What are the differences between the various English-proficiency tests out there? And which should you take? Read our guide to find out. English language tests are, of course, a significant issue for many students thinking of studying abroad. With an abundance of world-class universities to choose from and a language that is crucial to worldwide business, media and politics, much of the traffic is heading towards English-speaking countries.

If you are a non-native speaker hoping to study abroad in an English-speaking country, one of the key areas of your application will be proving that your English skills are good enough to cope with the demands of university life – both inside and outside of the classroom.

There is no universally accepted English language testing system for non-native speakers wishing to study abroad. Each university has its own set of requirements, which will vary depending on what degree you are hoping to study. For example, if you are applying to study English literature or philosophy you may be required to demonstrate a more advanced level of English than if you are applying to study mathematics or physics.

One of the first things you need to do when applying to study abroad is to find out the specific language requirements for each course you are applying to. In other words, which English language tests are accepted by each university, and what is the minimum grade they expect you to achieve. This information should be available from university websites, but if you are in any doubt, contact the universities directly before booking a language test.

Once you have found out which tests each university accepts – and what test score each course of study requires – it is time to choose the test that best suits your requirements. Universities often accept suitable scores for more than one language test, so your decision may be based on factors such as:

To help you identify the test that best suits your needs, has put together guides to three of the most widely used English language tests – IELTS, TOEFL and PTE Academic.