Proficiency examinations measure an individual's understanding of language fundamentals. Schools and employers may have different preferences; check with your intended institution to make sure you register for the appropriate exam and are familiar with minimum score requirements. Since each test has advantages and disadvantages, it may be beneficial to consider your strengths and weaknesses before registering.
Standardized tests are used in academic and professional settings to determine skill level and knowledge base.
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is used by American universities and many professional institutions. The test was developed in the 1960s at Stanford University and is trademarked by Educational Testing Service (ETS). Reading, listening, speaking and writing skills are assessed. Note-taking is allowed during the four-hour test. The iBT is an Internet-based format and taken on the computer. Scores are valid for two years.
Established in 1989, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment. Students can register for the Academic or General Training test, depending on goals and aim. Reading, listening, writing and speaking skills are measured on a scale of 0-9 (9.0 being the top score). The test is a handwritten exam and takes almost three hours to complete. Your speaking section may be scheduled on a different day than the other sections. You can register for the test and find testing centers by clicking this link.
Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) is used for study, work and immigration purpose and is accepted by over 4,000 institutions worldwide (find a list here). The test was first launched in 1991 and includes four exam papers: Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening and Speaking. Tests can be taken on a computer or on paper. Successful candidates will receive a Statement of Results and a certificate.
The International Test of English Proficiency (iTEP) is trademarked by Boston Educational Services and was first launched in 2008. It is known as one of the more flexible and least expensive options among proficiency tests. There are four exams: Academic, SLATE, Business and Hospitality. Each exam has a "core" version and a "plus" version, and scores are marked on a scale of 1-6. The test is taken on computers.
The Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) is one of the most difficult exams and is used to demonstrate extremely high levels of English knowledge. The test was first introduced in 1913 and has undergone several modifications. This exam can be used to apply for post-graduate admission, high-level research projects or upper managerial and board management. Candidates receive a Statement of Results, and those with high marks receive a certificate. Reading and Use of English, Writing and Listening papers are scheduled on one day, and the Speaker paper typically occurs a few days before or after. Paper-based and computer-based formats are available.