Worth mentioning here that Pearson’s website now indicates that the PTE Core Test “will be available to book in early 2024” (previously: late 2023). Says Pearson: “[the test is] for people who wish to work, migrate, or seek permanent residency in Canada, and will be recognized by the Canadian Government (IRCC) for all economic visa categories.”

In many (all?) of the above categories only IELTS and CELPIP scores are currently accepted, so the introduction of a new test is a consumer-friendly development. The IELTS and CELPIP tests are also 3+ hour tests which can be pricey. I predict that the Pearson test will be shorter and cheaper. But we’ll see.

I’ve been writing about this test since February of 2023, and am looking forward to seeing some concrete details.  Note that this was formerly called the PTE Essential Test.

Happy holidays, folks!  I’ve been pretty busy this month, starting in Canada (for family reasons) and flying back home to Korea in the middle of the month.  But I fit in some reading nonetheless.

First up, I read the 19 October 2023 issue of the London Review of Books.  This one is new to my “to read” stack of periodicals, and I’m happy to took out a subscription.  It has a lot of wonderful content.  In this issue I liked:

  • This review of the film “Past Lives.”  That’s my favorite film of 2023.  About childhood friends who grow apart (and reconnect) it feels quite a lot like the movies I used to watch when I was in college two decades ago.  I didn’t think such movies were made nowadays.
  • Rare, Obsolete, New, Peculiar, an article about the  “unsung heroes” who contributed to the Oxford English Dictionary.  As the article explains, volunteers from around the English-speaking world mailed in slips of paper containing suggested words and their definitions to the editors.  This was an egalitarian, but haphazard approach to dictionary-making.
  • Take that, Astrolabe, an article about the measurement of time in the medieval world.  I list this one here mostly because I’m pretty sure I got a reading passage about the history of clocks the last time I took the TOEFL.

Next, I read the 2 November 2023 issue of the same.  I liked:

  • Shriek of the Milkman, an article about the history of street food and hawkers in London.  As an avid traveller, street foods are one of my favorite things in the world.  
  • She was of the Devil’s Race, an article about the absolutely fascinating history of Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Did you know that one person was both Queen of France and (later) Queen of England?  It’s quite a story.

Moving ever forward, I read the October 2023 issue of “History Today.”  I liked a few articles, including:

  • The Medieval University Experience, a short article about the experiences of young men who travelled far from their homes to attend university.  I was amused by references to “letter templates” to help students write notes to their parents back home.
  • The Case of the Poison Pen Letters, about the absolutely fascinating case of Annie Tugwell, who was found guilty in 1910 of sending slanderous and threatening letters to several people, including a local priest.  A really, really, weird story.  This poor woman was eventually judged to be insane and locked away.

Lastly, I read the September 12, 2022 issue of “The New Yorker.”  I’m way behind with this  magazine, and I don’t think I’ll ever catch up.  Alas.  I liked:

  • Killing Invasive Species is Now a Competitive Sport, an article about the invasive (in America) Lionfish.  That’s a freaky fish.  I am quite sure that it has appeared in TOEFL speaking question four a few times.  It could feature into a question about two reasons why it is so invasive.   Or about how its unique spines function as a defensive mechanism.   Or about how it hunts.  Check out the article.

That’s all for now.  Expect a short article next month as I will be digging into a very dense book early in the month, which I am sure will be slow going.

As promised, here are the prices for English tests in China:

  • IELTS: 2170 RMB ($303 USD)
  • TOEFL: 2100 RMB ($294 USD)
  • PTE: $310 USD

A few things are worth noting:

  1. Per Chinese law, the IELTS and TOEFL tests are administered in China via partnerships between their owners and China’s National Education Examinations Authority (NEEA). This inserts an extra level of bureaucracy into the whole process. This means that test-takers register for the tests via the NEEA website, get their scores via the same website, and pay the test fee directly to the NEEA. Test-takers are subject to the NEEA’s privacy policies. Moreover, at-home testing in China requires a clunky workaround. The NEEA also keeps some (a lot?) of the test fees, but I guess that’s the cost of doing business in China.

