Planning to Study Abroad?
Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a new culture, gain new perspectives, and develop new skills. One of the most important considerations for students who want to study abroad is their proficiency in the English language, as most countries where English is not the native language still use it as the language of instruction.
The purpose of this blog is to provide an overview of the most common English proficiency exams that students might have to consider if they are planning to study abroad. The blog will also provide tips for choosing the right exam, preparing for the exam, taking the exam, and understanding the results. The goal is to help prospective study abroad students make informed decisions about their English proficiency testing, and to help them feel more confident and prepared as they embark on their study abroad journey.
Here’s one last bit of perspective. Taking exam preparation classes has been the focus of my teaching work in Vietnam since 2018. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support and encouragement from the good people at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City, where I originally did my TESOL training.
Common English Proficiency Tests
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): TOEFL is one of the most widely recognized English proficiency exams in the world. It is designed to assess the English language abilities of non-native speakers who are planning to study in English-speaking countries. TOEFL measures reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an internationally recognized language proficiency test for non-native English speakers. It measures the language abilities in four key areas: listening, reading, writing and speaking. The test is designed to assess the English language skills of people who need to study or work in English-speaking countries.
IELTS scores are used by a variety of organizations, including universities, immigration departments, and professional bodies, as a way of measuring English language proficiency. The test is available in two formats: the Academic module and the General Training module. The Academic module is intended for people who want to study at the university level, while the General Training module is designed for those who need English for work, migration, or training purposes.
IELTS results are based on a 9-band scale, with scores ranging from 0 to 9. The test is marked by trained and certified IELTS examiners and results are available online 13 days after the test date.
PTE (Pearson Test of English): PTE Exam is an English language proficiency test for non-native English speakers. It is designed to assess the English language skills of people who need to study or work in English-speaking countries. PTE measures English language abilities in four key areas: speaking and writing, listening, and reading.
PTE is a computer-based test and uses advanced technology to accurately measure language abilities. The test is designed to be completed in one sitting, usually lasting around 3 hours. The speaking and writing sections are conducted in real-time, allowing for a more natural and interactive testing experience.
- CAE (Cambridge English: Advanced): CAE is a high-level English proficiency exam that is designed to assess the language abilities of non-native speakers who are planning to study or work in English-speaking countries. CAE measures reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.
- CPE (Cambridge English: Proficiency): CPE is the highest-level English proficiency exam offered by Cambridge English. It is designed to assess the English language abilities of non-native speakers who are planning to study or work in English-speaking countries at an advanced level. CPE measures reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.
Choosing the Right Exam
When choosing an English proficiency exam, there are several factors to consider, such as the acceptance of the exam by the institution you are planning to attend, the cost of the exam, the test format, and the availability of test dates and locations. Additionally, it is essential to consider your personal needs and goals, such as your desired level of English proficiency and your future plans for studying or working in an English-speaking country.
The best exam for you will depend on your individual needs and goals. Suppose you are planning to study at a university or college in an English-speaking country. In that case, you may want to consider TOEFL or IELTS, as many institutions widely accept them. If you need to demonstrate a high level of English proficiency for professional purposes, you may want to consider CAE or CPE. If you are looking for a cost-effective and convenient option, you may want to consider PTE, which can be taken at a Pearson testing center near you. Ultimately, it is important to research each exam carefully and choose the one that best fits your needs and goals.
Preparing for the Exam
To prepare for your English proficiency exam, you should start by familiarizing yourself with the exam format, content, and structure. It is also important to practice your English skills regularly, focusing on the specific skills that will be tested on the exam. This may include speaking, writing, listening, and reading exercises, as well as vocabulary and grammar practice. Additionally, you may want to consider enrolling in an exam preparation course or working with a tutor to help you focus your studies and build your confidence.
There are many resources available to help you prepare for your English proficiency exam, including online courses, textbooks, practice tests, and study guides. Official exam preparation materials, such as TOEFL iBT Practice Tests, IELTS Official Practice Materials, and PTE Official Practice Tests, can be a great place to start. You can also find many other resources, such as exam preparation apps, videos, and blogs, online. It is important to use a variety of resources to help you prepare for your exam, as this will help you develop a well-rounded understanding of the exam format and content.
Taking the Exam
Taking an English proficiency exam typically involves registering for the exam, paying the exam fee, and choosing a test date and location. On the day of the exam, you will need to arrive at the testing center early, bring appropriate identification, and complete the exam in accordance with the instructions provided. After the exam, you will receive your scores, which will be used to assess your English proficiency for academic or professional purposes.
On exam day, you can expect to be tested on your English language skills, including speaking, writing, listening, and reading. You will typically be given a set amount of time to complete the exam, and you may be required to complete multiple-choice questions, writing tasks, speaking tasks, and listening tasks. It is important to be well-prepared for the exam, both in terms of your English skills and in terms of what you can expect on exam day. It is also important to remain calm and focused during the exam and to follow all instructions and guidelines provided by the examiners.
Scoring and Results
Each English proficiency exam has its own unique scoring system, which typically ranges from low to high scores. For example, TOEFL scores range from 0-120, IELTS scores range from 1-9, PTE scores range from 10-90, CAE scores range from A1-C1, and CPE scores range from C1-C2. It is important to understand the scoring system for your chosen exam, as well as the minimum score requirements for your desired academic or professional outcomes.
Your results from your English proficiency exam will be used to assess your level of English proficiency and determine your eligibility for academic or professional opportunities. It is important to interpret your results carefully, taking into account the scoring system, your personal goals, and the requirements of your desired academic or professional outcomes. If you do not meet the minimum score requirements, you may need to retake the exam or consider alternative opportunities for improving your English skills. Regardless of your results, it is important to use the experience of taking the exam as an opportunity to continue learning and growing as an English language learner.
The importance of English proficiency when studying abroad, the different English proficiency exams that are available, how to choose the right exam, tips for preparing for the exam, what to expect on exam day, and how to interpret the results.
For prospective study abroad students, the journey toward achieving English proficiency can be both challenging and rewarding. It is important to be well-informed about the different exams that are available and to choose the exam that is best suited to your personal needs and goals. With proper preparation and a strong focus on developing your English skills, you can increase your chances of success on the exam and achieve your desired academic or professional outcomes. Finally, it is important to remain motivated and focused and to use the experience of taking the exam as an opportunity to continue growing and developing as an English language learner.
About the writer: Billy Atherton completed the Australian Government accredited TESOL programme at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City. He has been teaching English in Vietnam since 2017. Preparing Vietnamese students for international examinations has been the main focus of Billy’s work over the past few few years.