No matter how fluent you are, if you wish to pursue your studies abroad in an English-speaking country or find out what level your language skills are, you will then need to take an exam to prove your skills. But many learners and students are unsure which certification exam to take.
1. Most Common Proficiency exams
This article will compare and contrast three main proficiency exams:
A. IELTS International English Language Testing System
B. TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language
C. Cambridge English proficiency exams
I am sure you have heard some of them and you want to know their differences, exam questions, scores, and even the price. We will try to answer all these questions and quench your thirst.
2. Comparison of IELTS, TOEFL, and Cambridge exams
- All of the exams have sections dedicated to reading, listening, writing, and speaking.
- IELTS and TOEFL are shorter than the Cambridge exams and they have the additional advantage of being completed in one day.
- They all offer two forms of the exam: Written and computer-based exams
- There are many reasons one should pick an exam; one of them is that some universities ask you to take a specific exam, so check the website of the institutions to which you are applying and find out which English exams they do (and don’t) accept. But many schools and universities are now accepting more than one exam.
- TOEFL and IELTS are valid for only two years;
- US universities usually favor the TOEFL
- Schools in Canada, Australia, and the UK tend to opt for the IELTS
3. Which one to take?
- IELTS has 3 main types
– IELTS academic: for students who want to enroll in universities
– IELTS General Training: for life skills like work experience and immigration purposes
– IELTS Life skills: to prove English speaking and listening skills. Immigrants take it to apply for a family of a settled person visa.
- IELTS is comprised of four parts: listening, reading, writing, and speaking
- It lasts a total of two hours and 45 minutes.
- The listening, reading, and writing sections of the exam are to be sat one after the other without a break.
- IELTS speaking test will be face to face with an examiner.
- You will receive your scores on a scale of 1-9
- The IELTS costs are around US$200.
- Payment will be taken in your local currency.
- The TOEFL has online and paper-based exams
- It consists of 4 sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing.
- The reading section will take between 60 to 80 minutes, listening 60-90 minutes, speaking 20 minutes, and writing 50 minutes.
- After the first two sections you will have a 10-minute break.
- The test should be taken in one sitting and should last around half a day
- Unlike the IELTS, the speaking section is not completed with an examiner, yet uses microphone recording so this may be a better option for you if you get nervous in front of examiners.
- You will receive a score out of 30 for each section, bringing your overall total to a maximum of 120 points.
- The cost is between US$165 and US$250depedning on your country
- You can reregister and retake the test as many times as you please, but not more than once in a twelve-day period. This happens when you are not satisfied with the results
C. Cambridge English exams
- The Cambridge English exams will award you either a PASS or a FAIL, unlike TOEFL and IELTS: you receive a score on a graded scale.
- There are four different difficulty levels of the exam: preliminary (PET), first (FCE), Advanced (CAE), and proficiency (CPE).
- All the Cambridge exams have no expiry date, so you will have that prize qualification forever.