A Guide to English Language Proficiency Tests

If you are a young Indian student wanting to study abroad, you will have to prove your English proficiency. For this, you will have to take a test to prove your proficiency. These exams are essential whether you go to study abroad after 12th or after finishing your graduation. They are also valid in non-English speaking nations as long as the course you are applying for is taught in English.

But what are some of the tests you can take and how do you take them? Well, here is a guide to help you with that.

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The International English Language Test is conducted by the British Council and IDP in India. This test is for both students seeking to study abroad as well as people looking to immigrate for jobs or other purposes. 


IELTS involves reading, writing, listening, and speaking tests. The tests are taken on paper or through a computer. Only the speaking test involves face-to-face interaction with a human examiner. The listening section involves listening to an audio recording before writing down your answer. This tests your ability to comprehend spoken English in different accents and contexts. 

The test takes about 2 ½ hours to finish, minus the speaking section which can take about 15-20 minutes and may be held on the same day or later depending on examiner availability.


Test takers are scored on a grade scale of 1-9. For most university admissions purposes, a score of 6.5 is the minimum you need to be considered eligible. However, if you want to study abroad for a Humanities program, particularly language, literature or media programs, the minimum score required may be higher, up to a 7 or 7.5.

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IELTS is available in Academic and General Training types. The Academic test is the one you will need for study abroad purposes. The General Training type is appropriate for those looking to move abroad for jobs or non-degree school programs.

IELTS is accepted by universities in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the EU. If you are unsure of whether the school you are applying to accepts IELTS scores, you can use the IELTS website to check. The scores are valid for two years from the date of receiving the results.


The registration fee for IELTS is Rs.14,700.

You can register for and book a test through the IELTS website. You will have to go to the designated test location for your test. You will be required to have your passport in hand to register and to present your passport as ID proof at the center while taking the test.

Website: https://www.ielts.org/


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is used by universities in the US and Canada to test English language proficiency for aspiring international college students. It is conducted by the ETS or the Education Testing Service of the USA. 


The TOEFL, unlike the IELTS, is an entirely computer-based test. It also has reading, writing, listening and speaking sections. While the rest of the exam is similar in format to IELTS, the speaking section here involves speaking into a computer that records your voice. This recording is later evaluated by three to six examiners. The exam takes about 3 hours to finish.

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In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, ETS has also introduced home-based internet testing for TOEFL which involves web-based proctoring by a human invigilator. This is done through screen sharing and webcam. 


Each section of the test is scored out of 30. The highest possible total score is therefore 120. The minimum score requirements differ from university to university and course to course. Anything in the range of 90-100 can be considered a rather safe score. A score above 100 is a very good score and may be necessary if you are applying for language, literature or media programs. 


While TOEFL is popular with students going to study abroad within universities in the USA and Canada, schools in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the EU also often accept TOEFL scores. If you are unsure whether the school you are applying to accepts TOEFL, you can always consult the school’s website or go to the TOEFL website and check. The scores are valid for up to two years from the date of receiving the results.

Registration & Fees

The registration fee for TOEFL is Rs. 12,750. You will need your passport as an ID document at the time of registration.

You can register for and book the test through the ETS website and then either take the test at the designated test center or at home. You will also need to present your passport at the test center on the day of the test.

Website: https://www.ets.org/toefl

3. PTE

The Pearson Test of English (PTE) is another proficiency test for students looking to study abroad. It is administered by the testing agency Edexcel which is a subsidiary of the Pearson group. The PTE test is entirely computer based and is evaluated by AI rather than human examiners. This eliminates human error or bias in evaluation.

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The PTE is a 3-hour test and includes three sections: speaking and writing, reading, and listening. Like the TOEFL, the speaking portion involves recording your verbal response for evaluation later on. The test is evaluated by AI.


The PTE is scored on a scale of 10-90 based on an assessment. For a more detailed understanding of how the AI algorithm allots scores, you can check the PTE’s score guide. A score of 58 in the PTE is roughly equivalent to a 6.5 in IELTS and a 59 is around a score of 87-88 in TOEFL – the very minimum scores considered by most universities for eligibility.


The PTE Academic test is used by students looking to study abroad. The PTE Home is for general immigration purposes for families looking to settle abroad. The PTE Academic is accepted by thousands of universities in the Anglosphere. You use the PTE website to check whether or not the universities you are applying to accept it. The scores are valid for two years from the date of receiving the results.

Registration & Fees

The standard price for a PTE Academic test is Rs.11,610.

You can register and book a test for yourself by contacting your nearest test center which can be found through the PTE website. You will need your passport as an ID document at the time of registration. You will also need to present your passport at the test center on the day of the test.

Website: https://pearsonpte.com/

4. Cambridge English Qualification Certifications

Cambridge English is a producer and one of the co-owners of the IELTS test. They also conduct other English language qualification tests for various purposes including for schools, general and higher education purposes and business English. These qualifications are both for studying abroad as well as general language certification purposes.

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The Cambridge English Qualifications are different from the previously mentioned exams in that they are not a single test but offer different certifications based on levels of proficiency. These levels are based on the CEFR standards, that is the Central European Framework of References for Languages. This is an international standard for grading language ability on a six point scale from A1 (beginner) to C2 (completely proficient).

A C1 level (CAE or Certificate in Advanced English) or a C2 level (CPE or Certificate of Proficiency in English) are generally required for higher education purposes. An IELTS score of 7 or higher is also considered C1 level proficiency and a score of 8 or higher is considered C2 level proficiency without having to sit for these exams separately.

These exams also include reading, writing, listening and speaking sections with the last one conducted through face-to-face interaction with a human examiner. The CAE and CPE exams are quite intensive and take about 3 hours for the reading and writing section, 40 minutes for the listening section and 15 minutes for the speaking test.


The CAE and CPE results are scored on the Cambridge English Scale. You need a score of 180 above to be considered C1 and a score of 200 above to be considered C2. In case you score lower than that, you will still be given a certificate but for a lower level like B2 or B1 which indicate preliminary or basic proficiency.

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CAE and CPE are accepted by all universities in the UK. They are also accepted by many universities in the EU, USA and Canada. You can check their website to ensure your school is one of them. The certificates are valid for a lifetime, however, universities may ask for recent test scores – no more than up to two or three years old.

Registration & Fees

To register for these exams, you will first need to find a test centre near you. Cambridge English Qualification exams are conducted both in paper-based and computer-based modes. You will have to travel to the test centre to sit for the exam. Since the tests differ in fee, you will have to contact the testing centres directly to find out about the fees.

Website: https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams-and-tests/qualifications/general/

Summing Up

This was a detailed guide to every English language proficiency qualification test that you can consider if you are planning to study abroad.
It is very important to choose the most suitable test for your needs to avoid your application being rejected. All of the tests listed here are widely recognised and accepted, especially the first two. However, it is important that you do your due diligence as well by checking all individual admission requirements for your prospective schools.

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