5 English Proficiency Tests to take before you study abroad

Expat life
18 Sep 2023
11 mins read
Written by Riona lye

Hey there! Thinking about studying abroad? Well, before you dive into this exciting adventure, let me tell you why taking an English proficiency test like IELTS or TOEIC is an absolute must!

First off, most universities and educational institutions in English-speaking countries have language proficiency requirements for international students. They want to make sure you’re well-equipped to handle the academic demands. And hey, English is gonna be your main language of instruction, so you gotta rock those language skills for lectures, discussions, assignments, and exams.

Plus, with great English comes great communication and cultural adaptation skills, making your study abroad experience even better.

Oh, and did I mention that these test scores are often required for student visa applications? Plus, they can open doors to part-time employment opportunities!

With their global recognition and proven correlation to academic success, these tests ensure you’re totally ready for your academic journey and seamless integration into a whole new environment. Let the adventure begin!

If you’re considering taking an English proficiency test, there are several commonly recognized ones that are widely accepted and used around the world.

Here are some of the most well-known ones:

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
  • Cambridge English Exams
  • PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English Academic)
  • TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication)

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. Yes, I know it sounds like a mouthful, but don’t worry, it’s not contagious. This particular test is recognised by over 12,000 universities and institutions in a whopping 160 countries.

And here’s the good news: you can take it from the comfort of your own couch. No need to put on pants, y’all! Just be sure not to unintentionally flash the webcam unless you’re aiming to show off your killer dance moves. If you’re feeling extra fancy, some countries even offer the Paper Edition!

Test Optio

Test at a test center

Test at home

Test on paper


Available worldwide at more than 3,000 authorised  TOEFL iBT test centers.

Available worldwide.

Available in Colombia, India, Mexico and the United States.


Offered more than 60 times a year.

Available 24 hours a day, 4 days a week, with appointments available as early as 24 hours after you register.

Offered one to two times a month. You’ll need to register for two appointments: one at your local test center and the other at home.

Other things you should know


Make sure you meet the Environment and Equipment requirements for at home testing before you register.

Reading, Listening, and Writing sections: on paper at a test center.

Speaking section: at home on your computer within 3 days after the paper sections. Your Speaking session will be monitored online by a human proctor.

Make sure you meet the Environment and Equipment requirements for at home testing before you register.


But in all seriousness, this test can feel like a marathon- because you’re in for a four-hour ride! You’ll have to arrive a whole half-hour early just to get settled in before the exams start. Then, you’ll have to tackle four daunting parts – Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. And if that wasn’t scary enough, each skill has four or five levels of proficiency with a score range of 0-30.

Take a deep breath though, no one’s grading you on a curve here – the only ones setting score requirements are the institution or agency you’re applying to. But if you’re feeling the need to flex your brain muscles (and maybe show off a bit) you might want to give that Toefl practice test or Toefl reading practice a whirl.

It’s like having one of those fancy study buddies at your beck and call but without the hefty hourly fee. You can take a complete test, half test, or even a speaking test – because let’s face it, we can all use a little practice when it comes to talking ourselves up.

You’ll get your scores back in just 24 hours, complete with feedback on all four skills the test measures. Who knows, maybe after all that studying, you’ll be the one setting the score requirements! 

IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

This test is like the Beyoncé of English language testing – it’s got a whole bunch of smart organizations backing it up (think British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English). Plus, it’s accepted all over the place – we’re talking UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and beyond.

But before you start practising your vowel sounds, you need to decide which test you’re going to take. There’s the IELTS Academic for the smarty pants who want to study at the university level. And then there’s the IELTS General Training for those who want to migrate to some of the coolest places in the world like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. Not to mention, it’s also great for learning everyday English skills that you’ll need in social and workplace environments.

So, you’ve got an upcoming IELTS test, and you’re worried about how well you’ll do. Don’t worry, my English-speaking friend – I’ve got some good news for you. You see, the IELTS score chart is graded on a scale of 1-9, which means you’ve got plenty of room to work with. So, what’s a good IELTS score, you ask? Well, the higher you can score, the better.

If you score a 9, you’re an expert user – you could probably teach Shakespeare a thing or two. But, if you score a 0, well… let’s hope you didn’t even attempt the test.

Plus, the score you get on this bad boy is valid for two years, so make sure you flaunt that English proficiency while it lasts. And how many times IELTS exam is conducted in a year, you ask? The answer will blow your mind…48 times a year!! That’s right, you will almost be able to find IELTS exam dates every week!

If you are ready to tackle the IELTS test like a boss, then listen up, my friend! The first step in preparing for the exam is to get your hands on some IELTS sample questions. It’s like a sneak peek at what’s to come. Think of it like watching trailers for movies – you don’t want any surprises on test day!

And don’t forget about the official IELTS practice materials. They’re like your trusty sidekick throughout your exam prep journey. Plus, have you heard about IELTS Progress Check? It’s like having your own personal trainer for the test – but it’s all online! So go ahead, my friend. Get. Your. IELTS. On.

