As an international student, if you want to study in an English-speaking country such as USA, UK, Australia or New Zealand, you have to demonstrate sufficient proficiency in English. This is a core requirement for admission to most programs at the post-graduate level. Most universities accept scores from a variety of different English language proficiency tests. We will look at the most popular among these below:
1. TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language
The TOEFL is one of the two major English language proficiency tests (the other being IELTS). This test is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which is a private, non-profit education testing organization based out of New Jersey, USA.
TOEFL is mostly used for admission to graduate and post-graduate programs in US universities, though test scores are also accepted at universities in UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Testing areas: The TOEFL tests a student's reading, listening, speaking and writing skills.
Testing formats: The TOEFL is offered in two formats – a paper based test (PBT) and an internet-based test (iBT). The PBT is the older format and is rarely offered today. It consists of four sections, namely listening , structure and written expression, reading comprehension, and writing . The duration of the PBT is around 2 hours 30 minutes.
The iBT is different from the PBT as it has 'listening' and 'speaking' sections as well. The four sections, thus, are reading, listening, speaking, writing . The test duration can range from 3 hours 10 minutes to 4 hours 20 minutes.
Score validity: All TOEFL scores are valid for two years.
Testing centres: There are 4,500 test centres offering TOEFL in 165 countries around the world. The iBT is offered more than 50 times a year. You can take iBT only once in a 12-day period.
2. IELTS – International English Language Testing System
IELTS is the other major English language proficiency test besides TOEFL. This test was established in 1989 and is jointly managed by the British Council, and the Cambridge English Language Assessment. This test was originally designed for admission to universities in Britain, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, though IELTS scores are also accepted in lieu of TOEFL scores in most American universities.
Testing areas: Like the TOEFL, the IELTS also tests English language listening, reading, writing and speaking skills.
Testing formats: The IELTS is offered in two variants: IELTS Academic, and IELTS General Training. The former is used for admission to academic programs, including postgrad programs. The latter is used for fulfilling visa and immigration requirements. As a student, you will be taking IELTS Academic, which is a 2 hours 55 minute long paper-based test.
The IELTS Academic has four sections, listening , reading, writing and speaking . The first three parts are offered without break. There is a short break before the speaking section.
Score validity: The IELTS score is valid for two years.
Test centres: There are over 900 test centres spread over 130 countries offering IELTS. The test is offered multiple times a year.
You can learn more about the IELTS here .
3. Other Tests IELTS and TOEFL are the two most important English proficiency tests and should be enough for fulfilling language requirements in most postgrad programs. However, some programs might have specific requirements. For example, some Malaysian universities require the Malaysian University English Test (MUET). Besides TOEFL and IELTS, students can also take PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English) or the Cambridge English Language Assessment as general English proficiency tests.
For the most part, however, you will do fine with either IELTS and TOEFL.