PTE Academic: The Basics

Sabrina Collier

Updated January 16, 2020 Updated January 16

While it may not be the best-known English language test, the Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic can be a viable alternative to the TOEFL or IELTS. If you’re considering taking the PTE Academic, read on for our quick guide to the test.

What is it?

The Pearson Test of English (PTE) is a computer-based test which assesses the English language skills of non-native speakers intending to apply for university courses in English-speaking countries.

There are three versions of the test: the PTE Academic, General and Young Learners. If you are taking the test in order to apply for a university course, you should take PTE Academic. This assesses listening, reading, speaking and writing all via computer in a single three hour test session. It is a computer-based exam which focuses on real-life English used in academic surroundings, covering aspects such as accents and academic language.

How does it differ from other English language tests?

The PTE is a much newer English language test than the IELTS and TOEFL, having launched worldwide in 2009. This means it is not yet as widely accepted, although it is steadily catching up.

PTE results are provided in five working days, which is faster than both the IELTS and TOEFL. The test results are more detailed than those given for the IELTS, using a thermometer-style Global Scale of English to give an accurate overview of English language skills in various areas, such as grammar. The range for the overall score is 10-90 points.

Who is it recognized by?

The PTE Academic is recognized by thousands of universities worldwide, with the most popular being the UK, Australia, the US and Canada. You should contact the universities to which you intend to apply, to find out if they accept the PTE Academic qualification, and what grade they require. The PTE Academic is also now accepted for visa purposes by the Australian government.

When and where can I take the test?

The PTE Academic can be taken at more than 200 test center locations in over 50 countries. Exact dates and frequency of test sessions vary. A full list of test centers can be found at the PTE website, where you can also check the availability of places for upcoming test sessions.

How much does it cost?

Fees are generally between US$200-300, but this varies depending on the location. You can check the exact fees for your nearest test center via the official website.

Can I retake the test?

You may retake as many times as you want, although you must wait until you have received your scores from one test before booking another.

How long will I have to wait for my results?

You will receive your results online within a maximum of five working days after taking the test. So if you need to English language test results quickly, this speedy response time is one of the major advantages of taking the PTE Academic.


This article was originally published in February 2010. It was updated in August 2015.

This article was originally published in August 2015 . It was last updated in January 2020

Written by

The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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