Should you take the TOEFL, the IELTS, or another English proficiency test?

For non-native English speakers who want to attend an American college or university, the number of English proficiency test options can be overwhelming.
Confused? Don’t be!

The TOEFL and IELTS proficiency tests are two of the most common, but you do have other options. Read on to learn about other common English proficiency tests accepted by American schools – and for help on deciding which is right for you!

MTELP: English Proficiency for Workers

The Michigan Test of Language Proficiency (MTELP) is not an academic-oriented English proficiency test. It is designed to test the non-native English speaker’s effectiveness in the working world. The MTELP is a web-based English proficiency test that consists of three timed multiple choice sections testing standard English structures, business-related terms, and analytical skills. After each section is scored, a total MTELP score is created by adding up the total number of points scored in each section. The overall maximum score is 300 points.

Scores are valid for two years.  The MTELP English proficiency test fee is $90 USD.

TOEIC: Listening, Reading, Speaking & Writing

The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) offers two main types of English proficiency tests: a listening and reading test as well as a newly-added speaking and writing test. For those hoping to study in English at a college or university, both tests will be required. The TOEIC English proficiency test is a timed paper-and-pencil multiple-choice test that must be taken at a registered testing center. Points are awarded for correct answers and then converted to a scaled score. A level of proficiency is awarded based on this score. Scores are valid for two years. Fees for the TOEIC English proficiency test in the US are $75 USD per test. Prices may vary in other countries.

Cambridge ESOL: Several Proficiency Tests Offered

In addition to the IELTS, the Cambridge ESOL organization offers a number of tests appropriate for higher education purposes. Two of these are the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and the more-advanced Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE).

The Cambridge English proficiency test must be taken in person at a Cambridge ESOL test center. Both the CAE and CPE test five items, including reading, writing, speaking, listening, and use of English.

The scores of these five sections determine a final letter grade. Passing grades over 65% (letters A, B or C) receive certificates. Note that although CAE and CPE certificates are technically “valid for life,” most academic institutions will require you to have taken the test within the past two years.

Fees for the CAE and CPE exams vary from country to country, so contact your local exam center for details.

How to Decide Which Test to Take

When deciding which English proficiency test you want to take, the most important thing is to look at the colleges where you are applying. Which tests do they accept or require? In some cases, a school will actually require prospective non-native English speaking students to take a specialized exam administered by the university itself.

Once you know what is required from the colleges, you can decide which English proficiency test best fits your needs.