If you’re applying for an Australian visa, or want to study in Australia, you may have to pass an English language test as part of the application process. Two of the most commonly used English language tests in Australia are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Pearson Test of English (PTE).

The score that you achieve on your English test is crucial for you to follow your dreams, so deciding which test to take is not a decision that should be taken lightly. We have gathered everything you need to know into this article, including a more in-depth look at what IELTS and PTE are, and the pros and cons of each, in order to help you decide between IELTS vs PTE.

What is IELTS?

IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. It is a measure of proficiency in the English language that is acquired by testing four skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. You are then awarded a grade on a scale of one to nine, with one being for a non-English speaker, and nine being an expert English-speaker.

There are two forms of IELTS: IELTS Academic and IELTS General. IELTS Academic is for those applying for higher education or professional registration and has a larger focus on academic language.

IELTS General is more broadly used, and checks your general use of the English language to gauge whether you would be able to cope in a social and general workplace context, and is also used for those who are applying for secondary education.

What is PTE?

PTE is the Pearson Test of English Academic. It is accepted as proof of English ability by all Australian universities, and by the Department of Home Affairs for all visa categories that require proof of English language proficiency.

The test is taken on a computer and is divided into three parts that take place over three hours. Part one is speaking and writing, part two is reading, and part three is listening.

Your results are assessed using automated scoring technology, and test-takers are awarded a score between 10 and 90 based on their performance on all skills tested. The 10-90 scale is based on the Global Scale of English.

How are IELTS and PTE different?

You may now be wondering what the difference is between IELTS and PTE. The main difference between the two is that IELTS offers a choice between taking a paper-based or a computer-based exam, and the speaking section involves a face-to-face conversation with an examiner.

By comparison, PTE is all computer-based. It is also marked by a computer, and during the speaking section, you speak to the computer rather than a person. Whilst this is the main difference, there are other differences to take into account, for example:

  • IELTS offers a choice between the general test or the academic test, whereas only PTE Academic is available in Australia.
  • The test fee is the same if you book in advance, however, if you book late then PTE is slightly more expensive than IELTS.
  • The PTE test takes slightly longer (about 20 minutes) to complete compared to the IELTS test.
  • During the PTE exam, many of the questions are integrated so, for example, some questions in the speaking section may assess both speaking and listening, and questions in the reading section might assess both reading and writing. In IELTS the four skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening are all assessed separately.
  • The computer-based IELTS test allows you to skip questions and return to them later, or check your answers at the end, whereas the PTE test only allows you to navigate forwards through the test.
  • Individual questions are timed on the PTE test but not on the IELTS exam.
  • The PTE exam is automatically marked by a computer. With the IELTS test, the reading and listening parts are automatically marked by a computer, whilst the speaking and writing sections are looked at by an examiner.
  • IELTS results are released 13 days after taking the test for paper-based exams, and 2-5 calendar days later for computer-based tests. PTE results are delivered in 5 business days.
  • Whilst both PTE and IELTS are accepted by a large number of universities and governments around the globe, IELTS is more widely accepted.
  • PTE generally has a more flexible cancellation policy if you are not able to take the test.
  • Whilst both tests offer plenty of preparation resources, PTE also has official mock exams available.

Score comparison

It is difficult to compare scores on the IELTS vs PTE exams, as they are marked on different scales. PTE undertakes periodic reviews of score concordance with other tests such as IELTS to help clear this up for us.

This research shows that at the lower end of the scale a PTE score of 23 is comparable to an IELTS score of 4.5, and a PTE score of 29 is comparable to an IELTS score of 5. If we look at the middle of the scale, a PTE score of 46 is comparable to an IELTS score of 6, and a PTE score of 66 is equivalent to an IELTS score of 7. At the top end of the scale, a score of 89 on the PTE is equivalent to a score of 8.5 on the IELTS.

This information can be used to compare your scores to others, or for those who have taken both tests to compare which they did better on. Many people have an opinion on which test is easier, however, this will depend on the individual and which test is better suited to you.

Conclusion: IELTS vs PTE

In conclusion, you can see that there are many factors to take into consideration when you are deciding whether to the IELTS or PTE exam. For example, whether you prefer speaking to a person or a computer, and whether you may need your results to be valid at different universities and governments around the world.

The choice is a personal one, however, you now have all of the facts necessary to make the right decision.


Scroll to Top