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IELTS vs TOEFL vs Duolingo vs PTE: Which English Test to Take?

IELTS vs TOEFL vs Duolingo vs PTE: Which English Test to Take?

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Confused about which English language proficiency test to take as an international student? Read GyanDhan’s comparative guide on IELTS, TOEFL, Duolingo, and PTE tests to determine which one is best for you.

Rohit Gidwani
Updated on:  27 Sep 2023  | Reviewed By: 
| 6.06K | 15  min read
How to Choose the right english language exam to study abroad

If you are planning to pursue higher education in a foreign country and English is not your first language, you will likely need to take an English language proficiency test as a prerequisite for admission to an international university. It can be difficult to choose the right test to demonstrate your language abilities. The four tests we will be comparing are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Duolingo English Test (DET), and the Pearson Test of English (PTE). These tests are widely recognized and accepted by universities, colleges, and governments around the world.


 Our aim is to provide you with an overview of each test and help you make an informed decision about which test is best suited for you. So let's dive in and explore the differences between these popular language proficiency tests.

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General Differences between IELTS vs TOEFL vs Duolingo vs PTE

There are many differences between the four mentioned English proficiency tests. An overview is tabulated below:


Conducting body

IDP Education Ltd. 

Educational Testing Services 

Duolingo online learning platform

Pearson PLC Group

Test score range

0 - 9

0 - 120

0 - 160

10 - 90

Mean of accepted score






2 hours 45 minutes

1 hour 56 minutes

1 hour

2 hours

Result declaration (online)

3 - 5 days after test

6 - 10 days after test (exact date will be given right after the test)

Within 48 hours of completing the test

Online within 2 days of completion


16,250 INR (187 USD)

15,750 INR (190 USD)

4030 INR (49 USD)

15,900 INR (193 USD)

Assessment mechanism 






  • list items Academic
  • list items General Training
  • list items TOEFL PBT ( Paper-based Test)
  • list items TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test)
  • list items Duolingo Academic
  • list items PTE Academic
  • list items General
  • list items Young Learner Test

IELTS vs TOEFL vs Duolingo vs PTE: Conducting Bodies     

  • list items IELTS is one of the most recognized English proficiency tests that is widely accepted in all the universities. This test is currently being conducted by IDP Education Ltd in India. Before it, this was used to be conducted by British Council and IDP Education Ltd in partnership. IELTS was introduced back in 1989.
  • list items TOEFL came into existence in 1964 and is now being conducted by Educational Testing Services (ETS). This is a test that is preferred when it comes to American universities. With the latest update, its registration process has become easier as well. 
  • list items PTE is much newer as compared to the above two mentioned tests. This test was started in 2009 and acts as a legit English proficiency test for studying abroad in some universities. This test is considered to be the easiest among all the English proficiency which are available for international students from non-English speaking native countries.
  • list items Duolingo English Test (DET) is the test that has currently gained a lot of popularity, especially during the pandemic times because of its convenience to take the test from home. This test was introduced in 2011. This test is conducted by Duolingo online learning platform and when compared for cost and duration this test costs the least and is associated with the shortest duration of the test.


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IELTS vs TOEFL vs Duolingo vs PTE: Mode of exam

All these tests are conducted in different modes which can be chosen by the candidate as per their convenience.

IELTS: This is conducted in two modes.

  • list items Computer-Delivered IELTS tests - this was introduced back in 2017 in which you have to type the answers on the boxes provided. For this test, you have to go to the IELTS test centers. The 4 sections that are in this test are writing, reading, listening, and speaking. 
  • list items Paper-based IELTS test - for this test you will have to write the answers on paper and then submit them to the invigilator.


TOEFL: The two modes in which TOEFL is conducted are

  • list items TOEFL Paper-Based Test (PBT) - this is conducted at an offline location where there is no availability of internet. This has three sections - reading, writing, and listening.
  • list items TOEFL Internet-Based Test (iBT) - this is an internet-based test that measures individuals against 4 criteria (sections) that are reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It is the most preferred mode of TOEFL, almost 97% of people prefer this mode.


