English Language Test: IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, Duolingo Which One Should You Target

10 mins

We know an English language test is essential to even apply for a program abroad. It's not something you can neglect. However, you have multiple alternatives. Now, this can go both ways. Either you will find your suit, or it will get you confused. For both situations, the answer can be understood by understanding these tests. So exactly which one is for you; IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, or Duolingo?

It is a matter of your current standings and your further studies plans. Assuming you are to apply to the best possible countries abroad for your studies, the information will revolve around these countries, in particular, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, etc. You will be surprised to know how different test scores are valued globally. Still, the fact remains that you have options available. However, it is always better to go with recommendations.

English Language Test: Across the World

For masters abroad, among many other documents like Essay, LOR, SOP, you need to submit an English language test. But it does get interesting. These tests are highly competitive, and they are conducted separately, so there are slight changes in every manner. It all comes down to which test makes your application better. Because even though they are all alternatives to each other, one remains the best possible choice (at least in given situations).

See, while applying to a university abroad, you must have come across preferences in admission requirements. For example, few universities prefer GRE test scores for business programs. It happens even with GRE being a more flexible standardized test. In contrast, the GMAT is mainly focused on business programs. Therefore, the use of standardized test scores is not entirely subject to its excellence or targeted ones.

As much as you consider the difference in these tests, look for the relevancy as well. For example, you may encounter a difference in preference by a country or an institute. Moreover, English language tests are also used in the immigration process. So, maybe you need to think twice before deciding on a specific one.

English Language Tests

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

Established in 1989, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an international standardized test. The test is conducted for non-native English speakers, primarily to get admission into graduate-level programs abroad. The British Council jointly manages IELTS, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English.

IELTS test scores are acknowledged and accepted by over 11,000 organizations across 140 countries globally. It's one of the two major English language tests along with TOEFL. The total duration for the IELTS exam is 2-hours and 45-minutes long. Out of four sections of the IELTS Academics exam, Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking, the last one is conducted within the exam week or later on the same day.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Started 1964, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a standardized test designed to measure the English language ability of non-native speakers. Abroad institutes majorly use the test as an admission requirement in graduate-level programs. TOEFL is administered by ETS. As a result, TOEFL is widely acknowledged and recognized.

The TOEFL test is accepted by over 11,500 organizations in more than 160 countries globally. Moreover, as mentioned before, TOEFL is among the top two choices for English language tests for admission criteria in abroad institutes. The TOEFL Academics test is a four-hour extended test with four entire sections; Reading, writing, Listening and Speaking.

Pearson Language Tests (PTE)

Pearson Language Tests (PTE) was introduced in 2009. PTE is a computer-based exam designed for students who seek admission in a graduate-level program in abroad universities. PTE is endorsed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). However, PTE is not as popular and recognized as compared to IELTS and TOEFL. 

More than 3,000 institutes in over 70 countries accept PTE test scores. PTE Academic test is a three-hour test divided among three sections; Speaking & Writing, Reading, and Listening. There is a 10-minutes optional break allowed between the reading and listening sections. The test is relatively new compared to other significant options and not well acknowledged globally.

Duolingo English Test - Duolingo

Duolingo is an American language-learning website and mobile app. The service allows users to learn numerous languages through the website/app. Duolingo uses vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation using spaced repetition to avail practical learning. The service also grants a language proficiency test to measure your standings.

Duolingo English Test (DET) takes less than an hour to finish. The exam takes about 45-minutes to complete and has four sessions; Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. Around 1700 universities now accept the Duolingo test. Duolingo has gained popularity in recent years and has started to be accepted in abroad institutes as an English language test score. The primary reason was the global pandemic Covid-19.

Test Score Comparison Chart

Without a doubt, each test has its assessment and grading system. Comparing all these exams to know which one suits better is intelligent. To be prepared, look over the score ranges of all IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, and Duolingo to know what to aim for. Here is a quick comparison between these four tests to let you know which score stands where:

Level in ProficiencyIELTSTOEFLPTEDuolingo
Very Good8110-11474-84135-140

Which One Should You Target

Going through these test details, you can see which tests are more relevant to a global level and more convenient. Moreover, knowing that the common language is English for all these tests does not guarantee a similar pattern. It is quite possible that you may perform average in one and excel in another.

Consider these factors to decide which English language test should you target:

1. Look for tests that are familiarized with locations.

There is such a thing called the location factor for standardized tests for abroad studies. Almost all countries indeed accept alternate test scores. But specific countries prefer specific tests. For instance, the USA and Canada generally put more interest in TOEFL as an English language proficiency test. TOEFL and PTE are more inclined toward American English and prefer that territory. Therefore, if you seek a master's program in North or South America, you better start preparing for TOEFL. PTE is the optional choice.

IELTS is most common in almost every corner of the world. European and Asian countries, Australia, etc., prefer IELTS over other English language tests. IELTS is more of an international test and is inclined towards British English. Due to the implementation of British English in more countries globally, it automatically becomes the first choice. Hence, start preparing for IELTS if you are planning to apply to mentioned countries.

