English Proficiency Tests at a Glance: IELTS, TOEFL, CAE, CPE, PTE, duolingo


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Shireen Parhee

Lead, Content Marketing

In most cases, you’ll need to provide evidence of English proficiency by taking an English proficiency test when you apply to a foreign university. Here’s a list of English proficiency tests which you can consider taking. This includes the IELTS exam (one you know about, surely) as well as the lesser known Duolingo English Test (yeah-this is an extensive list).

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

What is IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System, better known as IELTS is a globally accepted standardised English proficiency test for non-native English speakers. It is offered by the British Council. As an international student, you will be required to demonstrate a good command of the English in order to be eligible for admission. Taking the IELTS is one of many ways to showcase your mastery of English.

IELTS Exam 2020 Eligibility and Requirements

Around 3.5  million people take the IELTS annually, for different purposes. These include University admissions, training and migration.

Some universities may make exceptions to the requirement, provided you have other acceptable proof of English proficiency. IELTS is a more popular test when you’re applying to universities in commonwealth countries (UK, Canada, Australia).


IELTS Exam 2020 Test Pattern

The test takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to finish. It is split between four sections: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. Scores are reported on a band scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest).

IELTS has two types: IELTS Academic and IELTS General. The former is meant for people who are applying to higher education or professional registration in an English speaking environment. The latter is meant for migration to English speaking countries for any reason and focuses on testing English speaking ability in broad social and workplace contexts.

The Listening and Speaking section is the same for both tests. However, the subject matter of the reading and writing sections differs depending on which test you take. You should take the IELTS Academic, if you’re planning to study abroad.


IELTS Exam 2020 Important Dates

The British Council India offers IELTS tests in more than 55 locations. The Academic version of the Paper-based test is available on all 48 dates. However, the General Training version of the Paper-based test is available only for 24 dates.

The availability of tests differs across locations, based on local demand. You can check the test dates for 2020 here.


IELTS Exam 2020 Test Fees

At the time of writing, the IELTS Academic test costs INR 14000.


How to prepare for IELTS Exam?

Generally, a score above 7.5 is considered good. However, several Universities have minimum acceptable scores ranging between 5.5 and 7.5 bands.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

What is TOEFL?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL is another popular standardized English proficiency test.  It is designed and administered by ETS, the same organization behind the GRE. Like IELTS, TOEFL is also widely accepted by many English-speaking academic and professional institutions.

TOEFL 2020 Eligibility and Requirements

Students who are planning to study abroad form a huge chunk of TOEFL test takers. Some universities may make exceptions to the requirement provided you have other acceptable proof of English proficiency. In general, TOEFL is a more popular test among US universities.

TOEFL 2020 Test Pattern

TOEFL has four sections and is taken on a computer at secure, authorized test centres. The convenient structure allows you to take the test in about 3 hours, instead of over two days. Each of the sections have a score ranging from 0-30. Subsequently, a final score is calculated on a scale of 0-120.

It measures reading, listening, speaking and writing skills. You can take a paper-based version of the test if you live in an area without internet connectivity. However, this paper-based test doesn’t include the speaking section due to technological constraints.


TOEFL 2020 Important Dates

TOEFL is offered up to 60 times a year at authorized test centres around the world. Furthermore, you can take the test as many times as you want. However, you’ll have to take a break of 12 days between test days. Further information on test centres and dates can be found here.

ETS is temporarily offering the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test to help students who are unable to take the test due to public health concerns. The test is identical in content, format and on-screen experience to the TOEFL iBT test taken at a test centre. It is taken on your own computer at home and is monitored by a human proctor online through ProctorU®. At home administrations are currently available around the clock every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday through June 30, 2020. Appointments may be available as early as 24 hours after you register. Find more information here


TOEFL 2020 Test Fees

At the time of writing, the TOEFL costs $180 to take.


How to prepare for TOEFL?

A candidate with a composite score of 110 and above is described as a very good user. The scores are valid for two years after the test date.

You can use ETS’s TOEFL resources to prepare thoroughly for the test. Check them out here.

Website: TOEFL Prep


C1 Advanced or Cambridge Advanced English (CAE) 

What is C1 Advanced?

C1 Advanced, formerly known as Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE), is a somewhat less commonly known English proficiency test. More than 9,000 educational institutions, businesses and government departments around the world accept C1 Advanced as proof of high-level achievement in learning English. The test is operated by Cambridge Assessments, a non-profit wing of University of Cambridge, which conducts assessments for 8 million learners in 170 countries.


C1 Advanced 2020 Eligibility and Requirements

Prospective students, as well as working professionals take C1 Advanced to demonstrate their English proficiency.

The C1 Advanced is quite a popular and widely accepted test among UK universities (just like IELTS). We highly recommend you take either the C1 Advanced or IELTS if you’re focusing on applying to the UK.

C1 Advanced 2020 Test Pattern

The test covers four sections; reading and usage (1hr, 30 mins), listening (~40 mins), speaking (15 mins) and writing(1hr, 30 mins). The speaking test is taken face to face, with two candidates and two examiners. However, other parts are conducted on paper or online.

