Choosing the right language tests for international admissions

Studying abroad is a great chance to meet new people, experience a new culture and of course, enhance your language skills. If you are choosing to study in an English-speaking country but you’re not a native English speaker, you will need a minimum English language score to prove your capabilities. This is to ensure you can understand the lectures, participate in classes and seminars, and complete your assignments to an effective standard.

Even if you know you have excellent English language skills, you will still have to offer some evidence of this, based on the university requirements. The only exception applies to native English speakers, and the required certificate or test score will vary dependent on the academic institution.

Different types of English tests

When you’re applying to study abroad, you will need to choose the correct test based on your chosen institution’s requirements. Some of the common English language tests accepted by international universities are:

  • PTE Academic
  • C1 Advanced (formerly known as CAE)
  • B2 First (formerly known as FCE)

Make sure to confirm which test is accepted by your chosen university before you decide which one you will sit. Although the tests are similar, there are some slight differences and you don’t want to waste your time studying for the wrong one.

What English language test should international students take?

Before you sign up and pay for an English test, your best bet will always be to check the website of the institution you are applying to. The English requirements may differ dependent on the level of education you will be studying at and the specific programme or course you have chosen.

Most universities will accept application submissions before you have your test scores, so you don’t need to pay for a test until you know if you have been accepted to your course of choice. 

If your course requires an impressive test score, the amount of time and effort you need to put into preparing for the exam may be more intense. In this situation, you may want to check how many times and how often you can retake the TOEFL or IELTS test. To prepare for an English language test, there are lots of online resources and you can get in touch with someone who has sat the test or watch videos on YouTube about students experiences to make sure you know what to expect.

Which English test is best for studying abroad?

The two most commonly accepted English language tests used for study, work and migration are TOEFL and IELTS. They are recognised by over 11,000 organisations worldwide, with over 3.5 million tests taken globally in the last year. The two tests are similar in many ways as they examine and evaluate your ability to listen, read, write and speak English at an academic level. Learn more about these two language exam options here:

  1. IELTS

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System and it is a popular international standardised test of English language proficiency. No minimum score is required to pass the test and it measures the student’s level of English from A1-C2.

The two types of IELTS tests are:

  • IELTS Academic: This option is suitable for people who want to study at a higher education level or work in a professional role that requires this certification.
  • IELTS General Training: If you are going to an English-speaking country for secondary education, work experience, or training programmes you may be required to pass this test.

The two tests follow the same structure, but the academic test is more difficult. The IELTS Academic is usually required for students applying to a university abroad. It consists of four parts:

  • Listening: 30 minutes
  • Academic reading: 60 minutes
  • Academic writing: 60 minutes
  • Speaking: 11-14 minutes with an examiner

Previously, students could sit the IELTS test in paper or computer-based formats and you could only take them in official test centres. Since 2022, students have been able to sit the test at home.

  1. TOEFL

The TOEFL, Test of English as a Foreign Language, was created to improve English language proficiency for non-native speakers who wanted to study in the US.

TOEFL consists of four parts:

  • Reading: 54-72 minutes
  • Listening: 41-57 minutes
  • Speaking: 17 minutes, answers are recorded via microphone
  • Writing: 50 minutes

It takes 3 hours to finish the test and it’s a computer-based test. TOEFL also offers a revised paper-delivered test, but it is only available in locations without an internet connection.

What does international admission mean?

As an international student, your admissions requirements will differ from applicants who are residents in the country already. One of the main differences is that non-native speakers need to prove their English capacity, e.g. with one of the listed tests. Fees will also differ for international students and you will be required to submit different documents during your application so make sure to double check this on your chosen university’s website.

So, if you are planning to study in an English-speaking country and you need to sit an English language test, we hope this blog has given you some guidance on the different types of English tests available for international students. The international English language testing system can be complicated if you don’t have some foundational understanding about the different test types and its important you don’t waste money or time on a language qualification that won’t be valid for your chosen course. We wish you good luck in this step of your language-learning journey!

If you need additional support or guidance with your language test preparation, The Language Gallery can help you. We offer only IELTS Preparation classes and elective options in our other courses. If you are sitting a language exam other than the IELTS option, then The Language Gallery can help you prepare if you book one-to-one classes.

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