ielts vs pte which is easier

My post today is about a question I have been asked several times recently, “is the PTE easier than IELTS?”. So, for those of you who don’t know, the PTE is the Pearson Test of English and (I hope you know this) the IELTS is the International English Language Testing System..I won’t go into too much detail about either test here as that is a post in itself, I will just note the main differences and then talk about which is “easier”..or not as the case may be.

But first, the reason I have been asked about this is that I have a lot of Iranian friends and students. And one thing I hear constantly is that IDP/BC (two of the bodies responsible for IELTS) mark Iranian students down for writing. Writing is problematic for many learners as they struggle to get more than 6.0/6.5 for their writing tasks in the exam, leading many to suggest that IELTS has a “downer” on Iranians. I don’t really believe that this is the case, in my experience people get low scores because their writing justifies it, in other words it is not as good as it could be. This is usually always down to Task Response, people don’t know what the examiners want in an essay (and Task 1) and they struggle subsequently.

That aside, this seemingly being the case, more and more people are turning to, or thinking of turning to, the PTE, for immigration and uni admission purposes. This is fueled in part because the PTE is being more widely recognized and accepted these days, for Australia, and by many universities and colleges. You can check which institution accepts PTE here.

Before I talk about which is “easier” then, let’s have a quick look at the format of both tests (not in detail, you can find more about that here for IELTS, and PTE). The tests have similar sections, testing reading, listening, speaking, and writing, however in IELTS you speak to a person interview style whereas the PTE records your speech for evaluation by a computer. The other major difference is the IELTS writing is paper and pencil, whereas PTE is typed on a keyboard. For scoring, PTE is completely automated and grades you from 10-90 (results available in five days), and IELTS score you from 0-9 (results in 14 days).

This brings me to the point, which is “easier”?…the answer is neither. (I am talking about the academic versions of the tests here). If your English level is poor and/or you don’t understand the exam format and have a study plan and a strategy plus sufficient preparation time, you will do just as badly in either test. However, here are some things to consider as to which test is best for you, it comes down to what your strengths and weaknesses are. What do I mean?…well, let’s take writing and speaking to compare as the other sections are more or less the same skills, for example if your handwriting is terrible and no one can read it, then PTE would be better for you as you can type on a keyboard. Similarly, if your typing skills are poor but you are fast and legible with a pencil, then that’s the test for you. Also, PTE tasks are somewhat albeit very slightly easier, you have to summarize a text in a single sentence of between 30 to 75 words (instead of describing a chart, table, etc for IELTS) and the essay criteria for PTE is not as strict as for IELTS. (I will break down the differences in detail in another post this week).

As for speaking, and this is not fair but their game their rules, if your accent and/or pronunciation is not “standard” then the PTE computer system may give you a low mark for Oral Fluency as it’s algorithm is not as sensitive as a real interviewer as in the IELTS. Again, I don’t like this, but if your accent and/or pronunciation is “strange” then you may want to give the PTE a miss and go with IELTS instead.

In sum then, what you need to think about is this, forget which is “easier”, you need to think what are your weak points and choose accordingly. If you are good with computers and can type well, and your handwriting is a bit dodgy, then go for PTE. If you write well and type poorly, then go with PTE. If you have a “standard” sounding accent then go with PTE, if you have a “strange” accent then go with IELTS.

That’s all for now, for my next post I am going to break down the PTE writing section and make comparisons with IELTS and show you what you need to do to get a good score. if you have any qs, you can write to me anytime at…