PTE vs TOEFL: A comprehensive comparison to help you choose

By Edvoy• Last updated: Mar 18, 2024
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PTE and TOEFL are two widely recognized and accepted assessments for English language proficiency. They evaluate various aspects of language proficiency, including grammar, vocabulary, listening comprehension, speaking fluency, and academic writing.

While both PTE and TOEFL serve the same purpose, they differ in certain aspects, including their formats, scoring systems, and test administration. Understanding the distinctions between these two assessments is crucial for test-takers to choose the one that best suits their needs and preferences.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between PTE and TOEFL, examining their test structures, question types, scoring methods, test delivery modes, and other relevant factors.

Overview of PTE

The Pearson Test of English (PTE) is an internationally recognized English language proficiency test that assesses the four key language skills: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. It is designed to measure a test-takers ability to use the English language in real-life academic and professional settings.

  • PTE is developed and administered by Pearson, a leading education company.
  • The test is computer-based and utilises state-of-the-art technology to deliver accurate and reliable results.
  • It is widely accepted by academic institutions, immigration authorities, and employers around the world as proof of English language proficiency.
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Overview of TOEFL

TOEFL is a widely recognized standardised test designed to measure the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. Developed and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS), TOEFL is accepted by thousands of universities, colleges, and institutions in over 150 countries.

  • TOEFL assesses the four essential language skills: reading, listening, speaking, and writing.
  • It provides an objective and standardised measurement of an individual's ability to understand and use English in an academic setting.

PTE vs TOEFL: Pattern comparison

PTE consists of three main sections: Speaking and Writing, Reading, and Listening. The test is computer-based and follows a fixed order, where test-takers move from one section to another without the option to return.

  • The Speaking and Writing section assesses speaking and writing skills through tasks such as reading aloud, describing images, and essay writing.
  • The Reading section evaluates reading comprehension through multiple-choice questions, reordering paragraphs, and fill-in-the-blanks.
  • The Listening section assesses listening comprehension with tasks such as summarising spoken texts, multiple-choice questions, and fill-in-the-blanks.

TOEFL consists of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The order of the sections may vary, and the test is administered via the Internet.

  • The Reading section evaluates reading comprehension skills through multiple-choice questions, drag-and-drop tasks, and completing summaries.
  • The Listening section assesses listening comprehension through multiple-choice questions, completing tables, and taking notes.
  • The Speaking section measures speaking skills through tasks such as responding to prompts, summarising information, and expressing opinions.
  • The Writing section evaluates writing skills through tasks such as writing essays and summarising information.

PTE vs TOEFL: Scoring system

PTE uses an automated scoring system to evaluate test-taker's responses. Each skill area is scored individually, and the scores are reported on a scale from 10 to 90. The PTE scoring process involves computer algorithms that assess responses based on predefined scoring criteria. The automated scoring ensures consistency and eliminates subjective bias in the evaluation process.

TOEFL combines both human raters and automated scoring to evaluate test-taker's responses. The Speaking and Writing sections are scored by certified raters who follow specific scoring guidelines provided by ETS.

  • The Reading and Listening sections are scored by computer algorithms.
  • Each section of TOEFL is scored separately, and the scores are reported on a scale from 0 to 30.
  • The scores from the four sections are combined to provide an overall score ranging from 0 to 120.

Reading section

In PTE, the reading section includes multiple-choice questions, fill-in-the-blanks, and reordering paragraph tasks. The texts in PTE encompass various genres, including newspaper articles, academic texts, and informational passages. Test-takers are given an overall time limit for the reading section, allowing them to manage their time as they see fit.

TOEFL's reading section primarily consists of multiple-choice questions. Test-takers read passages and answer questions based on the content. 

  • The passages in TOEFL resemble those found in university textbooks or scholarly articles, focusing on academic reading skills. 
  • Each reading passage in TOEFL has a specific time limit, and test-takers must complete the questions within that allotted time.

Listening section

In PTE, the listening section comprises various question types such as multiple-choice, highlighting correct summaries, filling in the blanks, and selecting missing words. Test-takers listen to audio recordings of different lengths, including conversations, lectures, and presentations. The audio materials used in PTE are typically a mix of everyday spoken English and academic content.

TOEFL's listening section consists mainly of multiple-choice questions. 

