Man thinking about IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE

Top differences between IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE | Which is easier?

Last Updated on April 9, 2021 by iSchoolConnect

IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE are all designed to test your English proficiency when you’re applying to universities abroad. Since most colleges accept any of these scores, it’s easy to get confused about which test to give. Use the 5 factors in this blog to compare IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE and find out which will be easier for you!

When choosing which English proficiency test to give, it’s natural to debate between IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE. While some universities prefer one exam over another, you will find one test easier to attempt as compared to the other two. They have different patterns, scoring structures, methods of testing, and various advantages and disadvantages. So let’s cover all these points as we look at the age-old battle between IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE and find out which one comes out victorious!

Overview: IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE


The IELTS exam is arguably one of the most accepted English proficiency tests worldwide.

The test is recognized and accepted by more than 10,000 institutions and immigration bodies all over the world.

According to, more than 3 million IELTS tests were taken in the year 2018 alone. Experts think that the holistic nature of this test is the reason why it is more widely accepted than TOEFL and PTE.

The test is conducted over 2 days and consists of 4 sections, namely reading, writing, listening, and speaking.


TOEFL is another widely accepted English proficiency test.

It is particularly standard among US universities and colleges to test overseas students’ language abilities.

Like IELTS, TOEFL also consists of four major sections, and all of them are now conducted online except for some countries.


Pearson Test of English (PTE) is a single consolidated test that includes both writing and speaking sections. The test is conducted entirely online.

The number of institutes that accept and recognize PTE scores is gradually increasing.

Similarly, some governments (Australia, New Zealand) have also started accepting PTE results for their visa processes.

IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE pattern

The IELTS exam has 4 sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

The total time given to complete the test is 2 hours 45 minutes. The Academic IELTS exam pattern is as follows:

IELTS Exam pattern which has 4 sections- Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking.
IELTS academic exam pattern

Similarly, TOEFL also has 4 sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

The total time given to complete the test is 3 hours. The Academic TOEFL exam pattern is as follows:

TOEFL table listing all the TOEFL exam details

As for PTE, it is a three-hour-long test.

The main parts of the exam include speaking and writing (together), listening, and reading.

During the test, you will encounter 20 different question formats, ranging from multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and essay writing to interpreting and repeating information.

Part 1: Speaking & Writing, 77 to 93 minutes

Part 2: Reading, 32 to 40 minutes

Part 3: Listening, 45 to 57 minutes

IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE Scoring

The most major differences between IELTS and PTE are between their scores.

Understanding TOEFL scores is fairly easy since its four sections are divided into equal parts, with each part’s score being 30.

On the other hand, PTE and IELTS give consolidated scores for the entire test, including all sections.

In IELTS, the scores are further calibrated from 1-9 bands, and a score of 7 and above is considered as good.

On the other hand, PTE gives scores from 0 to 90, and getting at least 65 is deemed good.

Even though there is no standard equivalence between the two, but if we draw PTE vs. IELTS score comparisons, then it is safe to assume that getting 7 bands in IELTS is equal to scoring 65 in PTE. Similarly, 9 IELTS bands are considered the equivalent of scoring 86 and above in PTE.

IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE Reading


The reading paper has 3 passages with a total of 40 questions divided into a number of tasks. The candidate is expected to complete the paper in 60 minutes. The questions in different tasks range from multiple-choice, matching information, diagram labeling, and identifying information (question type: true or false). The distribution of the number of questions in the tasks is not fixed.


The reading section of the test consists of 3-4 multiple-focus passages (compare/contrast, cause-effect). Each passage consists of 10 questions. The time allotted to this section can vary between 54-72 minutes, depending on the number of passages given in the test. The scores for this portion of the test can range between 0 and 30. You can take a look at the TOEFL practice test for reading right here.


This section in PTE will last for 32 to 40 minutes. You will have to read through passages and fill in the blanks, re-order paras, and attempt single-answer MCQs during the test.

IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE Listening


The listening paper has a total of 40 questions divided into 4 different tasks which are to be finished in 30 minutes. The candidate listens to 4 different recordings, played only once. The recordings will be in a variety of voices with native-speaker accents. They can be a one on one conversation or a monologue on any topic. The questions range from multiple-choice, matching, map or diagram labeling, form completion, note completion, summary completion, and short answers.


This section contains 3 to 4 lectures, and some lectures contain classroom discussions. Each lecture is around 3-5 minutes long, and at the end of each, you will be asked 6 questions. Also included in this portion are normal, daily-life conversations. You’ll get to listen to 2-3 conversations, each being 3 minutes long. You’ll be asked 5 questions at the end of each conversation. The accents used in the listening portion are those of native speakers from all over North America.


The listening section of PTE can go on for anywhere between 45 and 57 minutes. Here, you will be summarizing written text, filling in blanks, selecting missing words, highlighting incorrect phrases, and writing from diction. Its pattern is quite different from the other two tests.

IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE Speaking


Speaking test is an interview with the examiner which lasts up to 11-14 minutes. The test consists of 3 tasks. Task one is typically an introduction or an interview wherein the examiner asks the candidate for a personal introduction. The interview can go on for about 4-5 minutes. In the second task, a task card is given to the candidate containing a topic to speak on. 1 minute is given to jot down the notes and 1-2 minutes are given to talk on the given topic. At the end of the 2 minutes, the examiner can ask a couple of questions based on your topic. Task three is related to the previous task. The topic from task two is discussed in-depth and in an abstract way. This task can end up for 4-5 minutes. In some cases, the speaking test is conducted on a different day.


This portion of the test consists of 4 tasks. You’ll be assigned 1 independent task to express your opinion on a topic you’re familiar with. You’ll have 30 seconds to prepare your response. Apart from that, you will have 3 integrated speaking tasks based on reading and listening. You’ll have 1 minute to prepare your response. The total time allotted to this section is 17 minutes. You’ll be scored out of 0-4 points, and then your points will be converted to a scale between 0 to 30. An example of the speaking section can be found here. This example is 11 seconds long and you have 45 seconds to respond.


Since PTE’s Speaking and Writing sections are combined, let’s cover this under the next topic.

IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE Writing


The writing test consists of two sections with a total test time of 60 minutes. Section one consists of various types of visual information(e.g: graphs or pi diagrams). The candidates are expected to elaborate the visual information in precisely 150 words. Section two consists of a topic to write on where candidates elaborate on an argument or a topic in not less or more than 250 words.


You’ll have two tasks in this section of the test

  • Section 1- An integrated task based on what is read and heard. You’ll have 20 minutes to complete this.
  • Section 2- An independent task to support an opinion on a topic. You’ll have 30 minutes to complete this.

The total time allotted to this section is 50 minutes and you’ll be scored on a point range of 0 to 5, which will then be converted to a score scale of 0 to 30.


The speaking and writing sections of PTE can last anywhere between 77 to 93 minutes. The exam will start off by asking you to give a personal introduction. Then, you will have to read aloud, repeat sentences, retell lectures, answer short questions, and take 20 minutes to write an essay of 200-300 words.

Major differences between IETLS, TOEFL, and PTE

The major difference in IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE is how the speaking component of the test is evaluated.

If you have read so far, you must’ve already noticed a few subtle yet important differences between the two exams. Let’s point them out-

  1. While TOEFL is ONLY computer-based, IELTS is both paper and computer-based. So if you’re more comfortable taking an exam on paper, you can choose IELTS. PTE, on the other hand, is a fully computerized test.
  2. The speaking section for these three exams is so different. In IELTS, you have to appear for a personal interview. This isn’t the case in TOEFL and PTE, where you can speak to the computer during your online test itself.
  3. TOEFL & PTE are taken in standard American English. So if you’ve grown up watching English movies and binge-watch sitcoms even today, TOEFL or PTE might be for you.
  4. The essay you are expected to write in the TOEFL writing section is lengthier. It demands a fast typing speed. On the other hand, if you type slow but have legible handwriting, you can go for TOEFL. But when it comes to PTE, writing an essay is as easy as it can get.
  5. In IELTS, you have to give short answers, which is not the case in TOEFL. TOEFL requires you to attempt MCQ-type questions. But PTE has a combination of both.
  6. The reading passages in TOEFL are used to inform rather than entertain. This means that if you like reading non-fiction, news, etc., you will find this exam easier to attempt.

Advantages and disadvantages of IETLS vs TOEFL vs PTE

The advantages of IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE

Disadvantages of IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE

IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE: Which is more widely accepted?

IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE are all accepted worldwide in thousands of institutes.

So, declaring which one is more accepted is very difficult. Nonetheless, all three exams edge each other in different countries when it comes to the English proficiency requirements set by institutes.

For instance, institutes in the US prefer to assess the language skills of their overseas patients through TOEFL.

Meanwhile, the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany based-institutes prefer IELTS and the institutes in Australia and Europe prefer the PTE exam.

So, choosing which entrance exam to give largely depends upon the country and institution you choose to apply to.

Final say – IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE which is easier

So, all the salient details of IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE are right here in front of you. As to which is the easiet, that decision is entirely yours to make.

Decide which test suits your particular requirements and is absolutely perfect for you by looking at what you’re better at.

If it’s academic reading, online interviews, MCQs, and typing on keyboards instead of writing, go for TOEFL.

If you’d like to get your results in 5 days and would prefer to write short essays, choose PTE.

But if you’d perform better during in-person interviews and prefer short answers over attempting MCQs, IELTS is your exam.

To get a clearer idea, you can read this blog about IELTS vs TOEFL, for a better perspective on the details of these two more widely accepted entrance exams.

And in case you get stuck or need any kind of help, reach out to us!

Or drop a comment.

We’d be very happy to help!

Akanksha Vora

Bright, bold, and bubbly, Akanksha Vora is a writer at iSchoolConnect. She writes creative and curious blogs that help students with their life and studies abroad.

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