Difference Between PTE, IELTS, and TOEFL: Which Is Easier?

Posted on 16/01/2024 by Moni PTE Magic

Most people often opt to take a PTE or IELTS exam for learning goals or career opportunities.

However, despite their relatively similar popularity, there is a huge difference between PTE and IELTS formats and scoring systems.

Not to mention, several universities or organizations only include one of these two in their requirements. It is important to break down all their differences so you can settle on an option more suitable for your current circumstances.

PTE Magic’s experienced support team is glad to lend you a helping hand in this regard.

Let’s take a look.

(Read our Vietnamese version here)


A Breakdown Of The Difference Between PTE and IELTS

difference between pte and ielts

1. Test Structure and Pattern

To achieve high scores for both tests, you must understand what sections are included and how they are structured for the exam. 

An IELTS test has four main sections, sequenced as follows:

  • Listening resection
  • Reading section
  • Writing section
  • Speaking section

On the other hand, a PTE test only has three major sections:

  • Speaking & Writing section (two skills are combined)
  • Reading section
  • Listening section

You can find more details for each section in the chart below.

Listening There are four recordings with 40 questions. Candidates must answer them in 30 minutes.  The section lasts 30 to 40 minutes, entailing various questions based on video clips and audio. 
Reading In 30 minutes, candidates read 3 different texts to complete 40 questions. In 29-30 minutes, candidates complete different exercises: sequencing paragraphs, filling in the blanks, MCQs, etc.
Writing Candidates must write two essays in 60 minutes. The first focuses on visual data/graph analysis. The second requires you to discuss opinions or viewpoints.  PTE merges these two parts into roughly 54 to 67 minutes. Diverse tasks are included in the section, which asks you to describe images, read aloud, write essays, and summarize texts. 
Speaking In 15 minutes, candidates introduce themselves, express opinions on particular topics, or discuss complex concepts.

2. Tasks

At first, the main tasks for IELTS and PTE seem quite similar. They indeed are, as both tests aim to assess the same skillset at the end of the day. However, you can spot more differences between them once you closely examine the requirement details.

a. Writing Section

Writing tasks for IELTS and PTE are pretty synonymous, so there is no need to adjust your preparation strategies much. Both exams require students to:

  • Organize paragraphs and sentences logically
  • Synthesize information to write a good summary
  • Support an argument or opinion with explanations, details, and examples
  • Use correct spelling, grammar, and vocabulary
  • Use suitable tone and language for the writing context

However, PTE mainly requires candidates to summarize given texts (both in single sentences and short paragraphs). Meanwhile, IELTS focuses more on argumentative tasks, where you must back up a claim or personal opinion with reasonable evidence and arguments. 

b. Speaking

For both exams, candidates are required to speak fluently using correct intonation, stress, and pronunciation. Plus, they must organize their speech logically and support their opinion with good explanations and examples.

However, like its writing tasks, IELTS prioritizes argumentative skills here. You must show both your English proficiency and critical thinking when discussing difficult concepts and topics. 

On the other hand, PTE examiners pay more attention to fluency, reading tone, and vocabulary than arguments. This is evident in the Reading Aloud and Describing Images tasks.

c. Reading

The distinction between PTE and IELTS becomes much clearer here, both in terms of timing and structure. 

In a PTE test, candidates answer much fewer questions in less time. While there are significantly more texts here than in IELTS, they are very short, and each text only has one question. 

That means you can skip a question for the next if you are not confident about a text’s meaning or general message. You will not have to answer multiple questions about the same article as IELTS candidates. 

On the other hand, the three reading texts in IELTS are much longer, each accompanied by 10 to 15 questions. Scanning and skimming skills, therefore, play a very important role here, especially given the 30-minute time limit. 

d. Listening

There are lots of significant differences to discuss.

IELTS introduces you to monologues and conversations within social contexts, while PTE recordings mostly come from academic sources. 

Furthermore, like reading tasks, IELTS has more questions for fewer recordings, so many candidates might find it more challenging than PTE.

Their tasks are not exactly similar, either. IELTS requires candidates to label a diagram or map, match answers, or complete sentences. On the other hand, PTE candidates must highlight incorrect words/summaries or write from dictation.

