The aim of this post is to help you decide which English language test to do for your visa while also providing you with resources that will make your revision for the English proficiency test easier.

If you are the start of your journey and haven’t yet worked out how to make the move to Australia, this post breaks down the steps involved, and this post helps you decide whether you need a migration agent or not.

Pinterest image with computer and earphones to promote choosing between doing the IELTS vs PTE exam

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My experience of the English language test for Australian immigration

Short on time? Grab my top tips to PTE and IELTS success here

When we were applying for our Australia PR visas back in 2012/13, we needed the extra points from an English language test in order to apply for our skilled-independent visa. My husband did the IELTS, and I helped him revise and spent a few weeks going through past IELTS test papers, reading IELTS books and going through IELTS study material with him. I’ve written about it before in Australia and New Zealand magazine (read it here). He is an engineer and writing is definitely not something he enjoyed doing, but he got the points he needed first time (phew) with a bit of work.

Your IELTS and PTE immigration questions answered

Which English language tests are accepted by the Department of Home Affairs for your Australian visa?

The government website has a list of accepted English language tests. You can check out the list here. For this post, I will be comparing the most popular options: The International English Language Testing System (known as the IELTS) and the Pearson Test of English (known as PTE).

Can I submit an EOI if I haven’t yet successfully completed an English language test?

If you need the points from an English language test for your visa application, you must successfully complete your English language test (and your occupation skills assessment) before you submit your EOI. You can read more about that here on the government website.

Do I need to take an English language test, and if so, which test do I need to take?

This post isn’t about helping you work out your Australia visa points or which level of English test is required for your occupation. If you haven’t worked this out yet, I recommend speaking with a MARA registered migration agent to find out your options. I partner with Veronika Hurbis of Sort Out My Visa – you can read more about her and send her an email here. She will be able to help you work out whether you need the PTE for Australian PR or the IELTS for your Australia immigration (you can choose either test depending on which suits you more). Not everybody needs to do an English language test, but if you need the points for your visa, you will need to take a test even if you are born and bred in the UK and have spoken English from birth.

Is an English language test easy for someone who is a native English speaker?

Don’t be fooled into thinking just because you have been speaking and writing English for 20 – 50 years that it will be easy to take the test! Do not underestimate it. The tests aren’t too difficult but you need to prepare so you know what to expect to give you the best chance of scoring the points you need first time.

The two English proficiency tests I am looking at in this post are: The International English Language Testing System, otherwise known as IELTS, and the Pearson Test of English which is abbreviated as PTE. Either can get you extra points towards your visa. How many points you need to secure from your English language test will depend on how many points you have acquired from the rest of your skills, age and experience. (Again, if you aren’t sure, speak to a migration agent like Veronika asap).

IELTS vs PTE: Here is a PTE IELTS comparison list

I’m going to explore the differences between the IELTS and PTE in this section so you can hopefully decide which one is for you.

I’ve been asked lots of times: ‘IELTS or PTE – which is easier?’ I know that some people say the PTE is easier, but I honestly don’t believe that to be true. While researching this article I found as many people preferred the IELTS as the PTE, and a number of them had tried both. Both tests are different and the two tests definitely suit different people. I think you just need to make a decision which one is for you and throw all of your energy into passing that test rather than worrying about whether a different route might be easier. If after a few tries of one test you aren’t seeing progress then switch to the other and see if you get a better result. But if you prepare properly you will hopefully succeed first time.

Difference between IELTS and PTE

Up until now, the real difference between the IELTS and PTE has been that the IELTS uses a pen and paper like an old school exam and the PTE uses a computer. However, this should be changing as the technology is there to do the IELTS on a computer too and it has been rolled out in some locations (although it doesn’t seem to have been rolled out in the UK yet as nobody in my Facebook group had the option). So right now, if you prefer to type rather than writing long hand, then the PTE is your winner.

For the speaking sections of the exam, you speak to a real person for the IELTS and you speak to a computer for the PTE. There are some downsides to the PTE here: people tell me during the speaking section, you can hear other people in the room answering their questions and this can be distracting as everyone is in the same room doing the test, whereas in the IELTS you go into a private room to do the speaking test. Also, if you have a very strong accent, the PTE can be tricky as a computer is scoring you and it may not pick up your language if you don’t speak clearly. Whether you find the idea of talking to a real person comforting, or you prefer to be more anonymous and talk to a computer, it comes down to personal preference.

The PTE has 20 different, shorter tasks and the IELTS includes five longer, more in-depth tasks, so depending on how you like to focus you should consider this too.

The PTE results come back quickly (within a few days), but for the IELTS you will need to go away and wait for a period of time (more like a couple of weeks). So if you don’t like waiting around, then the PTE is the winner here.

Grab my top tips to PTE and IELTS success here

Cost of the English language tests in the UK

I just Googled for prices (March 2018) and these were the prices I found, so it looks like they are pretty similar:

  • PTE costs £155 (for $35.99 you can get a practice test that is scored which is a great way to try it out before you decide to book – just make sure you have a suitable microphone to do this as the one in your computer isn’t likely to be adequate for it but the one you use for your phone should be OK).
  • IELTS costs £165

Preparation for the English language test

Half the battle is knowing what to expect and training your mind to create the answers they are looking for. This only comes about with lots of practice. Please do not assume you can pass the English language requirements for Australian immigration without putting in some work. It’s not something to be scared about – you just need to decide which of the two tests you want to do.

Ask the audience: Do people prefer the IELTS or PTE?

