Tests of English Proficiency
The IELTS, TOEFL and TOEIC are the three major international ESL tests. They are used by universities, employers and immigration departments to measure the English skills of applicants who are not native English speakers. They all have testing centres in most countries around the world. They all test the four language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening, but they test them in different ways. In general, the IELTS and TOEFL exams are preferred by universities for students enrolling on academic courses, whereas the TOEIC exam is preferred by companies in order to promote, place and hire employees.


The IELTS is jointly administered by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council and IDP Education. It focuses on British English, and it is accepted not only by universities, but also by the immigration departments of several countries. There are two basic forms of the test; the academic test and the general test. Both tests use the same exam for the listening and speaking sections, but they have different versions for the reading and writing sections. The academic test is for those wishing to attend university or college, whereas the general test is for immigration, employment or high school purposes. One major difference between IELTS and TOEIC or TOEFL is that the IELTS speaking test is face to face with an examiner. The duration of the exam is 2 hours and 45 minutes. There are many different ways to answer questions, such as multiple choice, true or false, completing a form or table, labeling a map or diagram, matching, etc. The scoring system ranges from 1 to 9. Half scores are possible (5.5, 6.5 etc).


The TOEFL is administered by the American ETS organization, and is often a requirement at most colleges and universities in The U.S. and Canada. There are two forms of the test; the internet-based test (iBT) and the paper-based test (PBT). The formats are slightly different, but the PBT is slowly being phased out, and will eventually become extinct. The duration of the exam is 4 hours, but almost all the questions are multiple choice, which some students prefer to the variety of tasks in the IELTS. Also, the responses in the speaking section are spoken into a microphone, and recorded for assessment later by a panel of people, as opposed to a single examiner. The scoring system ranges from 0 to 120.


The TOEIC is designed specifically to measure the everyday English skills of people working in an international environment; understanding instructions, reading and writing emails, talking on the phone or in a conference, etc. and as such it is preferred by companies and employers.
Like TOEFL, it is an American based exam, but the TOEIC consists of two separate parts, and candidates may be required to do only one, or both.
There is a listening and reading test, which is paper and pencil based, and lasts for 2 and a half hours. The speaking and writing test lasts for 90 minutes,
and is an online based test. The scoring system ranges from 10 to 990.