IELTS, TOEFL, OET: Which English test to take to study/work abroad?

High in demand English proficiency tests accepted by reputed universities of multiple countries
By Aaron Dmello


In the 21st century, the corners of the world have all come close together. Although divided by borders, anyone can connect to anyone with a simple click of a button. Traveling distances between places have come down to a matter of hours and there’s a never-ending demand for new talents all over the world.

In the present world, education has also gone global. Studying abroad is every student’s dream. Going abroad to study opens a world of opportunities and experiences for a student. Going to a new country to pursue a course you are genuinely interested in is exciting and currently, it has become easier to achieve it.

A student from India aspiring to study abroad in countries like the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Germany, France, and other countries need only fulfill the eligibility criteria of the University they are planning to join. These requirements can vary depending on the country, course, and institution the student yearning to join.

However, there is always one requirement that a student must fulfill if he happens to be coming from a non-native English-speaking country. The aspiring student will require proving one’s ability to listen, read, speak and write in the English language.

Hence, students from India, as well as other non-native English speaking countries, will need to clear any on international English language test with the desired level of expertise to gain entry to the University of their choice abroad. Below mentioned are some of the high in demand English proficiency tests that is accepted by reputed universities of multiple countries.

IELTS – International English Language Testing System

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the most commonly preferred, reputed English language assessment test. It aims to help an individual work, study, or migrate to a native English-speaking country. A candidate’s ability to read and write, listen and speak in English is assessed in IELTS. It grades and applicant from 1 to 9 and this grading is accepted by many developed countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, USA, and others.

IELTS is recognised globally by many reputed universities, employers, schools, and immigration bodies. It is also recognised by several institutions in the US. The body is based on a partnership between the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council, and the IDP: IELTS Australia.

The grading system for a candidate attempting IELTS starts from 0 (did not attempt the exam) and goes all the way up to 9 (Expert /user). The higher the score, the better you prove your understanding of the language.

However, the specific IELTS score requirements are subject to the individual requirements or eligibility criteria of each immigration body, university, workplace or institution. Your score will also depend on what are you trying to do in the country. The requirement differs for work, or study.

TOEFL – The Test of English as a Foreign Language

TOEFL exam assesses how well a non-native speaker of English can analyze and understand English at the university level. It is a high-quality and standards test that assure admissions officers of various universities, your readiness for the classroom.

TOEFL measures all the required academic English skills including reading, listening, speaking, and writing in a way that is actually used in a classroom. The exam is conveniently offered weekly, at authorized test centers near you in online mode.

TOEFL is accepted by more than 11,000 universities and institutions, in over 150 countries across Europe and Asia. Developed countries like the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, and others also recognize the grades from TOEFL. More than 35 million people worldwide have demonstrated their English-language proficiency by choosing the TOEFL test.

Candidates must note that TOEFL is not a requirement for your country student visa but is a university admission process requirement.

OET – Occupational English Test

The Occupational English Test is an English Proficiency test specifically designed for healthcare professionals. Clearing OET with the required grade will help a candidate to study or work in the Healthcare sector of countries like the UK, USA, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Dubai, Singapore or Namibia.

The specialty of OET is that the candidate will be attempting the test with the level of English proficiency that is necessary for everyday work. Given this fact, OET tests will check your ability to communicate in English in a healthcare setup and hence maybe, slightly easier for healthcare professionals to clear.

In other words, unlike IELTS which is concerned with general language considered to be appropriate for immigration or vocational purposes, OET has 12 versions of tests that are specific to the different healthcare professionals including nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, occupational therapists, vets, speech pathologists, dieticians, physiotherapists, and radiographers.

The speaking and writing tests conducted in OET are tailored for the specific medical scenario as per the profession in which the professional uses English. Grading in OET is from A to E with E being the lowest grade faring at 0-90 marks out of 500. It is similar to gaining grade 4 in IELTS.


In conclusion, a student or a professional aiming to study abroad or immigrate will need to give one English language exam to prove one`s proficiency in the language as per the requirement. In the case of the student planning to study abroad, the candidate will have to give one language exam and one standardized exam in which, the latter is an entrance exam for the university of their choice.

It must be noted that requirements can vary depending on the college or university, country, or course. Sometimes, exemption from the standardized exams will be provided but the applicant will need to clear one English language exam for proficiency.

Thus, students need to bear in mind the fact that they need to clarify on what are the requirements of the university they are targeting to reach and what international English language test does that institution demand or accepts.