Have you recently heard about PTE (PTE Academic)? Are you thinking that PTE might be a good choice for you, just because you couldn't get your target score in your last IELTS attempt? Are you thinking that PTE is the right choice for you just because your results will be released in just one or two days? Well, think twice before spending your time, money, and energy!


This article will help you decide which will work for you; IELTS or PTE.





The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a test that measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work in English language environments. There are over 1100 test centres in 140 countries around the world.



IELTS History


The English Language Testing Service (ELTS), or IELTS as was previously known, was launched in 1980 by Cambridge English Language Assessment (then known as UCLES) and the British Council. It had an innovative format, which reflected changes in language learning and teaching, including the growth in ‘communicative’ language learning and ‘English for specific purposes’. The test tasks were intended to reflect the use of language in the ‘real world’.


During the 1980s, the number of people who took the test was low (4,000 in 1981; then rising to 10,000 in 1985) and there were practical difficulties administering the test. As a result, the ELTS Revision Project was set up to oversee the redesign of the test. In order to have international participation in the redesign, the International Development Program of Australian Universities and Colleges (IDP), now known as IDP: IELTS Australia, joined Cambridge English Language Assessment and the British Council to form the international IELTS partnership; and together, they have been delivering this test to present day. This international partnership was reflected in the new name for the test: The International English Language Testing System (IELTS).


IELTS was revised again in 1995, with three key changes being made:


  • There was one Academic Reading Module and one Academic Writing Module.
  • The thematic link between the Reading and Writing tasks was removed to avoid confusing the assessment of reading and writing abilities.
  • The General Training Reading and Writing modules were brought into line with the Academic Reading and Writing modules.

Further revisions were made in 2001 (a revised Speaking Test) and 2005 (a new assessment criteria for the Writing test).





The Pearson Test of English Academic is a computer-based academic English language test aimed at non-native English speakers wanting to study abroad. PTE Academic was created in response to demand for an accurate, objective, secure and relevant test of English. Launched in 2009, PTE Academic has been rapidly adopted in the UK, Australia, USA and Canada. Today it is accepted by thousands of academic programs all around the world. It is also approved by the Australian Government for visa applications and accepted by thousands of institutions in the UK, Australia, USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Ireland. Pearson runs test sessions 363 days of the year, at over 200 locations in more than 50 countries worldwide.





Each test scores its students differently.


    • A 9-band scale clearly identifies proficiency level, from non-user (band score 1) through to expert (band score 9). There are also half bands between each two scores.
  • PTE





    • You can preview your results online 13 calendar days after the test. Results remain online for 28 days.
  • PTE
    • PTE Academic typically delivers results in 5 business days.





  • There are four main skills to be measured : Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking.
  • There are different question types for each skill.
  • Both can be used for study and migration purposes.
  • For both tests, there is an individual score for each skill as well as an overall score. The overall scores are calculated differently though.
  • There is no pass or fail grade. Based on your purpose your target score is different from others.
  • There are two types/modules of each test: Academic and General (General Training for IELTS). However, PTE general is not accepted as widely as IELTS general.
  • Like in IELTS, there is only one correct answer for the reading and listening (except in ‘summarize spoken text’) sections of PTE; but for speaking and writing, there are a number of criterias to assess your performance.





  • The first big difference is that PTE is a computer based test, while IELTS is paper based. As a result, you record your voice and type your answers in PTE.
  • There is a speaking examiner and a writer examiner for IELTS. While all assessment is done by smart software in PTE.
  • In IELTS, skills are assessed separately. This means listening, for example, is just testing your listening skills. On the other hand, in PTE there are many integrated questions such as listening and speaking in the speaking portion of the exam, or reading and writing in the reading part, or reading and speaking in the speaking part and so on.
  • In PTE, aside from the four main skills which are called ‘communicative skills’ in this test, there are six enabling skills: grammar, oral fluency, pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, written discourse.
  • The PTE Academic reports an overall score, communicative skills score and enabling skills score, while IELTS reports an overall band score and skills band score. Obviously, the way the overall score is calculated in PTE is based on the test taker’s performance on all items in the test.
  • Depending upon the test centre, you may have the speaking test of IELTS on a different day (within a week before or after the actual test day), but for PTE you take the entire test on one day.
  • You may choose to take PTE seven days a week in the morning, at noon or even in the afternoon. You cannot choose your test time for IELTS. Almost always, it starts in the morning and on (a) specific weekday(s) like Saturday or Thursday.
  • Not every country has a PTE centre (50 countries worldwide), while it is very likely that you will be able to find test centres for IELTS with locations in 140 countries around the world.
  • There are 20 different question types in PTE, which is certain for each and every test. While the number of question types for IELTS differ from one test to another.
  • The IELTS test is timed specifically (except Speaking which can be between 11 and 14 minutes). This is not the case for PTE, where your test may last between approximately 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
  • There is an optional 10-minute break before the last part (listening) in PTE. There is no allocated break time when taking the IELTS.
  • While you can book as many IELTS tests as you wish at the same time, you cannot book for a new PTE exam before having the result of the test you last took.
  • Unlike in IELTS, each question in the speaking and writing for PTE is timed separately, which can potentially be beneficial or challenging.



Which One is Simpler?


There is no certain answer to this question. Due to different nature of the two, for some people IELTS is easier, while for others the PTE will be a piece of cake. For certain people, there might be difficulties when switching from one test to the other. The biggest difficulty is the changes from writing in IELTS to speaking in PTE or vice versa.


Needless to say, if you are not a fast typer then PTE might not be the right choice for you, unless you want to take time to improve for the first stage of the exam.


If you are stressed talking to someone (examiner) under exam conditions, then PTE can help you overcome this challenge as there is no examiner during (and after) the test and it’s just you and a computer. However, when considering PTE, you shouldn’t overlook the fact that on the test day there are other people in the same room and this can be distractive as everybody starts with the speaking portion of the test.


As you have the choice to take PTE in the morning, at noon or even in the afternoon, you can be at your peak for the test. This can be significantly helpful for those who are not early birds.


The optional break - after reading, before listening - in PTE can help you refocus and finish your exam more energetically. You are permitted (and have to) leave the room during your break time.


Due to the older history of IELTS, there is a massive amount of test materials available to both teachers and students. Whereas for PTE, as a newly established test, it has not been easy to find standard materials to study. This is also true when it comes to knowledgeable teachers. For instance IDP Australia, the co-owner of IELTS, offers preparation courses, but Pearson doesn’t have this service.


According to the IELTS test takers performance in 2015, the majority of IELTS test takers have the lowest score in writing. To be exact, in 2015, IELTS candidates in Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippine, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and United Arab Emirates had the lowest score in reading, while for other countries it was writing.


According to my personal/professional experience and observation, most PTE test takers have the lowest score in speaking. This can be considered as more preparation time needed for speaking comparing to preparing for other skills. Keep in mind that this is not absolute and you might need to prepare differently.


Remember, both these tests are standard English proficiency tests designed and revised by experienced and knowledgeable experts. You are the one who decides which one works better for you. This choice should be made based on your target score, deadline, purpose of taking an English proficiency exam; and above all, your strengths.


Hero image by Green Chameleon (CC0 1.0)