  • Test-takers listen to academic lectures, classroom discussions, and conversations, which reflect the types of listening tasks encountered in university settings.
  • The audio materials in TOEFL are more focused on academic content and often involve complex vocabulary and subject-specific terminology.

Speaking section

In PTE, the speaking section is computer-based, and test-takers speak into a microphone to record their responses. It includes various question types such as read-aloud, repeat sentences, describing images, retelling lectures, and answering short questions. Test-takers are given a limited amount of time to respond to each question, and their responses are automatically recorded and assessed.

TOEFL's speaking section is also computer-based and consists of six tasks.

  • These tasks include speaking on familiar topics, expressing an opinion, summarising information from reading and listening to passages, and participating in academic discussions.
  • Test-takers verbally respond to the prompts, and their responses are recorded and evaluated by human raters.


Writing section

In PTE, the writing section includes two tasks: summarise written text and write an essay. In the summarised written text task, test-takers read a passage and summarise it in a single sentence. In the essay task, test-takers write an essay on a given topic.

TOEFL's writing section consists of two tasks: integrated writing and independent writing

  1. In the integrated writing task, test-takers read a passage and listen to a lecture or conversation related to the topic. They then write a response summarising the main points from both sources. 
  2. In the independent writing task, test-takers write an essay expressing their opinion on a given topic.


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Major differences between PTE and TOEFL

The major differences between PTE and TOEFL can be summarised as follows:

Test formatPTE is a fully computer-based test.TOEFL has both computer-based (iBT - Internet-based Test) and paper-based (PBT) options.
Question typesPTE includes a variety of innovative question types such as speaking into a microphone, summarising written texts, and reordering paragraphs.TOEFL focuses on traditional question types like multiple-choice, listening comprehension, and essay writing.
Test contentPTE focuses on real-life English language skills and incorporates authentic materials.TOEFL emphasises academic English skills required for university environments.
Scoring systemPTE uses an automated scoring system to evaluate responses. PTE scores are reported on a scale from 10 to 90.TOEFL combines human raters and automated scoring. TOEFL scores range from 0 to 120.
Test deliveryPTE allows test-takers to schedule their test at any time and provides quick results within 2-5 business days.TOEFL has fixed test dates and result processing time can vary from a few days to a few weeks.
Test durationPTE has a fixed test duration of approximately 2 hours.TOEFL iBT can take around 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Also Read: Tips to prepare for the TOEFL Exam

Acceptance: Which is more widely accepted, PTE or TOEFL?

Both PTE and TOEFL are widely accepted by universities, colleges, employers, and immigration authorities around the world. The acceptance and recognition of these tests may vary depending on the country, institution, and specific requirements.

TOEFL has a long-established global presence and is particularly recognized in North America and Western Europe. PTE has gained significant popularity in recent years and is recognized by an increasing number of institutions and organisations worldwide.

It is advisable to research and verify the English language proficiency requirements of your target institutions or organisations to determine which test is preferred or accepted. Consulting official sources such as university websites, admission guidelines, or the institution's international office can provide the most accurate and up-to-date information on test acceptance.

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Difficulty level: Which is easier, PTE or TOEFL?

PTE is sometimes considered easier than TOEFL by some test-takers due to its fully computer-based format, automated scoring system, flexibility in answering, and generous time allocation for each section.

However, the perception of difficulty varies among individuals, and it's important to choose the test that aligns better with your skills and preferences. Adequate preparation and practice are essential for success in either test.


The choice between PTE and TOEFL ultimately depends on individual preferences, the test requirements of target institutions or organisations, and the specific strengths of the test-taker. It is recommended to research the test formats, question types, scoring systems, and acceptance policies of your desired institutions to make an informed decision.

Frequently asked questions

What are PTE and TOEFL?

PTE (Pearson Test of English) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) are standardised tests designed to assess the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers.

What are the differences between PTE and TOEFL?

PTE and TOEFL differ in test format, question types, scoring systems, and test delivery. PTE is fully computer-based, while TOEFL has online and paper-based options. The question types and scoring processes also vary between the two tests.

What is the format of the PTE test?

The PTE test is delivered in a computer-based format. It consists of three sections, including Speaking and Writing, Reading, and Listening. Each section assesses different language skills and includes a variety of question types.

How are PTE and TOEFL scored?

PTE uses an automated scoring system to evaluate responses, with scores reported on a scale from 10 to 90. TOEFL combines human raters and automated scoring, with scores ranging from 0 to 120.

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