August 25

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How to Choose Wisely Between IELTS, TOEFL and Cambridge in 2021 (The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need)

You have a vision for a fantastic future.

You want to study abroad or maybe you’ve got your eyes on an amazing job.     

Whatever it is, you want to fulfil your dreams in life.

But to do that, you need an official certificate to show the world your level in English.

And now you’re searching for information. You feel a bit anxious. And confused.

You see acronyms like TOEFL & IELTS and you wonder what they mean.  

There are thousands of websites with information, but you don’t have the time to go through all of them.

What to do now? How do you proceed?

If you recognise this feeling, you are not alone.

I’ve heard this story hundreds of times from my students.

I get it.

You’ve studied for years.

You’ve worked bloody hard.

You are on your way to fulfil your dreams.

And…. your English is pretty decent too!

That’s fantastic, because we all know that having good English is crucial these days.

When you speak English, you have a better chance of getting that university placement, dream job, or life-changing visa document.

But here’s the thing. 

Without proof that you can speak English, you can say goodbye to your dreams.

Someone who is half as good as you could start living your dream life, just because they have a certificate from IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge.

That’s so unfair, isn’t it?

You didn’t struggle for so long, just to let your dream slip away.

So, here you are.

In between you and your dreams, stands an English proficiency test.

You need proof that you are worth that placement, that job, or that visa.

You need a good score from an IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge test.

But which one exactly?

Don’t worry. You’re going to find the solution to your problem in this how-to guide.

I promise you it’s the only one you’ll ever need. 

How Do You Choose Between IELTS, TOEFL and Cambridge?

I know what you’re thinking.

There is too much confusing information out there.

Thousands of websites, with as many different opinions.

It’s hard to compare all their differences and similarities.

You don’t want to spend hours weighing the pros and cons of each one.

You don’t want to make the wrong choice, wasting your precious time and money.

Well, here’s the good news.

There is a Smart Way to Choose an English Proficiency Test.

As a teacher of English, I meet plenty of candidates who try to find the easiest, the fastest, or the cheapest way to get a certificate. Just any certificate. And that’s fine.

But if you have serious ambitions, you choose the smart way: you go for the certificate that gives you the opportunity to live your dream life.

Do you agree?

Great!

Let me show you the simple steps you need to take to choose the smart way between IELTS, TOEFL and Cambridge.

Here’s what You Need to Do

First, ask yourself: where do I really want to be? Think deeply of your path to success. 

Does it come past a university? An employer? An immigration officer? Or all of them?

Find out exactly who -or what- you have to deal with along the way.

Not just until the first corner, but all the way to the finish line.

Find out the requirements of your selected institutions to the very last detail.

Check under ‘requirements’ or ‘entry requirements’.

Can’t find them? Ask for them.

Let these requirements decide which test you need, and which level of proficiency you need.

Keep in mind that different institutions require different levels of proficiency.

Different places recognize different test methods.

Typically, places in the USA have different requirements than places in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. In Canada, it is sometimes the same as in the USA, but sometimes the same as in the UK.

Ok, now let’s start choosing your test.

Do You Want to Move to the UK, Australia, or New Zealand?

Is your goal to enter a university, or to apply for a job in The UK, Australia, or New Zealand?

Then, you likely need to take an IELTS test. (International English Language Testing Service).

You can choose a paper version or a computer version.

There is an academic and a general test. Make sure you know which one you need!

The test takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete.

You are tested on your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills.

The speaking skills are tested face-to-face with an examiner.

You receive a band score ranging from 0 to 9 for each of the four skills, and an overall band score.

Your IELTS score is valid for two years.

It is most widely accepted in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, and sometimes in Canada, the USA, and other countries.

Look here for more information about IELTS, including dates, test locations and price.

Do You Want to Go to the USA or Canada?

Do you dream of getting a university degree in the USA or Canada?

Or is your ambition to bring your career to the USA or Canada?

Then, you probably need to take a TOEFL test. (Testing of English as a Foreign Language).

You can take the test on a computer at a test centre. There is also a temporary home edition available.

It takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete.

You are tested on your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills, and on how well you combine these skills.

The speaking skills are not tested face-to-face with an examiner, but with a recording.

You receive a score in points from 0 – 120.

Your TOEFL test result is valid for two years.

It is most widely accepted in the USA and Canada, and sometimes in the UK, Australia, and other countries.

Look here for more information about TOEFL, including dates, locations and price.

Do You Need Universally Accepted Proof of Your English Level That Never Expires?

Are you looking for a way to verify your English level with a widely accepted certificate that lasts a life time?

Then, you can take a Cambridge Assessment as an excellent all-rounder.

Cambridge is a reputable institution and their tests are widely recognized in the whole world by many universities and in many different industries.

There is a test for the lowest to the highest levels.

Your score needs to be in a certain range to pass a certain level.

You can add your Cambridge test result permanently to your résumé.

Here are a few examples.

Do You Want to Live and Work in an English-Speaking Country or Study a Course Taught in English?

Then the Cambridge B2 First is the test for you.

You can choose a paper version or a computer version.

The test takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete.

You are tested on your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills.

The speaking skills are tested face-to-face with two examiners, and one other candidate.

You can pass the Cambridge B2 First with a score between 160 and 179 points.

Your test result never expires.

It is accepted by businesses and educational institutions as a proof of being proficient up to level B2.

Look here for information about Cambridge B2 First, including dates, test locations and price.

Do You Need to Study at Academic Level or Work at Managerial and Professional Level in English-Speaking Countries?

Then, the Cambridge C1 Advanced test is for you.

You can choose a paper version or an online version.

The test takes around 4 hours to complete.

You are tested on your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills.

The speaking skills are tested face-to-face with two examiners, and one other candidate.

You can pass the Cambridge C1 Advanced with a score between 180 and 199 points.

Your test result never expires.

It is accepted by businesses and educational institutions as a proof of being proficient up to level C1.

Look here for information about Cambridge C1 Advanced, including dates, test locations and price.

Do You Want to Work or Study in a Very Senior Professional or Academic Environment?

Or do you want to show the world that you have mastered English to an exceptional level?

Then, you want to go for Cambridge C2 Proficiency.

It proves you can communicate with the fluency and sophistication of a highly competent English speaker.

You can choose a paper version or an online version.

The test takes around 4 hours to complete.

You are tested on your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills.

The speaking skills are tested face-to-face with two examiners, and one other candidate.

You can pass the Cambridge C2 Proficiency with a score between 200 and 230 points.

Your test result never expires.

It is accepted by businesses and educational institutions as proof of being proficient up to level C2.

Look here for information about Cambridge C2 Proficiency, including dates, test locations and price.

Let’s Pave Your Way to Success!

Isn’t this great? Now you know how to choose the test that’s best for you.

You know which certificate clears your path to success.

No more endless raking through the internet.

No more worrying about making the wrong choice, wasting time and money.

Just think of how confident you will feel when you update your résumé with your test results.

Think of how excited you will be when you tear open your placement letter.

Imagine signing that employment contract.

Picture that ‘visa approved’ stamp in your passport.

Now, it’s time for you to draw your road map to success.

And choose the test that takes you to your dreams.

Let us know which English proficiency test you’re going to take in 2021, and why. We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

About the author 

Suraya Roos

Suraya is from The Netherlands, but she lives in Penang, Malaysia. She has a Ba in English Studies and a TESOL Instructor Certificate. She's been teaching English to adult students from many different countries and backgrounds for more than ten years.


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