Most universities and immigration authorities of English speaking countries require that applicants provide some proof of their level of English language proficiency.
Basically applicants will have to participate in some sort of language proficiency test. At the moment, two of the most popular tests are the IELTS exam and the Academic Pearson Test of English (PTE). Both of these tests are currently offered in Singapore.
Choosing between these two tests can be downright confusing. This is mostly due to the fact that there is a great deal of false information floating around the internet regarding the difficulty of these two tests.
What Is The IELTS Exam
The IELTS exam is a test which accurately assesses your ability to cope in an English-speaking environment for work or study purposes. The exam is prepared by Cambridge ESOL using the insight and experience of language experts from a variety of native English countries. It is co-hosted by the British Council and IDP Education Australia.
The IELTS exam assesses a student’s ability to perform well in 4 particular areas i.e. listening, reading, writing and speaking and lasts for about 2 hours and 40 minutes It gives an accurate indication of whether an IELTS candidate will be able to cope with the required level of English when moving to an English-speaking country like the UK, Australia, Canada or New Zealand, for work or study purposes.
Once you have completed your test, the IELTS examiners will award you with a band score, ranging from 1 - 9. Each Band represents a particular level of language proficiency, with 9 being the closest to the level of a native speaker of English.
What Is The PTE Academic Exam?
The Pearson PTE Academic exam is an up-and-coming English language proficiency test. it is fast becoming one of the most popular English language exams in the world. It was launched in 2009 and is owned by the Pearson PLC group, which is an internally recognised and multi-faceted educational organisation.
The PTE exam is fully computerised and gives an accurate description of your language capabilities in four key areas, namely: listening, reading, speaking and writing. These skills are assessed by requiring candidates to complete 21 different tasks. Each of these tasks tests at least one of the four main skills. Often 2 skills are assessed together within a single task/question type.
How Are The PTE And IELTS Exams Similar?
The obvious similarity is that these are both English language proficiency exams, that describe a person’s language capabilities in terms of the same four key areas (listening, reading, writing and speaking). They are also both run by well reputed and credible organisations.
There are two versions for each of these tests, a general and academic test. The IELTS academic test is generally for those students who intend to study at a tertiary level in an English-speaking country or any university that requires a certain level of language proficiency.
The IELTS General Training Module is for those who are planning to move to English speaking countries like the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for secondary education, work experience or training programs.
The PTE academic exam can be used for both academic and immigration purposes. It is accepted by a number of higher-level learning institutes in English speaking countries as well as Australian and New Zealand immigration authorities.
The General Pearson test of English assesses second language learners’ basic communication skills. It can be used as a proof of your English language skills for both work and study purposes. However, this test is generally only accepted by Non-English-speaking European countries like Latvia, Greece or Lithuania.
The test scores for both exams are valid for a period of two years only. Meaning that you will have retake the test for subsequent applications to institutions that require PTE or IELTS test scores, that occur two years after receiving your previous test scores.
How Are The PTE And IELTS Exams Different?
The IELTS exam has been around far longer than the PTE exam and is now offered in over 140 countries. The first version of the IELTS exam was launched in 1989. The PTE exam came into existence in 2009 and is currently only offered in 50 countries.
While the IELTS tasks focus on just one skill at a time, the PTE exams consist of a combination of skills. For example, the ‘retell a lecture question’ involves being able to listen to and comprehend the contents of a lecture as well as speaking about the main features of that lecture.
Computer Based vs Paper Based
The PTE exam is fully computer based. Students have to take the exam on a computer at an official Pearson test centre. This does not really favour candidates who are more comfortable with writing by hand instead of typing.
The IELTS exam offers a paper based and a computer-based test. The formats of both these test versions are exactly the same and candidates choose which test to take based on their personal preferences.
Another difference, which is possibly the most significant, is the way in which these two tests are assessed. The IELTS exam still relies on human examiners. A different set of examiners evaluates different parts of the test.
The PTE exam is assessed using a state-of-the-art computer algorithm. This is done mainly to ensure that the same level of fairness is awarded to all candidates, irrespective of any irrelevant external factors like the examiners mood on a particular day, subconscious biases based on the way a candidate dresses or even the legibility of a test taker’s handwriting.
A major factor in the popularity of the PTE academic exam, is the fact that candidates’ exam results are conveniently available after a maximum of 5 working days. On the other hand, IELTS test scores are available anywhere from a week to up to 28 days after your test date.
How Can I Convert My PTE Score To An IELTS Exam
(Difference Between IELTS And PTE Score)
These tests have different scoring scales. Scores for the IELTS exams are based on bands that range between 1 – 9, with 1 being the lowest possible score (for a Non-English speaker) and 9 being the highest (for an expert user of the English language). Scores are awarded for each of the four exam components, and then averaged to provide candidates with an overall band score.
The PTE exam has a grading system which ranges from 10 to 90. The score takes into account your performance based on all items in the in the exam.
There are also separate PTE scores for communicative skills (listening, reading, speaking and writing) and enabling skills (grammar, oral fluency, pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary and written discourse) which are based on your performance on tasks that assess these particulars skills.
If you are preparing for either of these tests and are wondering how you would fare if you decided to take a different test, you can use the following score comparison table. This will help you to convert your PTE score to IELTS band scores and vice versa.
PTE Score range
86 and above
83 - 85
79 - 82
65 - 72
59 - 64
43 - 50
35 - 42
30 - 34
Is It Easier To Score Well In PTE Or IELTS?
The tasks for the listening and reading components of this exam are quite similar and mostly assess the same criteria.
To be honest, the real difference between these two tests is how the speaking and writing components of the exams is conducted and assessed.
Many PTE candidates score poorly in the Oral Fluency criteria. This is because the computer AI that grades the speaking portion of the PTE exam is designed to compare a second language learner's accent to the accent of a native speaker.
The IELTS exam has human examiners, who assess a candidate's speaking skills during a one on one interview. Sounding like a native speaker is not really assessed, as long as a person's accent does not hinder the examiner's understanding of what they are trying to communicate.
The writing section of the IELTS exam is notoriously difficult. Candidates are heavily penalized for grammatical and spelling errors. Generally, speaking the PTE writing criteria is a bit more lenient than IELTS.
So, to sum up, whether you choose PTE or IELTS really depends on which skill is weaker, your writing or speaking skills.
If you feel that any of your language skills are lacking, you might want to consider enrolling in a PTE preparation course, with a trusted professional.