By Maria Di Mario

09 January 2024 - 11:52

Smiling student in a test center with examiner

In this article, we provide you with a thorough comparison between IELTS and PTE, highlighting their similarities, differences and key features.

Do you want to move to an English-speaking country for work or higher education? If so, then you’ll need to show your level of English to apply for a work or student visa. 

You can prove your language skills with an English language proficiency test. While there are several tests to choose from, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Pearson Test of English (PTE) are two of the most popular. 

Let’s take a look at PTE vs IELTS. Once you’ve looked at their differences, similarities, test format and scoring systems, you’ll be able to decide which test is right for you.

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PTE vs IELTS: differences and similarities

1. Where are the tests recognised?

Both tests are accepted by a number of institutions and countries. 

  • PTE is accepted by more than 3,300 organisations globally, including academic, professional and governmental organisations. It is accepted in countries such as Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand and the UK. 
  • IELTS is accepted by more than 11,500 organisations globally, including academic, professional and governmental organisations. All immigration departments that require an English Language for English-speaking countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand accept IELTS 

2. How do PTE and IELTS differ in their test delivery options?

  • PTE is completely computer-based.
  • IELTS can be taken on paper or on a computer in a test centre. This means you can choose the option that suits you best. In some locations test takers can also take IELTS Online from the comfort of their own home. 

3. How do PTE and IELTS test speaking?

The Speaking section is delivered quite differently:

  • In PTE, everything is completely computer-based. This means you will be speaking to a computer in your Speaking test. 
  • In IELTS, the Speaking test will take place face-to-face with an experienced official IELTS Speaking Examiner. In some countries where IELTS Online is available, the Speaking test takes place over a video-call with an official IELTS Speaking Examiner. 

4. IELTS One Skill Retake: A hidden benefit of IELTS over PTE

  • IELTS is the only test to offer One Skill Retake, for test takers who took the IELTS on computer test. This means if you don’t get the score you need in one of the test sections, you will be able to retake that skill (Listening, Reading, Writing or Speaking).
  • In comparison, if you don’t get the score you need in one section of PTE, you will have to sit the whole test again.

PTE vs IELTS: Test format and timing

PTE has three test sections, which come in the following order:

  • Speaking and Writing (54 to 67 minutes)
  • Reading (30 minutes) 
  • Listening (30 to 43 minutes) 

So, the total time it takes to sit PTE varies from just under two hours, to two hours and 20 minutes. 

IELTS is structured differently from PTE. In the IELTS test, there are four test sections to complete in the following order:

  • Listening (30 minutes) 
  • Reading (60 minutes) 
  • Writing (60 minutes) 
  • Speaking (15 minutes) 

So, the total time it takes to sit an IELTS test is around two hours and 45 minutes. However, you’ll get a break before your Speaking test. The Speaking test is held either on the same day of the Listening, Reading and Writing or seven days before or after that.

Now, let’s take a look at the difference in the test tasks. 

PTE vs IELTS: How the test tasks compare

For the best score, it’s important to learn the format of the tasks in each test, and then decide which you would prefer. 

 

PTE

IELTS

Listening

Assesses your listening skills through different tasks, like filling in the blanks and writing from dictation. 

There are eight tasks in total. 

Duration: 30 to 43 minutes

Tests your ability to understand conversations and monologues in different contexts. 

There are four recordings, and 40 questions. 

Duration: 30 minutes

Reading

Tests your ability to understand and interpret academic and general texts. 

There are five tasks in total. 

Duration: 30 minutes

Tests your comprehension of three different texts. 

There are 40 questions in this section. 

Duration: 60 minutes

Writing

The Writing and Speaking section measures your ability to express your ideas and opinions both orally and in writing. It includes tasks such as reading aloud, essay writing, and summarising spoken texts. 

There are eight tasks in total. 

Duration:  54 to 67 minutes

There are two tasks in the Writing section.
In Academic Writing Task 1 you’ll be asked to explain, summarise or describe a graph or chart. While in General Training Task 1 you’ll be asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. In Task 2 you’ll be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. 

Duration: 60 minutes

Speaking

You’ll have a face to face conversation with an IELTS Examiner, who will be assessing your ability to talk about your ideas and opinions on various topics.

Duration: 15 minutes 

PTE vs IELTS: How the scoring system works

Scoring in PTE and IELTS is based on different scales:

PTE Scoring

PTE scores candidates based on points. The points range from 10 to 90, with 10-point intervals. Universities prefer a minimum score of 55 to 60 for admission. PTE scores are based on communicative skills, enabling skills and your overall performance. You get a detailed breakdown of your performance in each section. 

IELTS Scoring

IELTS uses a band score system ranging from 0 to 9, with a gap of 0.5 for each section. Each section is individually marked. Then, your overall band score is calculated as the average of the four sections. Universities accept minimum scores of 6.0 and 6.5. 

The IELTS scoring criteria are based on performance descriptors that review the test taker’s ability in task response, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource and grammatical range and accuracy. You get detailed score descriptors for each band level, so you’ll have a clear understanding of your strengths and the areas where you could improve. 

An important difference between the two tests is that PTE is completely computer-marked. IELTS is different; the Reading and Listening sections are computer-marked, but the Writing and Speaking sections are marked by trained IELTS Examiners. 

Choosing the right test for you

Now you’ve learned about the main differences and similarities of PTE vs IELTS. 

So, before you make your choice, it’s important to consider the test format, the scoring system and the test tasks. Also, remember that you have more choices with IELTS; you can take the test on paper, on computer or even online. And an important factor to consider is if you’ll feel more comfortable doing your Speaking test with a computer, or a human examiner. 

Find out more: Prepare for IELTS with IELTS Ready and the British Council’s free webinars.

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