  2. Many people view this partnership as the reason test fees are so high in China. As you can see, the cost of taking a TOEFL or IELTS test in China is way above the worldwide average (which is close to $230 USD). On the flip side, fees are set in RMB, so Chinese test-takers are protected against the slow and steady rise in value of the USD. When I started tracking prices a few years ago China was the most expensive place in the world to take the TOEFL. I think it is the ninth most expensive now.

  3. It seems like Pearson administers its tests on its own. I’ve always wondered how that is possible. The NEEA handles the whole registration process for all the major tests in China – the TOEFL, the IELTS, the GRE, the GMAT, the LSAT. Even the CAEL. Am I missing something here?

  4. Students looking for a good deal in China might try the CAEL, which is fixed at 1920 RMB (267 USD).

A repost from LinkedIn:

Remember: a standardized English test doesn’t necessarily have to be 55 minutes long and cost $59 to succeed in today’s market. A test can still be 2+ hours and frigging expensive while growing its market share… as long as the firm behind it offers a modern test-taking experience and treats customers with some amount of dignity and respect.

Consider the rapid growth of the PTE Academic Test in recent years. By my calculations, it is now the second most popular test used for university admissions and student visas (behind the IELTS, ahead of the TOEFL). On the rare occasions when testing firms ask me for advice I often suggest that they study what Pearson has done in recent years, and emulate it when appropriate.

This has come up in real-world conversation a few times in recent weeks, so I figured it would be good to mention it here (again).

(Disclaimer: people reading this post probably know that I’m a big proponent of lower testing fees, but I realize that in 2023 low fees aren’t required for success)

Which standardized English test is the most affordable?  Well, the Duolingo English Test is $59 and that’s the best deal (and probably always will be).  But what if you are locked into the IELTS, TOEFL and PTE tests?  Which one of those is the best deal? It seems that the PTE is the cheapest test.

To answer this question, I compared the prices in ten countries which send a lot of traffic to this website.  Note that I omitted Iran, China, Turkey and Russia for various reasons.

United States

This one is hard to track since sales tax is usually added to the price, and the cost of the IELTS differs from place to place.  But, basically, the prices seem to be:

  • IELTS: $280 (taxes included)
  • PTE: $235 +tax
  • TOEFL: $255 +tax


  • IELTS: $195
  • PTE: $191
  • TOEFL: $205

South Korea

  • IELTS: $220
  • PTE: $199
  • TOEFL: $220


  • IELTS: $193
  • PTE: $230
  • TOEFL: $245


  • IELTS: $240
  • PTE: $240
  • TOEFL: $245


  • IELTS: $273
  • PTE: $250
  • TOEFL: $265


  • IELTS: $277
  • PTE: $265
  • TOEFL: $270


  • IELTS: $245
  • PTE: $225
  • TOEFL: $240


  • IELTS: $204
  • PTE: $200
  • TOEFL: $210


  • IELTS: $239
  • PTE: $225
  • TOEFL: $250


  • IELTS: $248
  • PTE: $210
  • TOEFL: $235


Average of the above countries (not counting the USA)

  • IELTS: $233
  • PTE: $223
  • TOEFL: $238

As I mentioned here a few days ago, it looks like ETS is updating its TOEFL/IELTS concordance tables. For this reason, there is currently a sweet offer for test-takers based in the USA and Australia.

Individuals who have taken both the TOEFL and IELTS within the last six months (and within three months of each other) may be eligible to receive a $100 Amazon gift card after sharing their score reports.

Those who have taken the IELTS only may be eligible to receive a $100 gift card plus a voucher to take the TOEFL for free.

Note that all tests must be taken at a test center, not at home.  

Details here for people in America.  And here for people in Australia.

Last year I wrote about a change in the TOEFL Bulletin regarding the cancellation of scores due to invalidity. As I explained, prior to November 2022, the Bulletin explained that in cases of TOEFL scores being cancelled due to questionable validity,

“ETS notifies the test taker in writing about its concerns, gives the test taker an opportunity to submit information that addresses those concerns, considers any such information submitted, and offers the test taker a choice of options. The options may include voluntary score cancelation, a free re-test, a voucher for a future test, or arbitration in accordance with the ETS standard Arbitration Agreement.”

