English proficiency tests explained

Knowledge of English may be required for a number of useful purposes, such as working and studying abroad or moving to another country. To this end, you will definitely need to confirm your language level by passing an international exam.
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The most common test measuring knowledge of American English is TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language.
It assesses your skills through four sections:
•Reading (60-80 minutes)
•Listening (60-90 minutes)
•Speaking (20 minutes)
•Writing (50 minutes).
There is a basic 4-hour version of TOEFL (TOEFL iBT) that is accepted by 11,000 educational institutions around the world, and a shorter and simplified version (TOEFL Essentials) that is accepted by only a few hundred educational institutions. The short version can be completed in 1.5 hours.
Other differences between these exams:
To take any of these tests, you need to register through the official TOEFL website, select the time and location of a test center, or take the test online.

It is important to register for the exam in advance. The fines you may be charged for urgent filing are $20 or $40.

You can cancel your registration no later than four days before the test. In this case, you will receive only half the cost of the exam back.

The cost of the TOEFL exam in different countries sits at around $200-$300.

The TOEFL result is valid for 2 years.
In some countries, the TOEFL iBT is also presented in paper edition. These countries include India, Colombia, Mexico, and the USA. Nevertheless, a student will still pass the speaking section on a computer from home.

During the TOEFL iBT Speaking module, students record their oral responses on a computer. Questions are not repeated.
Another familiar exam is IELTS (International English Language Testing System), designed to measure British English proficiency.
Basically, the difference between American TOEFL and British IELTS will be most noticeable in the listening section.
IELTS consists of 4 sections (Listening – 30 minutes, Reading – 60 minutes, Writing – 60 minutes, Speaking – 15 minutes) and is graded on a 9-band scale. The exam lasts 3.5 hours.

IELTS can be taken on paper or on a computer at a test center, or online in some countries. To take the exam, you must register through the official website.

There are General Training IELTS, Academic IELTS, and IELTS Life Skills. The first one is usually required for employment or migration, the second one is used for admission to university, the third presents a simplified version of the exam (Listening and Speaking sections only) and is required to obtain a number of visas to the UK.
The Reading and Writing sections in General Training IELTS and Academic IELTS are different: the Academic IELTS has more serious, scientific topics.

The results of paper-based IELTS come in 14 days, the results of online exam come in 3-5 days.

You need to register for IELTS 35 days before the test date. This time can be shortened if there are free dates left.

There is a charge for canceling or rescheduling an exam (only half the price will be returned).

The IELTS exam fees can range between $190-290.

The IELTS result is valid for 2 years.

Shortly about IELTS and TOEFL

Although TOEFL assesses American English and IELTS assesses British English, many foreign companies and universities accept the results of both exams. However, each institution sets its own score requirements.

Both IELTS and TOEFL have time limits for every section. It is important to train to perform tasks of a special format for these tests.

Unlike TOEFL, the speaking module of the IELTS is done in person with an examiner.

One more reliable test is PTE (Pearson Tests of English)

While far less well-known than TOEFL and IELTS, PTE can also be used for studying worldwide and working or migrating to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

PTE focuses on international English.

It is completely computer-based, and administered and scored by an AI system. You can register for this test through the official website.

The maximum score in PTE is 90 points. The PTE result is valid for 2 years.

PTE falls in the range of $150-200.

There are 3 types of PTE:

1) PTE Academic assesses Academic English

It is accepted by over 3,500 universities and colleges globally for study, and by Australia and New Zealand for work and migration visas.

The test takes 2 hours to pass in one of over 475 test centers around the world. There are options to take it online.

The results will be ready in 2 days.

PTE Academic Structure:
• Speaking & Writing (1 hour)
• Reading (30 minutes)
• Listening (30 minutes)
2) PTE Core assesses General English, it is faster and simpler than PTE Academic

The test can be used for permanent residency in Canada or Canadian citizenship.

PTE Core test also takes 2 hours in a test center. The results will be ready in 2 days.

•Speaking & Writing (50 minutes)
•Reading (30 minutes)
•Listening (30 minutes)
3) Tests for UK visas & immigration: PTE Academic UKVI, PTE Home A1, A2 & B1

PTE Academic UKVI is for study below degree level in the UK (a foundation, pathways, not a higher education institution). PTE Academic has the same structure as PTE Academic UKVI.

Which exam should you take? Check out the website of the university you like or of the immigration service of your dream country.


1. Study the test format on test’s official website. There may be unusual tasks or tasks requiring specific vocabulary, for example, to describe graphs (IELTS Academic). Knowing exactly what you will need to get done is the most important thing.

2. Take a free trial test on the official website. Know your current level and results.

3. Start the timer and run the test. Try to meet the time limit.


You can prepare for the English proficiency test by yourself, or hire a tutor. However, the most promising way to improve knowledge would be an immersion in a language environment.

A&K offers language courses in America that prepare students for the TOEFL exam. A person with any level of English can attend them. The language school will assess your language level and, if it is not high enough, will first send you to the Intensive English program. Next, within 3 months you will prepare for TOEFL and upon completion will be able to take the exam directly in the USA.

TOEFL preparation schools are located in New York, Chicago and San Diego. The cost of the language course starts at $425 per month, depending on the city.

An additional bonus of this program is the fact that after passing TOEFL you can apply for an American university and wait for your enrollment while still being in America. All this time you can remain a student of language courses and be in the United States legally on a student visa.

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