If you score between 200-210, you are assigned a grade A (C2 level). Similarly, if you score between 193 and 199 you receive a B. A grade C (which is still considered as Level C1) is given if you manage to score between 180 and 192.

In total, the test takes about 4 hours to finish. You can learn more about the sections and content here.

Exam results are reported on the Cambridge English Scale.


C1 Advanced 2020 Important Dates

Test dates vary and are available on this page.


C1 Advanced 2020 Test Fees

In India, the CAE/C1 Advanced test costs INR 6000 to take.


How to prepare for C1 Advanced?

The test uses the Common European Framework of Languages (CEFR) to measure English proficiency. Specifically, the exam is targeted at Level C1 of the CEFR. Furthermore, the examination provides reliable assessment at the level above C1 (Level C2) and the level below (Level B2).

You can use this scale for reference. Your target should be to achieve a score which corresponds to C1 and C2 levels according to the scale.

The preparation resources on Cambridge Assessment’s website can help you prepare thoroughly for the test. Check them out here.

Website: C1 Advanced Prep

CPE is another similar English proficiency test offered by Cambridge Assessments. It tests proficiency for the C2 level (the highest level of English proficiency). The test structure is almost identical to CAE. Scoring, however, ranges between 200-230.


Pearson Test of English (PTE)

What is PTE?

The Pearson Test of English or PTE, is a newer English proficiency test. It is offered by Pearson, a publishing and assessment company (you might have had some of their books in your school curriculum).


PTE 2020 Eligibility and Requirements

Pearson offers different, customized versions of the PTE according to the test takers needs. The test is offered to learners who intend to travel to an English speaking country for study, work, settlement or family migration. As a student you’ll need to appear for the PTE Academic.

Because the PTE is a relatively new entrant, it isn’t as popular as competitor tests like IELTS and TOEFL. As a result, it is also not universally accepted by universities, especially in the US. But, it is growing in popularity, and may soon become a popular option. Here’s a list of universities and organizations which currently accept the PTE.


PTE 2020 Test Pattern

The test assesses the four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. It lasts approximately 3 hours and provides a score based on the GSE (Global Scale of English). Find out more about GSE. Moreover, speaking and writing are conducted together. There is also an optional 10-minute break between the reading and listening parts. Furthermore, during the test, you will find twenty different question formats, ranging from multiple choice through to essay writing and interpreting information.


The PTE is scored by a trained AI algorithm which mimics how human markers would score, based on previous responses. Test taker results are typically within just 48 hours of taking the test.

PTE 2020 Important Dates

PTE offers global testing in more than 295 test centers in over 50 countries. Check out test availability and centres here.


PTE 2020 Test Fees

The PTE costs INR 13,300 to take.


How to prepare for PTE?

The PTE is scored on a scale of 10-90. A score of 75 and above is considered very good.

For preparing for the PTE, you can use the free resource on their website. Check them out here.

Website: PTE Prep


Duolingo English Test (DET)

What is Duolingo English Test?

Like the PTE, the Duolingo English Test is a new, but very promising proficiency test. It’s offered by Duolingo, an American language learning platform.


Duolingo 2020 Eligibility and Requirements

As a new entrant, the DET isn’t as popular as competitor tests like IELTS and TOEFL. But it has witnessed a rapid growth in popularity, and increasingly being accepted by many top universities like Yale, Columbia and Duke. Around 1000 universities accept DET scores. Check if your institution is one of them.


Duolingo 2020 Test Pattern

The test consists of three periods: Setup (5 minutes), Adaptive Test (45 minutes) and video interview (10 minutes).

  • Setup: An introduction that walks you through the test rules and requirements
  • Adaptive Test: A graded section that evaluates your reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills
  • Video Interview: An ungraded section that records your answers to open-ended questions

You can find more information about the test here.


Duolingo 2020 Important Dates

You can take the Duolingo test in under an hour, from your home. All you need is a working internet connection and a webcam through which a proctor can monitor you. Also, test results take no more than 48 hours to be processed.


Duolingo 2020 Test Fees

The Duolingo English Test is much cheaper to take than its competitors, at just $50


How to prepare for Duolingo?

Based on your performance, DET’s algorithm generates a score for you on a scale of 10-160. Scores of 120 and above are considered very good. Here’s a breakdown of Duolingo English Test and other similar test scores.

Website: DET Prep

Key communication skills and advanced language ability are pivotal to success in a study program, whether it’s the IELTS exam or the Duolingo English Test. The English proficiency tests in this list test language skills on a variety of levels. Furthermore, all of them have different acceptability among universities. You should check which test suits you best and is accepted by your program for admission.

Picture of Shireen Parhee

Shireen Parhee

A creative producer turned content marketeer, Shireen has a flair for weaving words into compelling stories and bringing them to life through captivating videos. A vivacious leader, she naturally inspires her team, driving them to surpass expectations with her positive energy and insightful feedback. Boasting over a decade of experience across different forms of media, she is on a mission to create memorable content that will leave a lasting impact for years to come.

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