DET: This is conducted in only online mode.

  • list items Online DET - the Duolingo application can be downloaded to a personal computer or laptop and the candidate can take the test at the convenience of home. There are some basic requirements like having a stable internet connection, speakers, video camera, and more that needs to be fulfilled in order to take this without any interruptions.


PTE: There are two different versions of the tests but both versions are conducted via online medium. The two versions are:

  • list items PTE Academics - PTE Academic is the major online test that you can undertake if you are planning to work or study abroad. This can be used as proof of English language proficiency.
  • list items PTE General - PTE General is only conducted for rewarding brilliant achievements in English language learning and is not used as an English proficiency test.

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IELTS vs TOEFL vs Duolingo vs PTE: Exam format and duration

The main motive for all these tests is to analyze your English proficiency so that you can study abroad. In a broad sense, all these tests evaluate 4 sections for understanding your English proficiency which are reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. The patterns for the tests are different from each other. 

IELTS: This test has in total of 4 sections which need to be completed in 2 hours and 45 minutes in total.

  • list items Reading - this section consists of three long essays which lead to 40 different questions in total that need to be answered in 60 minutes. 
  • list items Writing - one needs to write 150 words based on the visual description in 20 minutes and 250 words on provided argument/problem/viewpoint in 60 minutes. 
  • list items Listening - four recordings are played from which in total 40 questions are asked. This section has a time limit of 40 minutes.
  • list items Speaking - this section is divided into three parts, Invigilator asks three questions that need to be answered.


Latest Update: Starting from March 2023, students are be able to retake the test for one section only, in case they did not receive the desired score. Earlier the students had to retake the whole test.

TOEFL: This test also consists of the same four sections just like IELTS. The difference is the pattern in which these sections are further divided. The cumulative time limit for this test is 3 hours.

  • list items Reading - in this, the individual has to read 2 - 3 passages and then a total of 20 questions need to be answered based on the read passages. The time limit for the test is in between 35 minutes.
  • list items Writing - one writing for an academic discussion question will be there which needs to be answered. Approx 20 minutes is allocated for this section.
  • list items Listening - in this section, 2 - 3 conversations and lectures are shown each and then based on it questions are asked 28 questions are asked. The total time limit for this section is approx 36 minutes. 
  • list items Speaking - this section consists of one independent speaking test and 3 small dependent speaking tests. The time limit for the same is 15 - 20 minutes.


DET: This test can be completed in 60 minutes. This also evaluates the candidates' ability in 4 main criteria that are speaking, writing, listening, and reading. But inline IELTS and TOEFL this is an adaptive computer-based test and consists of 3 sections overall.

  • list items Introduction section - in this the officials of Duolinog help you with the overview of the test and help to set you up with all the necessary devices.
  • list items Adaptive Test - this is the main section that evaluates the 4 key skills of English communication. This is called adaptive because with every correct answer the next question gets difficult and with every wrong answer the next question gets easy.
  • list items Video Interview - this is an ungraded section in which you need to provide answers to open-ended questions verbally which are recorded. 


PTE: This test is divided into 3 sections which need to be completed in 2 hours.

  • list items Speaking and Writing section - there are in total of 28 - 36 questions in this section for which a total time of 55 - 65 minutes is given. The questions may include, self-introduction, reading aloud, repeating sentences, essay writing, summary writing, and more.
  • list items Reading section - this section is further divided into 5 segments that need to be attempted based on the understanding of the reading material. The section are: fill in the blanks, MCQs, Re-order, MCQs with multiple answers, and fill in the blanks in another style. 
  • list items Listening section - this section consists of 12 - 20 different types of questions that need to be attempted in 30 - 45 minutes. The question can be - summarize the spoken, fill in the blanks, MCQs, select missing words, highlight the wrong word, and more


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IELTS vs TOEFL vs Duolingo vs PTE: Score comparison 

Each of the tests (IELTS, TOEFL, DET, and PTE) uses a different scale to measure scores. IELTS scores are measured on a 9-band scale in each section. PTE measures scores on a scale of 10 to 90 for both communicative and enabling skills, as well as individual scores. TOEFL has four sections, each with a maximum score of 30, resulting in a total score of 120. Duolingo test scored out of 160 marks in total. 

