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Ever failed an English test for the PTE, IELTS, TOEFL or OET exam? If you fell short of the score you needed in particular English proficiency exams, one of the first things you’ll want to do is switch tests. You tell yourself: the “PTE must be easier than IELTS!”

Disbelief and blame is a common symptom of failure.

The truth is, after failing an English test, switching tests takes a lot of time and energy and may not be the solution to your problem. Each test has a very different format and each format takes a long time to learn.

PTE Listening: 45 – 57 minutes / 7 different tasks

Summarize spoken text / Multiple choice x2 / Fill the blanks / Highlight the correct summary / Select missing word / Highlight incorrect words / Write from dictation

IELTS Listening: 30 minutes / 4 “sections” with 10 different question types

Multiple choice / Matching, plan/map/diagram labelling / Form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion / Sentence completion

TOEFL Listening: 41 – 57 minutes
Listen to lectures, classroom discussions and conversations, then answer questions
Gist/ Detail / Function / Attitude / Organization / Connecting Content / Inference

OET Listening: 50 minutes / 2 “parts” of 20-28 questions. Part 1 is a consultation where you take notes. Part 2 is an academic lecture on a medical topic. There are many different question types including:

Multiple choice / Short answer / Gap-fill

If you failed the PTE or the TOEFL because you’re not very good with computers, then switch. PTE and TOEFL are not suitable for people who struggle to use a mouse or keyboard. Think older test-takers. It may be the machine and not the content that you failed on. And if you struggle to use a pen or pencil in the IELTS or OET, then switch to the PTE or TOEFL and use the keyboard.

But if you’ve unfortunately failed your English test because, well… your English is weak, there’s really only one thing to do: learn. And when I say learn, I don’t mean practice.

English practice tests are only effective after you have learned, or re-learned, your fundamental English skills: Grammar, vocabulary, listening, reading, writing, speaking and pronunciation. Practice tests should be the cherry on top before you take the plunge (you should learn idioms, too).

If you’ve failed an English test more than, say, three times, and you have learned, reviewed and practiced the test then you may want to think about switching. If the essay topic in the IELTS threw you, and you are more comfortable with your medical topics because you’re a nurse, then the OET is probably a better choice. If you suffered anxiety in the OET speaking and you’d feel more comfortable talking to a computer, then switch to the PTE or TOEFL.

But if you failed an English test because your English is weak, hold your horses and stick to the test that you know and concentrate on building your English.

Check out for online preparation courses that are effective, enjoyable and convenient.

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Written by Jarrad Merlo

All Comments 1
  • Hi jay,
    I’d like to have your advice, please.
    I am a medical graduate since 2010 and since then I have never worked so I am quite afraid to take the OET test. However I well know medical terms, I am not sure that I can answer questions in speaking if the answer is not given in the question. I may not know exactly the relevant data in writing as well.

    I need to take the IELTS or OET test to be able to study for the plab test and continue my career.
    I sat the ielts 3 times and I got 7,5 overall but struggle to get 7 in writing as I got 6,5 each time.
    my question is : do you think that switching to OET might be helpful in my case?

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