search for answers to questions.

Results and Certificates


IELTS results are shown on a scale of 1 to 9 in 0.5 increments. The average result is 5.5-6.5. A minimum of 6.0 is required for admission to British universities. In addition, the average results across countries are very different. You can find out your final score 13 days after the exam. They will be available on the official website of the service center. Then you can get the original certificate. Paid copies - for about $15.

However, upon request, the Center may send up to five free copies to hosting educational institutions or government agencies (embassies, consulates, and others). IELTS certificate is valid for two years. Some companies and academic institutions "require" that the certificate is received no earlier than six months, but there is no legal basis for such requirements.


TOEFL is a specific academic language proficiency test. Therefore, it can be compared with Academic IELTS but not with General IELTS.

When is TOEFL required?

In the US, higher education institutions only accept TOEFL scores. These include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia University, Stanford, Yale, and many other American universities.

Most US government agencies don't see the difference and accept IELTS and PTE results. In most countries, registration and organizational issues are done on the computer at the TOEFL service center. Conducting testing "on paper" is common only in many countries in Asia and Africa, which have severe Internet access problems among the population.

One can register for the test on the official ETS website. The process itself is straightforward. The only caveat is that it is better to indicate the number of a foreign passport rather than a national one - there is less chance of confusion.

There have been a lot of complaints on the ETS website that it can throw an error when registering with iOS. If you have a Mac or iPhone and can't apply, repeat it through Windows or Android.

You can choose the test date no earlier than one week after registration. There is a "quick" mode to pass the exam in three days, but you need to pay extra for it. TOEFL price also varies from country to country.

In Ukraine it is $ 180, in Russia - $ 250, in Kazakhstan - $ 160, in Belarus - $ 200.

What does toefl exam consists of?

The process itself is fairly standard. You come to the service center, confirm your identity, and hand over your things. You can't even take water or snacks. In general, the rules do not differ from the standard state exam. But there's an important difference: In TOEFL, you pass everything on to the computer, even speaking. Answers are recorded.

The test portion is checked automatically, and the teacher checks the speaking and writing blocks - you do not have direct contact with the examiner. The exam consists of 4 parts:

  • Reading : 54-72 min. You are reading 3-4 paragraphs from academic texts. After that, you need to answer 30-40 questions about them.
  • Listening : 41-557 min. You listen to up to four audio recordings from native speakers. After that, you will have to answer questions 28-39.
  • Speaking : 17 minutes. You need to express your opinion on a familiar topic and answer questions about materials you read and listen to.
  • Writing : 50 minutes.

The number of questions varies and depends on the length and complexity of the texts and audio recordings. A computer evaluates the test part, so any typos will be considered errors. Also, in writing, it is necessary to use the American spelling of words: "color," "colour."

Additional complexity - you receive questions for the reading and listening unit only after processing the text or recording. That is, you need to remember the material well.

The time to complete the test is four hours. Each block is worth 30 points. Overall, the entire test is graded on a scale of 0 to 120. Most universities have a minimum level requirement of 70-90, corresponding to B1/B2.

TOEFL Scores & Results 2022

The exam result will be ready in six days. They can be viewed digitally in your personal ETS account. The physical certificate will be sent to you 11 days after the test.

Important! If you wish to send copies of certificates to educational institutions, government organizations, or companies, you must specify them before the test. Up to four free copies are available. After the exam is completed, each document is paid $18 apiece.

The TOEFL certificate is also valid for two years.

PTE Academic: Pearson Test of English

There are two versions of the PTE exam: General and Academic. Here we will focus exclusively on academia. When in fact, PTE is not a basic English proficiency test. Many government organizations and universities have placed it as an alternative option next to IELTS and TOEFL results. Therefore, there is no unique situation when PTE is required.

Registration and Organizational Questions

You can register for the exam on the official website of Pearson PTE. To do this, you need to create a personal account, select the desired date and fill out the online registration form. However, we immediately warn you that the site is a bit user-unfriendly. Therefore, the registration form still needs to be searched.

After answering two questions, the system will show the optimal type of test and transfer it to the service center selection page. You can also select the date and time. Interestingly, the dates for the next day are often available.

The cost of the PTE value exam depends on the specific service center. For example, in Ukraine, it is $ 170; in Kazakhstan - from $ 155. In Belarus - $ 195. Unfortunately, in Russia, there is no longer a PTE change center. The structure of the PTE and the specifics of passing the exam consists of three sections:

  • Speaking and writing : 77-93 minutes. Here you need to complete several tasks during which you introduce yourself, read a little aloud, describe the image, convey the text in your own words and write a short essay.
  • Reading : 32-40 mins. There are many tasks to complete, such as "fill in the gap," answering multiple-choice questions or putting paragraphs in the correct order.
  • Listening : 45-557 min. You need to answer a series of questions after watching a video or listening to an audio recording.

PTE is different from the previous tests as here the entire assessment system is done by computer, even speaking and writing essays. It sounds unusual, but it is. The system is fully automated and is run on a computer only. So it is worth working on the clarity of speech in advance. Here's what the developers themselves say about the program:

As for the syllabus of the exam, there are no specialties. Standard procedure for checking and handing out identity checks on a computer in a specially equipped classroom. The test takes a total of three hours.

PTE results & certificates

Results are assessed on a 10 to 90 point scale and the Global Scale of English (GSE) system. The result is known within 48 hours after the completion of the examination. All these thanks to the automatic computer processing of the results.

This is the fastest international English proficiency test possible. From registration to receiving the result, it is quite possible to keep it within three days. Ideal if you need a certificate urgently.

There is no statute of limitations on the PTE certificate. It is entirely valid in five and ten years. If you are satisfied with the result, you will not need to retake the test.

*** For the choice of exam, you need to look at the specific goal for which you are taking it. Universities and government agencies clearly state which certifications they accept.