Duolingo has been recently admitted to this area. The global; pandemic resulted in the closing of test centers in many countries, resulting in a decline among test-takers. This generated more acceptance of alternate options for international institutes. It's still recommended to prefer the standardized tests over Duolingo. However, it greatly depends upon your comfort as well.

2. Consider the difficulties in the test.

While looking for test familiarity in different locations, it is also essential to not just select a test you are not comfortable with. With these many alternatives, statements like 'each exam is difficult in its own way' do not concern much. IELTS and TOEFL are the hardest among all these four tests. Yet, these two are the most common choices among students. Other alternatives besides IELTS, TOEFL, POTE, and Duolingo also exist. Even so, IELTS and TOEFL are the most recommended ones.

PTE can be a tricky one in this aspect. PTE is started by a computer program and is generally considered easy. However, there are no intervals in any manner for the PTE exam, not even in between sections. So while the exam is more effortless than IELTS and TOEFL, it does not give you enough time to think. Therefore, prepare accordingly and plan all your functionalities while considering that flexibility is not an option.

The difficulty level of any test is indeed subjective. However, for Duolingo, you will need better language skills to answer the questions. You will be able to perform exceptionally without the language expertise. But build your skills so that you can comprehend and answer questions effectively.

3. Look for the institute preferences.

Like country-specific, institutes also have preferences on English language tests. While going through a program page, try looking at the requirement to apply for the program. You can directly see the mentioned test name and then after the alternative. That is not just a way of presenting the information. So if possible, try to focus more on the mentioned name if you expect a smooth way into your admission. Also, regarding PTE and Duolingo, it will help determine whether they are recognized for the particular institute.

Now, it is logical to categorize all institutes as country-specific and do it. However, do not neglect foreign campuses and partnerships among international institutes. For example, you may find a TOEFL preferred institute in Europe. Also, PTE is not very connected with North and South American countries. But in case you do not prefer IELTS whatsoever, you are totally fine to submit a PTE as an English language proficiency test score.

DET (Duolingo) is often mentioned on the institute's website if it is acted. However, if you look at it subjectively, DET will be more acceptable now. Even Harvard University Accepts DET for the English language test. And students are eager to reach for a straightforward approach. However, do not rely upon it.

4. Use your muscle memory.

Your previous experience with various exams can grant you a better score. As a student, it is safe to assume that you have gone through various exams throughout your journey. School exams, competitive exams, online tests, mock practice tests, etc. These experiences unconsciously build a muscle memory that impacts your effectiveness in an exam. Better to use this factor than neglect.

The time factor also plays a significant role. A four-hour-long TOEFL exam can break your concentration if you are not well prepared for it. Also, throughout their academics, students develop a particular habit with a genre of the exam. You remember attempting several competitive exams. Accordingly, it would be best to choose a test that is most suitable for your current experience. On the other hand, many students go through long exams and eat more comfortably during sitting hours. Ultimately, the exam time will be a factor while you prorate your strategies.

In many cases, the reason for an average or below-average score is time management. The different sections of these tests require different approaches. For instance, assigning your time and effort to all sections same is not a wise move here. Instead, work on your evaluation to determine where you need more work. Personalization is crucial for attempting these tests.

5. iBT tests are now more popular

If you already don't know, iBT (internet-based test) is the latest assessment in TOEFL that has taken the test to a new level. On the one hand, where IELTS online is not a popular choice, TOEFL iBT has made its way through. Moreover, institutes abroad prefer TOEFL iBT over paper-based tests. But, on the other hand, it still has to be developed more. Even though having the option to attempt the exam at your own pace is a fortune.

Though you should know that institutes, in general, do not prefer internet-based tests regarding English language proficiency tests, it is one of the reasons why PTE is still not as developed as it should have been. So, if you are planning to apply abroad for a master's, it is much better to go for a paper-based test (except in a situation where you are applying to the USA and nearby countries, TOEFL iBT is a good option).


Q1. Can I take more than one type of English language test?

Ans. Yes. There is no boundation to take more than one specific English language test. However, many students prefer to take two tests just in case.

Q2. How many times can I take IELTS/TOEFL/PTE?

Ans. There is no set limit on the number of times you can take IELTS/TOEFL/PTE. You can attempt multiple times for these tests when they are conducted.

Q3. Which is the most common test?

Ans. IELTS is the most common English language test considering all significant locations globally. In addition, IELTS is the primary test in more educational institutions abroad.

Q4. How do I submit my test score?

Ans. You can either send an electronic report or via paper TRF. However, it is recommended to check your applied institute official website to know what medium they avail.

Mentr Me
Follow us on:
Reach Out to us:
MentR-Me Education Pvt. Ltd.
Fourth Floor, Vijay Tower, Panchsheel Park North, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110049
Copyright © 2021 MentR-Me. All rights reserved.