3. Score Comparison

Each IELTS section is graded on a band scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest). The examiners then average the individual band scores for all four sections to determine your overall band score. 

Note that half-band scores (such as 6.5) are possible within each section and the total score. Most universities usually accept 6 or 6.5 as the minimum score for entry. 

PTE scores, on the other hand, are based on the global scale from 10 (the lowest) to 90 (the highest). Like with IELTS, candidates also receive a section-wise, detailed breakdown once the results are finalized. 55-60 is usually the requirement for university entrances.

We hope this conversion chart makes it clearer for you:

IELTS Scores PTE Scores
4.5 30
5 36
5.5 42
6 50
6.5 58
7 65
7.5 73
8 79
8.5 83
9 86

On another note, our team also discussed the TOEFL vs PTE score conversion in another article

4. Exam Cost

Both PTE and IELTS examination costs are roughly equal, though IELTS can be fairly expensive in some countries due to higher demands. 

At the moment, 10,000 universities (across 140 countries) prefer IELTS. Meanwhile, PTE has only started to gain popularity since its first establishment in 2009. 

Specifically, IELTS charges $250 to $310, and PTE is priced at $185 to $275. Numbers vary depending on locations.

5. Administrative Factors

So far, PTE has offered more operational advantages than IELTS in this regard. Candidates who must report their scores shortly (e.g., within one week) would find PTE more convenient due to the quick booking time. 

Furthermore, you can retake the PTE exam within 5 days of your previous test. That is a huge bonus to consider, especially for people who tend to get nervous during first-time attempts.

On another note, more test centers are available for IELTS than for PTE. Therefore, if you have to travel to other cities to take the test due to circumstances, this availability will play in your favor. 

Which One Should You Take? Pros and Cons

Which is easier: PTE or IELTS? There is no definitive answer. Each option has its respective upsides and downsides, so you should consider your own levels and circumstances to decide on the right one. 

To help you make an informed decision,  below is a rough estimate of their pros and cons.

1. PTE’s Pros and Cons

The Pros

  • PTE tests are computer-based. Therefore, your score should be finalized very quickly, usually within 2 to 3 days.
  • Since PTE’s scoring relies on automated algorithms, all potential risks of bias will be eliminated.
  • Test dates are updated several times a day and throughout the entire year – great news for potential candidates with busy schedules. 

The Cons

  • PTE scores are not universally accepted like IELTS, particularly for academic admissions or immigration.
  • Due to its computer-based nature, PTE’s format is fixed. That means you cannot return to the previous section or skip to the next one. Some candidates find this inconvenient and very challenging.
  • High-quality preparation materials for PTE are not always available. Even though sites like PTE Magic are the solution to this issue, beginners still tend to end up on the wrong material sources due to a lack of experience. 

2. IELTS’ Pros and Cons

The Pros

  • Over 10,000 universities and organizations in the world accept IELTS.
  • IELTS offers paper-based and computer-based formats to cater to different preferences.
  • Candidates can manage time by returning to the previous sections or skipping to the next ones.

The Cons

  • The scores might take up to 13 days to be finalized, which is quite inconvenient for candidates who need fast results.
  • Human examiners pose risks of bias or subjectivity during scoring.
  • Test dates for certain locations may be very limited, so scheduling for the exam is not always easy. 

Some Preparation Sources for PTE and IELTS

Besides official sources (British Council IELTS and Pearson PTE Academic), students can also benefit from third-party websites.

PTE Magic is by far one of the best places to download mock tests and learn extra exam tips. Meanwhile, IELTSAdvantage has received rave feedback from IELTS learners, though you should expect a small fee for certain materials. 

If possible, consider turning to an experienced instructor or teacher for more advice. 


As you can see, there is a major difference between PTE and IELTS. 

While taking both tests is clearly ideal, not everyone has the time and budget for such an option. Instead, you should consider their task requirements, duration, wait time, exam fees, etc., to decide which suits you better.

Write to us if you still have questions!

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Moni PTE Magic

My name is Moni, and I am a seasoned PTE teacher with over 6 years of experience. I have helped thousands of students overcome their struggles and achieve their desired scores. My passion for teaching and dedication to my student’s success drives me to continually improve my teaching methods and provide the best possible support. Join me on this journey toward PTE success!

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