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English Proficiency Tests Types For International Students


Are you planning to study abroad? Then, you are most likely to be aware that fulfilling English language proficiency criteria is an essential component of your admission prerequisites. This criterion also holds true when applying for your student visa. English language proficiency exams offer non-native English speakers the opportunity to engage in studies in countries like the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and other nations where English is the primary language. An English language test plays a pivotal role in enhancing your comprehension, reading, and writing abilities in the language. It also equips you to seamlessly apply both written and spoken English once you relocate to your preferred study destination. 

Do you know that the IELTS test is the most famous English proficiency test that is accepted for admission to most universities and colleges abroad?

For students aspiring to undertake international studies, attempting an English language test and obtaining an acceptable score is obligatory in most cases to ensure the acceptance of your university applications. Additionally, certain universities stress a minimum score requirement based on the specifications of the desired course. You can read the blog completely to learn in detail about the popular English proficiency tests, including the TOEFL English test,PTE test, Cambridge English test, Duolingo English test, etc.

What Are English Proficiency Tests and Why Are They Important?

English proficiency tests play a crucial role for international students aiming to pursue their education in countries where English is the primary language. These tests assess your ability to understand, speak, read, and write in English. They hold significant importance as they serve as a measure of your English language skills, ensuring that you can actively participate in classes, comprehend course materials, and effectively communicate with professors and fellow students. Essentially, these tests act as a bridge, connecting students from diverse linguistic backgrounds to academic opportunities in countries such as the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada.

Here are the main types of English proficiency tests available for international students:

  • PTE
  • Cambridge English Qualifications
  • Duolingo English Test
  • Occupational English Test
  • CPE
  • CAEL

IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, stands as a beacon for those seeking to study or work in English-speaking environments. It assesses candidates across four key language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The IELTS scoring system, which ranges from 1 to 9, offers a detailed gauge of a candidate's English proficiency. IELTS's global acceptance by universities, employers, and professional bodies contributes to its popularity, making it a preferred choice for millions of aspirants worldwide. Its comprehensive approach ensures that students are well-prepared for the linguistic demands of their chosen academic or professional paths.

TOEFL iBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-Based Test)

The TOEFL iBT is designed to evaluate how well students can combine their listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills to perform academic tasks. With a score range of 0 to 120, it is meticulously crafted to reflect the use of English in the academic setting, making it an indispensable tool for universities to assess the readiness of their prospective students. Accepted by over 10,000 institutions globally, the TOEFL iBT's widespread recognition is a testament to its reliability and the value it provides in measuring academic English proficiency. Its detailed assessment helps students prove they can succeed in an English-speaking university environment.

PTE (Pearson Test of English)

The Pearson Test of English, or PTE, is celebrated for its innovative use of automated scoring, providing a fast, fair, and precise assessment of a student's English language abilities. The test, which scores candidates on a scale from 10 to 90, is known for its quick turnaround of results, often within just a few days. This efficiency makes the PTE exam is an attractive option for students under tight application deadlines. Accepted by thousands of academic programs worldwide, the PTE's growing popularity is indicative of its effectiveness as a reliable measure of English language proficiency. Its automated scoring system ensures impartiality, offering students a fair chance to showcase their language skills.

Cambridge English Qualifications for International Students

Cambridge English Qualifications are esteemed assessments designed to evaluate the English language proficiency of individuals. Recognised globally, these tests cater to various levels, ensuring learners can demonstrate their linguistic capabilities comprehensively. Among the suite of exams, the C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency levels stand out for their rigorous standards, aimed at students seeking to prove their high-level English skills for academic and professional success.

C1 Advanced (CAE)

The C1 Advanced, formerly known as Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE), is tailored for learners poised to operate in complex academic and professional settings. This test assesses candidates' ability to follow university-level courses, participate in professional discussions, and excel in demanding work environments. With a score range that proves the candidate has achieved a high level of English proficiency, the C1 Advanced enjoys widespread acceptance by universities and employers worldwide. Its popularity stems from its ability to certify students' readiness for challenges in English-speaking contexts, making it a pivotal milestone for those aiming to study or work abroad.

C2 Proficiency (CPE)

C2 Proficiency, previously known as Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE), represents the pinnacle of English language achievement within the Cambridge English suite. Designed for learners who have reached an exceptional level of English, this test evaluates the ability to communicate with the fluency and sophistication of a highly competent English speaker. Accepted by educational institutions and employers globally, the C2 Proficiency is the ultimate demonstration of English language mastery, suitable for those who wish to stand out in competitive academic and professional fields.

Both the C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency are integral components of the Cambridge English Qualifications, reflecting the highest standards of English language proficiency. These tests not only facilitate academic and career progression but also enhance learners' confidence in their English communication skills.

Duolingo English Test

The Duolingo English Test has emerged as a revolutionary tool in the domain of English language assessment, known for its accessibility and innovative testing approach. This test assesses reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills through a computer-adaptive platform, offering scores ranging from 10 to 160. Its popularity has soared due to the convenience it offers, including the flexibility of taking the test from anywhere and the rapid delivery of results. The Duolingo English Test's acceptance by an increasing number of universities and institutions worldwide showcases its effectiveness and growing credibility as a legitimate measure of English proficiency, providing a practical alternative to traditional language tests.

