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IELTS or PTE: which is the easier English test?


IELTS vs PTE – which English proficiency test should you choose? While both tests ultimately grant students the opportunity to study, work, or migrate in a country where English is the native language, they still have their unique differences. 

The PTE-Academic (PTE-A) is a two-hour English test conducted entirely via computer that assesses one’s ability in speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Similarly, IELTS evaluates a person’s speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, but can be done physically at a test centre and offer both paper-based and computer-based test options for candidates.

To help you get a better understanding of both tests, here’s a broader overview that can help you choose between the two with ease.

Choosing between IELTS and PTE - here’s the truth

1. IELTS and PTE differences


The main difference between both tests is that IELTS offers you the option between a computer-delivered or paper-based exam, while PTE only offers computer-based tests. On top of that, the papers are also marked by a machine.

Here are some other differences between the two that you would most certainly want to take note of:

  • Examination structure and format:


    The four papers in IELTS include the Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking tests. PTE also includes the Reading and Listening tests but combines both Speaking and Writing into one test. Furthermore, the sections between the two vary in duration, question format, and task.

  • Test-taking rules:


    Given that it’s a computer-based exam, candidates sitting for PTE must answer a question before moving on to the next while those sitting for IELTS can skip questions and return to them later on.

  • Grading:


    The grading scale for IELTS ranges from 0 to 9, with most universities accepting minimum scores of 6.0 and 6.5 on average. PTE is graded on a scale of 10 to 90, where universities prefer a minimum score of 55 to 60.

2. Calculation of scores

Both tests vary in the way the final scores are calculated. For IELTS scores, results are based on a 9-band scale, with 1 being the lowest band and 9 being the highest. This system has been established for many years and is relatively easy to understand.

Meanwhile, PTE uses a granular score scale from 10 to 90 using their own unique Global Scale of English. 10 is the lowest score while 90 is the highest.

Here’s a simple overview of how both scoring systems fair against each other:




















While both calculations are completely valid despite using varying scoring systems, both test scores might be assessed differently in different countries.

For instance, entering a Canadian university from overseas would require students to achieve a score of 60 to qualify for the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program. But with PTE, students will need to get a 6.5 to 7 band score, which is almost a full band score higher than the required score for IELTS.

When choosing your prospective universities, always cross-check their band score requirements for their English language tests. Who knows, you might save yourself the extra effort and get an easier option after all.

3. IELTS speaking test is done by a real-life assessor


The IELTS speaking test is still done by an actual examiner to this day.

However, the PTE speaking test equivalent has zero involvement of a real-life assessor, and instead uses a computer-automated scoring system.

You will be evaluated based on several factors including speed, voice quality, intonation, and pronunciation, among many other things. From there, Pearson’s test uses technology to process your recorded voice and score each person accordingly.

As the PTE’s marking system is done by a computer system, there are still those that prefer having their tests facilitated by a real-life assessor. So, if you’re not completely comfortable with a computer marking your paper, then you’re better off taking the IELTS test.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to your personal level of comfort. Choose wisely!

4. IELTS offers the option of paper and pen test

Prefer the good old pen and paper test? The IELTS test is your safe bet. On the other hand, candidates who are comfortable with computer-based tests can also opt for IELTS in that format, or PTE.

Both formats have their pros.

For instance, pen and paper tests offered by IELTS allow for easier regulation and navigation during the actual exam, where you can skim through the questions with ease and answer them in their preferred order within the time limit.

Meanwhile, computer-delivered tests by IELTS and PTE work for anyone used to reading and answering off a screen. There are also accessibility features like font size adjustments and more, to accommodate students with special needs or whoever else needs it.

Ensure that you choose the format that works best for you.

5. IELTS has a greater worldwide recognition


It’s no question that among the English language proficiency tests, IELTS trumps the others when it comes to global recognition—and for good reason.

Not only have they been around for over 30 years, but they were one of the pioneers of the four skills English language testing system, which paved the way for similar language testing formats as we know today.

IELTS is accepted by over 11,500 organisations and universities across 140 countries worldwide, allowing you greater reach when applying.

On the other hand, PTE is a relatively new entrant in the market, having only launched in 2009. They are accepted in over 3,000 institutions in countries like the US, New Zealand, Ireland and France.

Better prepare for your IELTS with our preparation materials

Sitting for your IELTS test can be difficult and tough, but with our resources, you can easily even the odds and attain the band score you desire for your dream course!

Here are some of our preparation materials for you:

Be sure to practice and invest enough in your IELTS preparation before sitting for the test!

Kickstart your IELTS journey with IDP

To sum it all up, there really is no absolute “easier” test between IELTS vs PTE. Ultimately, it all comes down to what you’re looking for, your personal preference, and what certification your desired university accepts.

For those who have decided on taking the IELTS, we’ve got you covered.

Besides being the official co-owner of IELTS, IDP offers convenient test locations and free test preparation materials to support you. Learn why you should take your IELTS test with us.

Book your IELTS test today to begin your journey.