Are you prepared to take the test? The IELTS website provides information on the 2023 update of IELTS fees, test locations, and registration links for all countries.

Cambridge English Exams

Well, well, well, look who’s flexing their academic muscles! It’s the University of Cambridge and its fancy department, Cambridge Assessment English!

These guys are like that one friend who always has a clever response to everything. Their insights are so sharp, they could cut through a thick slice of cake. And let’s not forget their exams – Cambridge English: First, Advanced, and Proficiency. They might sound like superheroes, but they’re just language exams.

If you are not sure which to take, just look at this chart:

CEFR level

B2 (First)

C1 (Advanced)

C2 (Proficiency)

Scale score




Test format

Computer or paper-based

Computer or paper-based

Computer or paper-based

No. of papers




Exam length

About 3.5 hours

About 4 hours

About 4 hours


To inquire about the cost of taking a Cambridge English exam, please reach out to your selected exam center for specific details.

If you can’t tell, Cambridge English exams are built like a set of stepping stones – by the time you reach C2, you will be impressing everyone with your fluency and sophistication.

PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English Academic)

Are you ready to prove your English skills without facing the judgmental glares of a language teacher? Then the PTE Academic test is perfect for you! This two-hour computer-based exam offered by Pearson is the ultimate way to assess your English language proficiency for study abroad and immigration purposes. Plus, no more sweaty palms and nervous fidgeting during your test because it’s all done on a computer. PTE Academic measures your speaking, listening, reading, and writing abilities quickly and efficiently.

All you will need is a minimum PTE Academic score of 36–67 depending on what level of degree you’re going for. If you just need to take some foundation courses, you can skate by with a score of 36–50. But if you’re really feeling fancy and want to get yourself an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, you better step it up and aim for a score between 51–67.

Plus, your scores are valid for a full two years from the date you slay that test. And let me tell you, those scores are worth their weight in gold because PTE Academic is accepted by over 3,300 institutions worldwide. We’re talking Harvard Business School, Oxford University, and even Yale! It’s also recognized by the Australian, UK, and New Zealand governments for visa purposes.

PTE Academic fees:





PTE Academic



₹15900 INR


$220 USD


$270 USD

Hong Kong

$295 USD


$190 USD

TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication)

So, you want to prove your English language skills in a workplace context, huh? Well, you better brush up on your vocab and grammar, because the TOEIC is coming for you! It’s like the English language version of The Hulk, measuring your proficiency with all the force and power of a smug CEO.

The TOEIC Listening & Reading Test is made up of two equally graded tests, but don’t worry, they’re not grading your ability to read while skydiving or anything crazy like that. The TOEIC Speaking Test evaluates your pronunciation, intonation, and stress (so, don’t sound like a robot, okay?), as well as your grammar, vocabulary, and all that other important stuff. And the Writing Test assesses your grammar (no, you can’t just add a bunch of emojis instead of using proper sentences!), relevance to the given pictures, and whether you can string together coherent thoughts.

These tests have a possible score of 990 – which can seem intimidating.
And if you still don’t do great on your first try, no biggie—you can take it again in just 28 days!

Just take note that your scores are valid for 2 years.

So why not flex your English muscles and show those companies who’s boss? Just be sure to bring a thesaurus, a dictionary, and perhaps a lucky charm or two. Good luck out there, grammar warriors!

TOEIC fees: USD140 for each component (Listening and Reading / Speaking and Writing)

What is the best English proficiency test to take?

So, you want to know which English proficiency test is the best, huh? Well, buckle up because it’s a wild ride. You’ve got TOEFL, IELTS, and CAE, all vying for your attention.

It’s like trying to choose your favourite ice cream flavour – it all depends on your taste. TOEFL, IELTS and CAE are all well respected, but let’s be real, the real challenge is figuring out how to take the test. It’s like studying for a pop quiz in high school – you got to know the technique and what’s expected of you. For example, in the writing section of IELTS, you’ll have to write an essay and analyse a chart or map.

Meanwhile, CAE wants you to go all Photoshopper-guru and talk about three photos for an entire minute. Oh, and don’t forget that IELTS is British English and TOEFL is the American version. So, pick your poison and get ready to hit the books.

Before you go…

Passing this test is the key to unlocking a world of opportunities for studying abroad or becoming an expat. But once you’re accepted, don’t forget about the less magical, but equally important task of transferring your hard-earned cash overseas.

Luckily, Instarem has got your back on that front. Trust them to take your money from here to there faster than lightning.

We may not be able to wave a wand and make your dream expat journey happen, but we can certainly help make the nuts and bolts of it go a lot smoother!

Download the app or sign up here.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. All details are accurate at the time of publishing. Instarem has no affiliation or relationship with products or vendors mentioned.

About Instarem

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