By far, the most popular tests to take in Australia for higher education or immigration are IELTS (General Training or Academic) and PTE (Academic). All Australian universities accept both academic tests, and it’s easy to find courses to take to learn how to achieve the score you need. But how do you know which test is the best one for you to take?
1. Are you trying to immigrate to Australia?
This is an easy one. If you don’t need an academic test for certain skills assessment, then it’s always better to do IELTS General Training. In particular, the reading and writing tests for IELTS General Training are simpler and you will have a better chance of getting a high enough score.
2. Do you have difficulty typing quickly?
If you think that you are much faster and can find the answers to reading and listening questions better when you have a pencil in your hand, then do the IELTS test. PTE can only be done on the computer, but IELTS can be done on paper or computer.
3. Do you need your results quickly?
In this case, PTE can deliver your results within 2-5 days, and sometimes even overnight. Computer-based IELTS will take 5-7 days, while paper-based will take approximately 13 days.
Can you self-manage your time?
One item in the PTE reading test. Source: English Key
In IELTS reading and writing, and to some extent, your speaking, it is up to you to make sure that you are answering questions and completing tasks in a timely fashion. For instance, there are three reading sections in the reading test, and the test goes for one hour – you can try to spend 20 minutes on each section, or you can spend more time on the difficult sections. PTE, however, is much stricter when it comes to time. For instance, for the item type “Describe image” (for which there are 6-7 items), candidates have 25 seconds to look at an image, and 40 seconds to describe it. There is a timer on the screen so you know how much time you have left.
5. Do you get nervous speaking in front of people?
If you think you’ll be too nervous to talk properly to a person, perhaps PTE is a better option. The whole PTE test is on a computer, unlike IELTS speaking, which will always be tested one-on-one by an examiner. That means you’ll be speaking to a computer instead of a person. The drawback is that since you’re in a room full of other people taking the test, you will all be speaking at the same time and it may get a little noisy!
6. Is your writing stronger or your speaking?
While the IELTS writing test is made up of a report on a diagram, graph or chart and an essay, PTE is comprised of 2-3 summaries and 1-2 essays. This might seem like an easy choice – surely you would do the test where you write less? However, the IELTS test is notorious for being difficult. Whereas the whole PTE test is marked by a computer, IELTS writing is always marked by a human examiner. A human examiner will know if you have memorised sentence structure or if you have too many inappropriate words. PTE essays can be simpler, more direct, and don’t need as much paraphrasing.
In contrast, though a computer examiner might go easier on you for writing, the opposite might be true for speaking. Pearson claims that their software can understand up to 122 different accents, but these must be clear enough for a native speaker to easily comprehend. Moreover, if you pause for more than three seconds, the recording will automatically stop. This is much different to a human examiner, who may naturally try to understand you and will prompt you to talk more if necessary.
All in all – if you’re more confident as a speaker, then do PTE. If you’re more confident in your writing abilities, then do IELTS.
Do you know which is the better test for you now?
Check the statements below, and see which is for you:
I want to immigrate (and don’t need a skills assessment) ⇒ IELTS General Training
I can’t type very quickly ⇒ IELTS
I need my results quickly ⇒ PTE
I can self-manage my time ⇒ IELTS
I can answer questions under a strict timer ⇒ PTE
I get nervous speaking in front of people ⇒ PTE
I am a strong writer ⇒ IELTS
I am a strong speaker ⇒ PTE