I asked my Facebook group for their thoughts on the English language test along with any pro tips or thoughts they wanted to share. Here’s what they said:

Stephen says:
I took the IELTS general in Liverpool uni in September last year and managed a pass first time. I did worry about this given the issue of questions and answers not really reflecting how we are taught/learn in the UK. However, once I realised that how you answer is the way to approach it I found the online tutorials you get plus Ieltsliz on YouTube and her approach to writing letters in the format required I found it ok. I would defo recommend the revision. Anyone who thinks they can do it without doing some revision is either not taking it seriously or has money to burn.

Juliet says:
I got my IELTS results Friday. Scored what I needed to for the 20 points towards my visa on the first attempt. I just used the revision prep they provided when I signed up to do it. It definitely helped knowing the format of the test and what to expect. I don’t think the PTE format was for me. I definitely prefer talking to a person rather than a computer…but that’s just my preference.

Danica says:
I did the IELTS test in 2010. The best way to prepare for it is just to familiarise yourself with the format of the test. I found the speaking part to be the easiest section of the test and the more freely you can articulate yourself the easier it is to pass

Lisa says:
Partner did IELTS in August last year. We bought 1 of the practice books and he just worked through that to get used to the format and the areas he found more difficult. Passed first time with 9s 🙂 There’s a thread on pomsinoz which has guidance from an ex-IELTS examiner on it too which is helpful.

Kristina says:
It was relatively easy as long as you practised the structure of the test. I have bought the book and just kept doing practise tests online. I hade 8 or 8.5 in all but 7.5 in listening. English is not my first language.

Michelle says:
I didn’t find IELTS particularly tricky after some revision using IELTS Liz’s Facebook page and her YouTube videos. I got 9,9,9,8.5 first time.

Denise says:
I compared the two and decided to do the PTE one and so pleased I did as it was quite easy I did read the book and it did help to prepare but I felt I did worry over nothing.

Victoria says:
Hubby has just done IELTS. He got a 7 for writing and 8.5’s and 9’s for other parts so we are appealing it which costs £60 which is refundable if granted! Apparently it’s quite common that people don’t get the mark for the writing part as they know you need 8’s for points for visa. Even though he’s obviously competent as got high marks in all other areas! Advice I was given was to appeal or don’t tick the box it’s for visa purposes in future!

Have you decided which test to choose: Will it be IELTS or PTE? Read on to find out my recommended IELTS and PTE resources to help you ace the test. 

PTE English test for Australian immigration

If you’re planning on doing your PTE exam for Australia immigration, then you will want to get your hands on as many PTE sample papers, PTE mock tests and as much PTE preparation material as you can. It’s about doing plenty of PTE practice tests before your big day, so you know exactly what to expect. Whether you succeed or not, it’s all in the PTE preparation that you put in!

It’s easy to do a lot of PTE preparation online and there are also some amazing PTE study guides to help you. Remember, you are taking your PTE test for Australian immigration, not for fun, so make the effort to revise and practice so you can pass first time to save yourself time and money with retakes. Visa rules change all the time, you want to get your application in as quickly as you can so you don’t risk missing out.

Here is my pick of the best PTE resources you can buy.

The Official Guide to the Pearson Test of English Academic New Edition Pack (Pearson Tests of English)

The Official Guide to PTE Academic provides information about the test and includes over 200 practice tasks on CD-ROM. You will also find analysis of sample answers, test-taking tips and more. This is the only official guide for PTE Academic written by the developers of the test itself, it includes everything you need to know about the test. So if you are looking for the best PTE coaching, then I would say this is it.

Get it now


Pearson Test of English Academic Practice Tests Plus and CD-ROM with Key Pack

This promises four complete practice tests with authentic test questions by PTE Academic test writers. It delivers guidance and tops on how to succeed with each task and helps you learn from real candidate’s answers. It includes an MP3 disc with recordings of the listening and speaking tasks.

Get yours now


PTE Academic Testbuilder: Student’s Book + Audio Pack

The PTE Academic Testbuilder includes four complete PTE practice tests for the entirely computer-based Pearson Test of English Academic exam, providing guided analysis of answers and further practice across all four language skills.

Buy it now


Choosing IELTS for your Australia immigration

If you’ve decided the IELTS is for you instead of the Pearson test, there is a lot more IELTS online study material to get your hands on, whether you’re looking for the best IELTS preparation or specifically grammar for IELTS (which was the main thing my husband struggled with getting right). Here is my pick of the best IELTS study material.

The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS Student’s Book with Answers with DVD-ROM (Cambridge English)

The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS is THE definitive guide to IELTS and it gives you everything you need to pass first time. It covers both the General Training and Academic Modules. You learn from other candidate’s mistakes so that you know what to avoid. It includes eight official practice tests and a focus on test-taking strategy help you maximise your score. There are videos of the speaking test, along with listening material on theaccompanied DVD or you can download it via an accompanying app from iTunes or Google Play.

Get it here


Cambridge Grammar for IELTS Student’s Book with Answers and Audio CD

Cambridge Grammar for IELTS is the best IELTS book for grammar. It develops your IELTS grammar skills while also developing your listening skills at the same time. It includes a wide range of IELTS tasks from the Academic and General Training Reading, Writing and Listening modules, and walks you through the grammar explanations.

Get it now


Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced: And How to Avoid Them

Based on the mistakes of thousands of exam papers, this book aimes to teach you how not to do the IELTS! The book walks you through where people usually fail, so you don’t have to.

Get it now

IELTS and PTE score for Australian immigration

If you need to pass an English language test for your Australian immigration, the way to do it is to prepare. Buy yourself the best IELTS book for self study, find the best book for PTE exam preparation, do lots of PTE practice online, get your head around the structure of the IELTS and what they are looking for with your answers. The PTE isn’t easier than the IELTS – both involve plenty of revision and hard work so that you are prepared.

Best of luck! And be sure to let me know over in the Facebook group which test you’ve chosen and why!

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