Below is the score comparison for all of these tests - 

IELTS TOEFL DET PTE Proficiency Indicator


118 - 120

155 - 160

89 - 90



115 - 117

145 - 150

83 - 85

Very Good


110 - 114

135 - 140

78 - 82

Very Good 


102- 109

125 - 130

73 - 77



94 - 101

115 - 120

64 - 72



79 - 93

105 - 110

58 - 63



60 - 78

95 - 100

50 - 57



46 - 59

85 - 90

42 - 49



35 - 45

75 - 80

35 - 41



32 - 34

65 - 70

30 - 34


0 - 4

0 - 31

0 - 60

0 - 30

Extremely Limited


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IELTS vs TOEFL vs Duolingo vs PTE: Results and sending score cards

The release of test results also varies for all these English proficiency tests. Apart from the release, the student has to send these results to the university which may cost additional and require them to follow certain steps. All this will be discussed in this section.


  • list items Test Report Form (TRF) is sent to you by your IELTS test center to your postal address. In case you have given a computer-based test then you can expect the TRF in 3 - 5 days. You can also download an online copy of your result by logging into and then clicking the download result option on the left-hand side menu.
  • list items You can send your IELTS score to 5 universities within one month of the exam date. The university will receive the scores via e-mail, regular posts, courier, or overseas postage. Beyond these 5, any Additional Test Report Forms (ATRFs) will involve an administrative charge of 250 INR per university via online medium and 1500 INR per university via a physical medium.



  • list items You will get to know the official test scores release date upon test completion. Also, you can get a real-time notification in case there is any change in score status. You can view your scores in your ETS account approximately 6 days after your test date. You will receive an email when your scores are available, and you can access your account online or via the official TOEFL app. PDF score reports are ready for download within 8 days after your test.
  • list items The initial fee that is paid for TOEFL includes the cost of sending the TOEFL test cores to 4 universities that need to be selected by the candidate before. If you want to send the test results to more than 4 universities then you would need to pay an additional sum of 20 USD per university.


Fact: Do you know that, your TOEFL scores are valid for 2 years from the date of result declaration?


  • list items Once you have completed your test, you will be getting a notification from the Duolingo application within 48 hours of completion. You will also get an email notification on the registered email address that will redirect you to the result page. 
  • list items When you view your result in the Duolingo application you can see an option on ‘send score’. You can choose up to 40 institutes to send these scores to. There are no additional fees to send the results.



  • list items To check the PTE scores you can log in to your online account and in that, you can click on the option of check results. You will also get an email notification within 48 hours of test completion that will provide you with directions to check your result.
  • list items Once you click on the option ‘view score reports’ you can see your scores and in this only you will find an option to ‘send score’. You can type in the name of the institutes you want to send your score. You can choose as many institutes as you like and can send them your scores for free.


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IELTS vs TOEFL vs Duolingo vs PTE: Acceptance and relevance

The English proficiency tests have been compared based on their popularity in different countries. Also in the same table below few top educational institutes which accept these tests have also been shortlisted.

Test Name Popularity in Country Few educational institutes accept


Canada, UK, and Australia


Widely popular in USA and Canada


USA and Canada


Australia, Ireland, Singapore, New Zealand, UK, and Canada


Note: It would be better that you know the Exam dates for TOEFL and IELTS so that you can start your preparations on time. Also, you can change the test date for TOEFL free of cost. 

Evaluate your Chances of MS in US Admissions

Now that you have got an extensive insight into the different kinds of English language proficiency tests and have also got a fair idea of which test suits your requirements the best, the next step is to start off with the preparations. If you have decided to take one of these English proficiency tests then you can go to student guide for popular tests to know more about their preparation tips, eligibility, test centers, and more.

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