We have received a number of queries from our readers regarding the various English tests currently accepted by the department. You can go through the answers supplied by an expert to these queries to help you decide which test is best for you.
Roxana Ene has been teaching General English, IELTS and TESOL for the past eight years. She is the Director of Studies at Greenwich College and also an IELTS, Cambridge and BULATS examiner.
Q. Where can I find more information about TOEFL iBT and PTE Academic tests?
Resources for these two tests are available online or at bookstores.
Q. What is the difference between the tests?
TOEFL and PTE test tend to be more academic so they may be a better choice for university students who have a stronger academic foundation. In IELTS and CAE, tests skills are completely separated, in PTE and TOEFL tests skills are combined/integrated. Candidates have to listen or read and write the summary or they need to read or listen to extracts and answer questions about them.
IELTS offers two modules, general and academic so candidates can choose one depending on their needs. CAE tends to be less academic and deals more with familiar topics.
Q. Is the PTE test easier than IELTS?
No test is easier or more difficult. A good grasp of language is needed no matter which test is taken. However, candidates should consider their background and needs when choosing the test.
IELTS has been a very popular test for many years and the number of resources available is huge. Candidates should consider their weakness when choosing the test. IELTS is more prescriptive, ‘tips focused’ and concentrates on skills in isolation, while PTE combines skills: candidates have to listen or read and write the summary or they need to read or listen to extracts and answer questions about them.
PTE can be an option for the candidates who need to do the IELTS Academic Module, but for those who need the general module, taking the IELTS test may be a better alternative as the content of the PTE test is more academic.
Q. Where can I get preparation material for PTE and CAE tests?
There are many resources available in bookshops, online, and on the official websites. In addition candidates can do preparation courses which will provide them with practice materials.
CAE would probably be a good choice as the candidate needs to communicate mainly with another candidate. Also the given prompts (pictures) may help candidates produce more language and ideas which will allow them to keep speaking about the given topic.
Q. I struggle with the listening test, do any of the tests play the recording twice?
CAE listening is played twice and you are also given more time to read the questions (up to 75 seconds) and also the check your answers (up to 2 minutes).
Q. Do any of the tests have a specific grammar test? I have only sat the IELTS and my grammar is not too good.
The CAE test has a grammar component called ‘Use of English’ which includes exercises on word order, word forms, paraphrasing. This component and the reading component together last for 90 minutes.
Q. Do all the tests have speaking tests?
All tests have a speaking component. However, the length and the structure is different.
- ONE examiner- ONE candidate : based on the interaction between the examiner and the candidate
- Three parts: dialogue-monologue-dialogue
- TWO examiners (an interlocutor and an assessor) - TWO candidates: very little interaction with the examiners. Prompts ( pictures) given to help candidates produce more language
- Speaking component is mixed with the writing component and includes tasks like: read the lecture and the text and answer the following question. Texts tend to be more academic.
- It is a computer based tests so the speaking gets recorded and is marked in America.
- Speaking component mixed with listening and writing includes tasks like: read the lecture and the text and answer the following question, listen to the lecture and answer the following questions, etc. Texts tend to be more academic.
- It is a computer based tests so the speaking gets recorded and is marked by a software.
Q. IELTS tests are conducted every week, how often do the other tests occur?
CAE- paper based or computer based tests
Computer and paper based tests: Once a month
NOTE: Candidate should contact Cambridge test centres and see if they run the test on the specified dates. Cambridge tests centres can choose when they want to run the test.
In Australia many dates are especially available in March, June, July, September, and December. Test results are available online 2 weeks after the test.
Tests can be taken every week and results are available 10 days after the test.
Tests can be taken every week and results are available in 5 business days.
Q. How long does the entire test session last for each of the tests?
CAE: 4 hours (speaking test may be held on a different day)
TOEFL: 3 hours and 10 minutes
IELTS: 3 hours (speaking test may be held on a different day)
PTE: around 3 hours (shorter or longer tests depending on the level of the candidate)
Q. I can’t get seven on reading and I have given the IELTS 15 times, can you suggest which test has an easier reading component?
In the CAE Reading test candidates need to answer 26 questions. In comparison with IELTS where different question types are being used (multiple choice questions, matching headings with paragraphs, T/F/NG, fill in the gaps) in CAE there are only multiple choice and matching question types.
T/F/NG questions and matching paragraphs tend to be the most problematic question types for IELTS candidates. The reason for this is because IELTS tests use a lot of distractors to check candidates’ comprehension. Therefore, trying to guess the answer based on word similarities will not lead to a correct answer. CAE reading questions are differently formulated and distractors are not used.
Q. I need a superior score in IELTS for my visa how much do I need in PTE or CAE?
Click here to find out all English Language Requirements for Australian Visas.
Scores required for Proficient English are:
Minimum scores for Superior English are:
Q. The IELTS test is valid for three years, how long are the other tests valid for?
CAE- is valid for life but for immigration purposes it is valid for 2 years
PTE- is valid for 2 years
TOEFL- is valid for 3 years
Q. What is the writing test like for the PTE and CAE?
CAE Writing (90 minutes)
Task 1. Essay: 220-260 words
Task 2. Candidates are given three options they can choose from. There are four writing tasks candidates need to prepare for the CAE writing test: Letter (formal or informal), Review, Proposal, and Report: 220-260 words
PTE Writing (around 1 hour)
Task 1: 2 summaries/ 3 summaries or 1 summary +1 essay (10 minutes per summary/ 20minutes per essay)
Task 2: 1 essay (200-300 words)