FOR the hundreds of Cambodian students aspiring to study in an English-speaking country, the first hurdle to clear is an English language test.
For decades, the TOEFL test (Test of English as a Foreign Language) has been the main proof of English proficiency, but the IELTS test (International English Language Testing System), which is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP, Education, IELTS Australia and Cambridge ESOL Examinations, is now giving it a run for its money.
The tests look much the same on paper, and each is accepted at around 6,000 institutions in more than 100 countries, according to their Web sites.
Chausa Sa, who works in the Cultural Affairs Department at the US Embassy, thinks they are matched in quality. "TOEFL and IELTS are internationally recognised English language tests and the only reason we use TOEFL is because it is more widely accepted in America than IELTS,"he said. "The choice of the TOEFL test is not an individual embassy choice but stipulated by the American government."
The TOEFL test is offered in more locations worldwide, largely as it is tested online, but in Cambodia it is arguably easier to access IELTS. Here it is offered twice a month at IDP's offices in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and costs $175. The TOEFL test is offered only once a month at the US Embassy, and costs $150, although it can also be sat at other locations.
IDP Examination Manager Harry Thant said students tend to favour IELTS because the test is offered more frequently. " I think IELTS is a better test than TOEFL because it is offered twice or three times a month, and it is a stringent test," he said.