Occupational English Test (OET)

The Occupational English Test (OET) exam is specifically for healthcare professionals, the OET exam focuses on the language communication skills essential in medical and health professional settings. It evaluates candidates' proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking through scenarios that simulate real-life healthcare environments. Recognised by regulatory healthcare bodies, councils, and universities in various English-speaking countries, the OET is indispensable for doctors, nurses, dentists, and other healthcare practitioners seeking to practice their profession or continue their studies in an English-speaking context. The test's specialised focus ensures that healthcare professionals are well-equipped to communicate effectively in their respective fields.

CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program)

The Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) is a comprehensive English language test that assesses listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills, specifically designed to meet the requirements of those seeking immigration or professional accreditation in Canada. Conducted in a single sitting, CELPIP offers a streamlined and efficient testing experience, making it a preferred choice for individuals aiming to establish residency or pursue career opportunities in Canada. The test provides scores on a scale from M (minimal proficiency) to 12 (advanced proficiency), accommodating a broad spectrum of English language abilities.

TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication)

The TOEIC is designed primarily to assess the English language skills of individuals in an international working environment. Its focus on business English makes it particularly relevant for those looking to kickstart careers in global companies. The test measures listening and reading comprehension skills and offers separate speaking and writing tests. With scores ranging from 10 to 990, TOEIC's widespread acceptance by employers worldwide underscores its significance in the professional realm, making it a popular choice among students and professionals aiming to prove their English proficiency in the corporate sector.

CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English)

The CPE, or Cambridge English: Proficiency, is the most advanced qualification offered by Cambridge Assessment English. It demonstrates an exceptional level of English proficiency, equivalent to a C2 level on the CEFR scale. The test assesses candidates' ability to communicate with the fluency and sophistication of a highly competent English speaker. With its rigorous assessment of all four language skills, the CPE is highly regarded by universities and employers globally, serving as a testament to the holder's mastery of English. Its acceptance across a wide range of institutions makes it a prestigious choice for students seeking to distinguish themselves academically and professionally.

CAEL (Canadian Academic English Language)

The CAEL test is specifically designed to measure the English language proficiency of students planning to study in Canadian post-secondary institutions. It evaluates candidates' ability to use English in academic settings, covering listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. With scores reported on a scale from 10 to 90, CAEL's acceptance by Canadian universities and colleges highlights its relevance for students aiming to pursue higher education in Canada. Its focus on academic English makes it an essential tool for students to demonstrate their readiness to engage with college-level coursework in English.

How to Choose the Right English Proficiency Test for Your Needs?

As you already know, there are several English proficiency tests you can attempt, and you might already have a vague idea of their details. Now that you know the names of all these tests, you might be confused about which English proficiency test to take. As such, we have given a few criteria you can look for to choose the right English proficiency test for you.

  1. Accessibility
  2. Difficulty level
  3. Scoring accuracy
  4. Retakes and validity
  5. Result

Differences in Format, Content, and Scoring of the Tests

English proficiency tests like TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE have varying formats, content, and scoring. TOEFL focuses on academic English, measuring reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills. IELTS assesses real-life English in academic and general contexts, with listening, reading, writing, and speaking sections. TOEIC mainly tests workplace communication, covering listening and reading. There are differences in the scoring too. TOEFL and IELTS have bands or scores, while TOEIC provides separate scores for listening and reading. Choosing a test depends on your goals, like studying or working abroad. Research each test to understand its format, content, and scoring, and pick the one that fits your needs best.

Availability, Cost and Validity of the Tests

When considering English proficiency tests like TOEFL, IELTS, or TOEIC, it is important for international students to think about availability, cost, and validity. These tests are usually offered at various locations and times, so you can choose one that suits your schedule. Costs can vary, so it is good to check and budget accordingly. The validity of the test scores is also crucial. Some test scores are valid for two years, while others might have different durations. Keep these factors in mind while picking the test that aligns with your plans and timeline.

Tips and Resources to Prepare for the Tests

If you are planning to attempt an English proficiency test, it will be helpful for you to get a few tips and resources to prepare for English proficiency tests. As such, we have listed a few tips for your reference.

  1. Start by practising regularly.
  2. Use official practice materials from the test makers.
  3. Join English-speaking clubs or find language exchange partners to practice speaking.
  4. Take practice tests under exam conditions.
  5. Review your mistakes to improve.

We hope that you have gathered at least a rough idea about the different English proficiency test types for international students. If you have any further questions or queries and need clarity on anything, you can contact AECC. Our expert counsellors can give you FREE in-person assistance and help you apply to universities to fulfil your dream to study abroad.


What are the levels of English proficiency tests?

According to the CEFR scale, there are six levels of English language proficiency. They are A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. 

Which is the most widely accepted English proficiency test?

IELTS is the most widely accepted English proficiency test, followed by TOEFL and PTE.

Which is the easiest English proficiency test?

Each English proficiency test has its own rules and formats. Thus, it is not possible to classify a few as easy and others as difficult.

Which is better, IELTS or PTE?

Both IELTS and PTE are popular English proficiency tests. However, IELTS enjoys better acceptability and recognition compared to PTE.

Is PTE harder than TOEFL?

It cannot be said that PTE is harder than TOEFL. Both tests have different formats and rules.

Is PTE or Duolingo easier?

Duolingo is considered easier compared to PTE with its small focus areas and MCQs.

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