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I am a South African looking at the Australian 189 independent skilled visa. The visa requires a demonstration of English language abilities, with maximum points awarded for 'superior' English as determined by grades on any of the following tests:

  • IELTS
  • OET
  • TOEFL iBT
  • PTE Academic
  • CAE

For the practical purposes of working in Australia my English is more than sufficient. It is my home language, I've done all my schooling and 8 years of tertiary education in English, and I've visited the UK and Australia without any problems understanding or being understood. For the last 18 months I have worked for an American company, remotely - where voice communication is used for 90% of the collaboration.

Nonetheless, I understand that achieving high scores on language tests is difficult even for native speakers. Of the tests above, which is likely to best represent my English-speaking abilities with the least trouble?

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    Be wary of exams marked in a non-UK/Australian location if you have a strong accent. A friend of a friend, who grew up in Yorkshire, ended up having to take one of these tests and initially failed it because the non-English examiner couldn't understand her UK-regional accent :( – Gagravarr Oct 8 '15 at 22:54
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    @Karlson thanks, I have clarified: all of the tests I listed are given as options by the Australians. I want to know which is best suited. – Anonymous Coward Oct 8 '15 at 23:16
  • All are almost equally priced around A$ 200. PTE is computer based and is fast. The results are out in 24 to 48 hours whereas IELTS takes 13 days to give the result. With good practice, PTE is easy to score in. – kpatil Oct 9 '15 at 4:29
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    I expand on best at the end of the question. What is missing? – Anonymous Coward Oct 9 '15 at 9:41
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    Just an anecdote and difficult to verify but this woman seems to have had a bad experience with the PTE. – Relaxed Aug 24 '17 at 6:27
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Your mileage may vary, but IELTS is considered the gold standard in Australia. Unlike some of the other tests, it involves freeform writing and talking to an actual human, so it's not possible to brute force rote learn your way through it.

If you're a native speaker, you're unlikely to have any significant trouble. I went in cold, with no prep whatsoever, and scored the highest possible score (9 Expert User), although I did get 8's in some subcomponents. At the end of the day, it's a test scored on points, so just brush up a bit on what grammatical structures etc they're expecting you to hit in the essay and when speaking and you'll breeze through it.

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PTE is computer based and is fast. The results are out in 24 to 48 hours whereas IELTS takes 13 days to give the result. With good practice, PTE is easy to score in. People usually prefer it if they can opt for it.

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