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Language Proficiency: Exams An Introduction

August 27, 2021Neetha

You want to go abroad for studying or job. The first step of that journey begins with a language proficiency test. Or maybe a qualifying exam. Most of the time the native language of the candidate is different. Therefore, almost all universities and countries ask for a language test. When it comes to the language test, many are confused. They are confused about which exam is needed. Also, about the difference between the proficiency exams available.

English is a global need. Most of the countries require the candidates to have knowledge in it. English speaking countries often demand proof of proficiency. Candidates need to appear any of the available exam. Language proficiency is hence, a major step. Migration is made easier with this step.

The need to prove one’s proficiency in a language is high. Especially in English speaking host countries. Interestingly, most of the popular destinations are English speaking. Be it the UK, Canada or Australia. All these popular destinations require English proficiency from the candidate. But there will be a confusion when it comes to actually proving one’s language. There are many English proficiency exams available. Let’s check them out!

Language Proficiency: Which one?

So first, let us identify the different exams available. Let’s see how they differ from one another. Here’s a list of globally accepted English Proficiency Exams:

  • The Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL)
  • The International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  • Occupational English Test (OET)
  • And the Pearson Test of English (PTE)

1.Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a globally accepted language proficiency exam. It’s a key to your dream to study abroad. This exam is mostly taken by non-native speakers of English language. This exam is accepted by more than 11,000 universities in over 150 countries. There are four sections in TOEFL in which the candidates are tested. They are

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing

Each of these sections is devoted to test the particular skills of the candidates in that segment. This exam is set to test if the candidate is ready to follow and adapt to the challenging academic training of the English-speaking environment.

This test comes in three types, paper version (PBT – Paper-based Test), computer-based (CBT – Computer-based Test) and online version (IBT – Internet-based Test). Currently TOEFL IBT completely displace CBT, and it’s the most common type of examination. Each section is worth 30 points for a maximum score of 120. The TOEFL results are valid for two years.

2.International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is a widely sought-after language proficiency exam. This exam is considered to by candidates wanting to study, work or migrate to English-speaking countries abroad. It is a commonly known fact that the Governments in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom use IELTS to process immigration applications.

In fact, IELTS tests are now one of only two exams included on the UK government’s list of Secure English Language Tests (SELTs). More than 10,000 organizations across the world recognizes IELTS exam, including educational institutions, employers, governments, immigration authorities and professional bodies. IELTS is available at more than 1,600 locations worldwide. Like TOEFL, IELTS too assesses the four skills of the appearing candidates, that is:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing

There are two types of IELTS available,

  • IELTS Academic and
  • IELTS General Training

Listening and Speaking are the same for both tests, but the subject matter of the Reading and Writing sections differs depending on which test you take. The score range of IELTS exam is between 0-9 and is valid for two years. IELTS exams are conducted by two official bodies under Cambridge Assessment English, they are the British Council (BC) and the International Development Program (IDP).

3. Occupational English Test (OET)

OET is an English language proficiency examination designed exclusively for healthcare professionals. This test is developed specifically for the 12 healthcare professions. This examination tests the language communication skills of the health professionals who dreams to register and work in English-speaking environments.

OET is trusted by regulators, hospitals & universities in the UK, the US, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai and Singapore as proof of ability to communicate effectively. OET is held 14 times every year across 120 locations in 40 countries. In India, there are around 21 centers where OET is conducted.

OET is also divided into four sections, that is:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing

The score range of OET is from Grade A (highest) to E (lowest). The result of OET is valid for two years.

4. Pearson Test of English (PTE)

PTE is another English language proficiency test that can be attended by non-native speakers wishing to go to an English-speaking environment. This exam is considered as the unbiased proof of a candidate’s English skills and is trusted by universities, colleges and governments worldwide. The specialty of this test is the fast result.

Results of PTE is typically available within the 48 hours of taking the test. The test is conducted in over 295 test centres in more than 50 countries over 360 days of every year. There are many PTE Academic test centers located in all major cities in India. The four papers are common to PTE as well and they are:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing

PTE has a score range from 10 to 90 points. PTE result is valid for two years.

Language Exams: Know the Difference!

These English language proficiency exams are developed to test the language skills of non- native speakers going abroad to an English-speaking environment. However, they differ from one another with regard to their length, scoring, content and results. Among these mentioned English language tests, TOEFL is the longest test and typically take around 4 hours each to complete, while the PTE takes 3 hours. The IELTS generally requires 2 hours and 45 minutes, while OET takes 2 hours and 55 minutes. The IELTS can be split over two separate testing days.

The Scoring aspect of these four tests vary too. Interestingly, the IELTS, OET, and TOEFL use human scorers, whereas the PTE uses automated scoring with no human scorers. However, for the IELTS speaking section, there is an actual face-to-face conversation with a test proctor. It is evident that these four tests are made to measure a student’s speaking, listening, reading, and writing ability, but they do it in different ways.

The TOEFL is a typical American standardized test, containing two essays, six brief spoken responses, and many multiple-choice questions or fill in the blanks. With almost the same format, the IELTS has two essays, multiple-choice and fill in the blank questions, and an oral interview. PTE is the newest of these exams and has just one essay and about twenty different types of questions and tasks. OET is designed to ensure effective communication in the healthcare sector and hence to assesses the speaking, writing, reading and listening skills of the health professionals. It provides a reliable assessment of all four skills (listening, reading, speaking and writing) while emphasizing on communication in healthcare professional settings.

Language Tests: Conclusion

The score results of these exams vary as well. TOEFL scores are available after 10 days, while the IELTS results are available within 2 weeks. However, the PTE results are announced within 5 working days after the test and results of OET are available after 16 business days after the exam. With these differences, all these language proficiency exams are available to prospective candidates, to help them prove their English language proficiency. It is very important to consider two thoughts before deciding on which test to pursue and appear. First, consider whether the testing institute/centre available is convenient for you. Second, consider if the test is accepted by the institutions or schools where you are looking to apply. If all these tests are available in your area and recognized by the institutions you have targeted, choose carefully the best suited exam and crack your way to your dream journey abroad!

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