The acceptance of four additional English language tests by Canadian educational institutions has led to a significant decrease in the demand for International English Language Testing System (IELTS) among several students looking to study abroad. Some exam centers have reported a decline of up to 50% in students opting for IELTS and a shift to the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) test.

Earlier on May 27, the International Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Canadian immigration agency, announced that it will accept language test results from four new tests for applicants in the popular Student Direct Stream (SDS), breaking the monopoly of IELTS.

The new tests that became eligible on August 10 include the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) (with a score of at least 60), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT) (with a minimum score of 83), the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP General), and the Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) (with a minimum score of 7). Canada is home to over 8 lakh international students, including over 3 lakh from India alone.

All students wishing to study in Canada had to take the compulsory IELTS test but now many students are shifting to other alternatives. Earlier, students passing PTE or other language tests were not eligible for SDS in Canada. However, now with the announcement, students can take PTE and apply for not just Canada but also in educational institutes in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and even some universities in the US. Even though IELTS still holds prominence and around 50 per cent students apply for it, the trend is shifting towards PTE, which used to have 10% to 15% share earlier in the state. Some students are also opting for TOEFL, according to coaching centers.

Harmeet Singh, a student, said that around 60,000 students used to take the IELTS test every month in Punjab. “However, with the latest development, a sizeable number has shifted to PTE and other language tests. There are also a few students who are opting for TOEFL but the number if very low now,” Harmeet said, adding that since ToEFL is accepted across universities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, UK and Europe, the test is a win win. Sagar Chauhan, of IELTS Doctor, an institute based in Jalandhar that has been offering IELTS courses for a long time, said that they have registered a nearly 50% decline in IELTS enrollments in around four months.

Festive offer

A Jalandhar-based IELTS coaching center owner added that he used to get 200 students every month, but now the number has come down to nearly 80.

Coaching centers in Jalandhar get between 10 and 300 students every month, and most of the IELTS coaching center owners said that their business has come down by 50%. Another IELTS coaching center owner said that now he will also start PTE classes and expand the infrastructure and set up more computers and hiring more teachers. A renowned IELTS center owner in Jalandhar’s Bus Stand area, who is seeing a 60% decline in enrollments, said that earlier, they used to see a high number of students even up to 150 to 200 enrolling in May and June because after their 10+2 exams and other competitive exams, they would take admission in IELTS. “However, this year, the number of students during these months and onwards has been significantly lower,” he said, adding that he was now is the process of upgrading his center to offer both IELTS and PTE.

He added that so far there has been no problem obtaining visas and students are getting visas after clearing both IELTS and PTE now. Dismissing the myth that students may be applying for PTE as they feel that it is easier, Sanjeev Singh, an IELTS trainer in Jalandhar, said that it’s just a perception and is far from reality. “Many students who have to retake the IELTS test to achieve a score of 6 bands are now switching to PTE as they think that the latter will be easier. However, this is not true as both courses require proficiency in speaking, writing, listening, and reading. Soon, all IELTS centers will offer PTE and TOEFL courses simultaneously to survive the competition. The new system has not only broken the IELTS monopoly but has also provided students with multiple options,” he said.

Kulwinder Singh, a student from Gurdaspur who is now taking PTE classes in Amritsar, said that he took the IELTS test twice, and every time his score was 5. “So this time, I decided to take PTE, as some of my friends got desirable results with PTE. Now they have got enrollment in the Canadian college too,” he said, adding that like IELTS, PTE is also accepted by universities in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA. “So, why stick to just IELTS when many candidates are opting for alternatives in such hard times,” he said.

IELTS trainer Gurpreet Singh explained that under SDS, the process is simplified as students only need to pay a year’s tuition fees and living expenses, along with other medical and academic formalities. “Under non-SDS, students have to show their family’s entire financial net worth for the same,” he said.

IELTS Vs PTE: What sets them apart?

Both IELTS and PTE are similar tests of four language skills, including speaking, writing, reading, and listening. In IELTS, the written exam is for 2.5 hours, including 60 minutes each for reading and writing and 30 minutes for listening, while the speaking test is taken separately for around 15 minutes. It is on paper, and the speaking test is conducted by an examiner, similar to an interview and results are out after 13 days. In PTE, the overall test duration is two hours, which includes integrated skills of speaking and writing, reading, and listening. It is completed on a computer, and everything is assessed by artificial intelligence (AI). The results come in two hours.

Amrit Singh, who could not clear IELTS in three attempts but passed PTE on his first try, said, “I am more comfortable in front of the computer than with an examiner, especially for the speaking test. In IELTS, the exam is checked by a teacher, and there is a possibility of unfair grading to encourage more students to retake the exam, the fee of which is Rs 16,000,” he said.

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Another student Harinder Singh added that in a computerised method, there is no partiality. He added that the test patterns in the listening and reading sections are also different in PTE.

Pearson’s rise: 76% surge in PTE globally in 2023

Pearson in a press release on August 23 said that there has been a 76 per cent surge in PTE Academic volumes on a global scale during the first half of 2023. A key factor in this remarkable growth is the burgeoning market share of PTE Academic in India.

Prabhul Ravindran, Director of English Language Learning, Pearson India, said, “We recognise the aspiration among individuals to invest in their education and English Language proficiency, enabling them to pursue studies and employment opportunities overseas. Our mission is to support these learners by making PTE accessible to all along with our comprehensive array of English Language Learning solutions. The flexible test center booking options, faster results, global acceptance, and ample free resources to practice make PTE one of the most preferred English language tests.”

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