Top five English language proficiency test providers for prospective students

  • English language non-native speakers interested in studying in countries where the native English is used for educational instructions require English language proficiency test.

    Most of the universities/colleges in native English language speaking countries—UK, US, Australia, etc. require English language proficiency test as part of their admission requirements.

    There are organized bodies/organizations that administer these tests. They are commonly referred to English Language Proficiency Test Providers. They basically test speaking, listening, reading and writing levels of test takers. The test results, apart from academic purposes, are also used for other purposes.

    Find out in this piece five major English language proficiency test providers and brief information about their operations.


    TOEFL is an acronym for Test of English as Foreign Language. Founded in 1964 by Educational Testing Service, it is arguably the most widely accepted by many English speaking universities/colleges across the world. TOEFL has two basic types of test: iBT (internet-based) and pBT (paper-based test). The internet based type, as the name implies, is conducted via the internet. It takes about four (4) hours to complete. The grade range is from 0 to 30 per sections (writing, reading, speaking, and listening) making 120 total points in all sections.

    The PBT is delivered via paper. Its total score ranges between 310 and 677. It is based on three sub scores: Listening (31-68), Structure/Written Expression (31-68), and Reading (31-67). TOEFL test validity is two years.

    TOEFL has over 4500 test centers in 165 countries. Read more about TOEFL on


    IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. Established in 1989, it is jointly managed by the British Council, Cambridge English Language Assessment and IDP (IELTS Australia). IELTS has two basic types: ‘Academic’ and ‘General Training’. The IELTS Academic test is meant for students/scholars applying for higher education programs while IELTS General Training test is for people going to English speaking countries for secondary education, work experience or training programs. The test duration is about 3 hours. Scores are allotted for each component of the test—listening, reading, writing, and speaking to arrive at an overall band score. The band score is between 0-9. Score 0 means no attempt, 1 means non-user, 2 means intermittent user, 3 means extremely limited user, 4 means limited user, 5 means modest user, 6 means competent user, 7 means good user, 8 means very good user, 9 means expert user.  IELTS test validity is also two years.

    Find out more about IELTS on or

    PTE-Pearson Language Test

    PTE Academic was launched in 2009 by Pearson Language Tests. Formally referred as the Pearson Test of English Academic, PTE also tests/assesses the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers who are willing to study in a university-level English language instruction programs. PTE is endorsed by the Graduate Management Admission Council and is accepted by prominent universities/colleges such as Yale University, Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, IE Business School, etc. PTE is computer-based, takes 3-hour duration, and delivers results within 5 working days. The score range is 10-90. Get more information about PTE on

    Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)

    Cambridge English Advanced/ Certificate in Advanced English is developed and managed by Cambridge English Language Assessment. It is equally recognized by most UK universities. The test is also made of four parts—Reading and Use of English, writing, listening and speaking. CAE has CBT and PBT formats and takes about four (4) hours to complete. The scale score is 160-210; 160-179 (Level B2), 180-192 (Grade C), 193-199 (Grade B), 200-210 (Grade A). Find out more here:


    MELAB stands for Michigan English Language Assessment Battery. Created by CaMLA, it also provides a standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English speakers. MELAB is also widely recognized by universities. The test consists of three compulsory sections (writing, listening, and grammar/close/vocabulary/reading) and one optional section (speaking test). Find out more about Melab at

    You may also check out this article about the top 10 websites that provide sample practice for some of the exams we discussed.

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