TOEFL, IELTS, etc. - Which English exam should I take?

Taking an English test like TOEFL or IELTS exam can be a great way to see what level your English is at. It can also be a useful or necessary way to prove your level of English for work, study or citizenship for some countries.

There are so many different kinds of exams, and they are all suitable for slightly different purposes. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular English tests and see which would be best for you.


TOEFL and IELTS are both tests designed for people wanting to study in an English-speaking country or taking a course with a lot of English language content. IELTS has a non-academic version but it’s not as common as the academic version.

TOEFL is the most common academic English test worldwide but in some countries, such as the UK, universities prefer people to have a good IELTS score because they think it is a more accurate test of English level.

You can do the TOEFL test online or face-to-face, but you can only do IELTS in-person. TOEFL and IELTS are both valid for two years so it’s important to plan to do your test a reasonable time before you apply for your university course. If you do it too early, you might need to do it again!


TOEIC is a test of English for communication and it’s usually used for business. Companies, especially in Asia, like people to have a certain TOEIC scores to prove their English is good enough to work with and understand English-speaking clients and colleagues.

TOEIC scores are usually considered valid for two years and companies may ask people to take the test once when they apply for a job or once every two years to prove their English skills are still at the same level.


OPI and OPIC are tests of spoken English fluency. They are often used in business or even for English teachers to prove their level of spoken English. The OPI exam is taken with an examiner in the room and OPIC is an online test where students answer questions set by a computer.

OPI and OPIC are a good way to test your spoken fluency if you don’t need to check other skills and are just interested in finding out more about your English level. OPIC is a lot cheaper than OPI because the examiner doesn’t need to come to the test centre.

Cambridge Exams

The Cambridge English exams are a little different to the English proficiency tests above. The Cambridge exams are traditional ‘pass or fail’ exams whereas the others give you an English score on a graded scale.

TOFEL, IELTS and co - Which English exam should I take?


Because of this, it’s important to enter a Cambridge exam at the right level for you. Your teacher should be able to tell you which level would be best for you. The levels are:

  • **PET – Cambridge English: Preliminary
    **The lowest level. This proves you have enough English to communicate and talk about simple things.

  • **FCE – Cambridge English: First
    **Strong intermediate students can take this test. This proves your English is good enough to live in an English-speaking country and that you can communicate relatively fluently.

  • **CAE – Cambridge English: Advanced
    **Strong advanced students can take this test. You’ll need excellent written and spoken English to pass.

  • **CPE – Cambridge English: Proficiency
    **For students wanting to prove their level is similar to that of a native speaker of English. This is a really tough test and it’s a great achievement to pass it.

These Cambridge exams remain valid for ever so they are a great way to prove what your level of English is at the end of a course like you would with a course at college or university.

There are other exams out there but these are probably the most popular. Before you take any exam, it’s very important to think about why you are doing it and if it meets the exact requirements you need. If you are applying to university, check the website or actually call the university to ask – they are usually very helpful. If you are applying for a visa or citizenship, check the official government website or documents. Although these exams all test your English, sometimes institutions will only accept one of them.

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