The above didn’t seem to apply to cases of suspected CHEATING, as in those cases scores were simply canceled outright with no opportunity to file an appeal or submit information. It seemed to apply only in cases where scores were “invalid.” More on what that can mean in a moment.

The appeal process was decent. Test takers could request a summary of the statistical evidence of invalidity. and if they chose to please their case, ETS convened a panel of three esteemed staffers to review it. Kind of like the “Stand and Deliver” situation many decades ago. Anyway, several test takers reached out to me for help. And hey…. one time a test taker who reached out even got the decision overturned.

If the appeal was denied the test taker would get a voucher to take the test again at no additional cost. Actually, they could just skip the appeal and take the voucher ASAP.

In November of 2022, the policy changed. The beginning of the above passage was modified to read,

“Score cancellation decisions are not subject to appeal to ETS. For test takers within the United States, before canceling scores based on substantial evidence of invalidity, ETS notifies the test taker in writing about…”

You can see the difference. Since then, test takers outside the US have seemingly been unable to appeal the decision to cancel scores for validity reasons. Also, there seems to be no voucher or refund offered.

I mention this now because I spotted a couple of complaints about it this afternoon – one from a TOEFL test taker and one from a GRE test taker. They are both pretty annoyed. I’ve attached the email sent by ETS to the TOEFL test taker.

As you can see, his score was canceled due to two issues. First, an inconsistency in his performance on either the reading or listening section vs his performance on the speaking section. That is… he scored very well on one section and very poorly on another. Second, “inconsistent testing times” were flagged. According to previous summaries, this means (in the words of ETS) “test takers who receive a high section score but complete the section in a short amount time [sic].”

I mention this because it is the first time I’ve encountered it since the changes to the TOEFL and GRE. And, of course, it is worth knowing about the policies and procedures of standardized testing.

Anyone preparing for the TOEFL (or helping people prepare for it) ought to know that John Healy has integrated the e-rater into his My Speaking Score platform.  Anyone who has purchased some amount of SpeechRater credits can now submit an unlimited number of essays and receive an e-rater score.  This service is currently in beta, but is still pretty useful.  I’ve already received a couple of “are you seeing this?!” messages.  I’ve written quite a lot about the move from pricey TOEFL tutoring to affordable self-guided prep, and I suppose this will accelerate the move.

As I said, you can gain access by purchasing any package of SpeechRater credits.  Try the coupon code TESTRESOURCES to save 10% on that purchase.

Below is a screenshot!

Australian authorities have just released their new “Migration Strategy.” Notably, the IELTS requirement for student visas will increase to 6.0 (from 5.5). The IELTS requirement for a temporary graduate visa will be hiked to 6.5 (from 6.0). Score requirements for other tests are not mentioned in the document. These changes will go into effect “in early 2024.”

Applicants will also be required to pass something called a “genuine student test.” Exactly what that means has not been revealed.

More here after I dig through the document.


I spotted a wonderful opportunity for test-takers in Korea over on the ETS Naver blog. It appears that ETS is updating its IELTS/TOEFL score comparison tables (which is a story in and of itself) and is offering free test tickets (plus some kind of gift card) to qualified individuals. If you’ve taken the IELTS since May 6 or the TOEFL since July 26 you can apply. Things are even better if you have ALREADY taken both of those tests since the given dates.

Note, though, that both tests must be taken at a test center, not at home. You must also be a native speaker of Korean.

The new official TOEFL books have now had their release dates (per Amazon) pushed back to February again. As a value-minded consumer, I might just wait for the three-book bundle, which has an April release date.

Meanwhile, I recently wrote a review of “IELTS 17.” It’s great that people preparing for the IELTS have seventeen different test collections to study from (though they ought to focus on numbers 6 and above as they more closely match the current version of the test).

One nice feature of the IELTS books is that readers can download necessary audio files simply by scanning the QR codes found throughout the book. Readers don’t need to input a limited-use download code to get the files. This means that people who get the books from their local library don’t have a problem accessing the audio.

In contrast, the audio accompanying the official TOEFL books can only be accessed via a limited-use download code. As a result, they aren’t as useful for library users as they could be.