Admissions Blog

TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge English: Which One Should You Take?

By Fitri Mayang Sari '23
Posted Dec 06 2022

If you are applying to SIPA, but having a problem deciding which English exam you should take? SIPA requires an English proficiency test score from either one of these tests available: Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) iBT, International Language Testing System (IELTS), and Cambridge English. How to differentiate them? Which one that best suits you? Here is the guide for choosing your right English exam.

What are TOEFL, IELTS, and Cambridge?

TOEFL is the most recognized English proficiency test in the world. It is accepted in over 11,000 universities in more than 150 countries and 90% of US universities accept TOEFL. Since TOEFL is a US based test, familiarize yourself with American grammar.

IELTS is a UK based English proficiency test which is globally recognized by more than 11,000 employers, universities, schools and immigration bodies including 3,400 institutions in the United States. IELTS uses British English grammar and is generally popular for students who want to study in the commonwealth countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.

Cambridge English test is recognized by 25,000 organizations in 130 countries around the world. It is accepted by more than 100 universities in the US, and 99% of the 100 best universities around the world featured in the Times Higher University Ranking. The Cambridge English test consists of four levels: preliminary (PET), first (FCE), advanced (CAE), and proficiency (CPE). To apply for higher education or universities, you must take either C1 advanced or C2 proficiency test.

Which one should you take for a SIPA application?

You should take the test you are most familiar with. The one that you have prepared yourself for. If you have studied for IELTS, do not bother to take a TOEFL test just because you think that SIPA is an American based school/university. We can’t be clearer that SIPA accepts any score of either tests: TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge - as long as you meet the minimum requirements.

Then, what are the differences between them?

In terms of duration, IELTS and TOEFL are shorter than the Cambridge exams and they can be completed in one day; the Cambridge exams require separate days for the written test and the oral test, usually about one or two weeks apart. Both IELTS and TOEFL are offered more frequently and deliver faster results around 1-2 weeks; while the Cambridge result takes 2-6 weeks. However the longer wait for a Cambridge certificate corresponds to its for life validity. If you are in no rush, taking the Cambridge test can save you dollars from retaking English proficiency tests in the future. Particularly if you anticipate reapplying to SIPA within more than 2 years apart.

Among these tests, I have taken the TOEFL and IELTS more than 2 times each. In no doubt, I personally prefer the IELTS exam for several reasons: (1) for the speaking test, I’d rather speak with a human rather than with a computer; (2) for the listening test, I was given the question in advance so I can follow the conversation along; while in TOEFL, the questions are given after hearing the recording so I need to remember the entire conversation; (3) for the reading test, the TOEFL material topics can be ranging from economy to history to biology to anything which are difficult to follow especially when I don’t have any background in; (4) for writing test, I prefer a computer-based test than paper-based IELTS test, since I can easily delete or rearrange the paragraph in case I made a mistake.

Does SIPA accept a score from the TOEFL/IELTS home edition?

We know the times are changing. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, TOEFL and IELTS offered a home edition test. Unfortunately, we do not accept the TOEFL/IELTS home edition score. Applicants must have a score from the test they take in a testing center. In situations where the test centers are closed or not available in your area, applicants may contact us via email to [email protected].

Finally, for simplicity we put the comparison in the table below:




Cambridge (CAE)








Job opportunities

Personal development

Generally accepted in

North America, but worldwide

Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, UK

Europe, but worldwide

Test type & result

Computer-based : 10 days

Paper-based : 13 days

Computer-based : 5-7 days

Paper-based : 4-6 weeks

Computer-based : 2-3 weeks

Test format & duration

Total time : 3.5 hours

Reading : 60 min

Listening : 60 min

Speaking : 20 min

Writing : 50 min

Extra : 30 min

Total time : 3 hours

Listening : 60 min

Reading : 40 min

Writing : 60 min

Speaking : 16 min

Total time : 5 hours

Reading : 75 min

Writing : 90 min

Use of Eng. : 60 min

Listening : 40 min

Speaking : 15 min

General & Academic

Only one exam



Only one exam



Paper-based : weekly

Computer-based : daily

Once a month

Test retake





2 years

2 years


Test fee

USD $180 - $325

USD $215 - $310

USD $165 - $195

Score range




SIPA requirement

100 (Preferred: 110)

7.0 (Preferred: 7.5)

185, C1 Advanced

(Preferred: 191, C1 Advanced)

As always, with any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us in admissions. As an international student, I understand the challenges of selecting the best test. Wishing you nothing but success!