TOEFL vs IELTS – Which test is correct for me?

TOEFL vs IELTS – Which test is correct for me?

Are you stuck on the question, TOEFL vs IELTS? If you are planning to apply for your Bachelor’s or Masters Degree abroad in an English speaking country then you have to take an English proficiency test. Two of the most recognized tests globally are the TOEFL or the IELTS.

However, which of the two, IELTS or TOEFL, which test is suitable for you.? In this article, we differentiate between IELTS vs TOEFL, so you can take an informed decision.

  • preparing for toefl

Above all, both, the TOEFL & IELTS tests determine the candidate’s English proficiency level by evaluating his reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. Either of them is mandatory when applying for further studies in an English-speaking university, which demonstrates the candidate’s ability to understand the course material.

However, both of these exams are fundamentally different in respect of structure, syllabus and approach towards preparation.

Read on to understand the exact differences between the two which will equip you in choosing the perfect fit for yourself.

What is the IELTS?

IELTS stands for “International English Language Testing System”. The test has two formats:

  • IELTS Academic: Students aiming for higher education level abroad have to take this exam.
  • IELTS General Training: This test focuses on social skills and workplace situations. For instance of this article, we will focus only on IELTS Academic test.

The IELTS test uses British English as the primary language. It consists of four sections: Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking. The duration of the test is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Over 140+ countries worldwide accept IELTS scores for qualification. The British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English jointly conduct the IELTS globally. All the universities have their own qualification scores for the tests. Upon completion of the test, the students get to decide in which 5 universities should their scores be sent by the IELTS, free of charge.

What is TOEFL?

TOEFL is an abbreviation for “Test of English as a Foreign Language”. The test has two formats:

  • Internet Based Test – IBT
  • Paper Based Test-PBT

The IBT format is the most preferred format globally. The TOEFL uses American English as the primary language. TOEFL prepares and tests your acumen for English as you would speak, write and hear during the lectures conducted and in the university surroundings. The test lasts for 3 hours and is conducted across official test centers in the country.

130 countries worldwide accept TOEFL scores & American universities prefer TOEFL over the IELTS. The Educational Testing Services (ETS) conducts the TOEFL exam globally & is responsible for setting the questions, conducting the test, and dispatching each examinee their scorecard.

TOEFL vs IELTS in a glimpse

DurationAbout 3 hours long2 hours and 45 minutes long
LocationsAvailable at 4,500 plus locations worldwideAvailable at 900 plus locations worldwide
PriceCosts between 160 and 200 USDCost varies but usually is around 200 USD
Scoring0 to 1200 to 9
Average Good Score78+6.3+

For universities in the UK, only the IELTS is acceptable which is also a part of the Visa & immigration application. All American universities accept TOEFL. Some universities also accept TOEFL or IELTS depending upon which universities you apply to.

You can register for the tests online through the official portals of the exams. The official websites have a list of all the exam centers. Most importantly, a key difference between TOEFL vs IELTS is that the TOEFL is an entirely ‘Multiple Choice Questions’ format and the IELTS has a mix of essay questions & short answers.

Difference between TOEFL vs IELTS test formats

As we discussed, both the tests contain four sections that assess the candidates on the main aspects of language: speaking, listening, writing and reading. There are some key assessment differences in the way these aspects. Let’s take a closer look:


There is a prominent difference between the speaking section of both the tests. The IELTS focuses more on evaluating speaking skills in a face-to-face manner than speaking in a microphone. The entire speaking test is over in under 15 minutes as if it were a routine face-to-face conversation.  The instructor asks general questions about your family, home, studies and more. This conversation is taped. Following this, the instructor shows a card with a specific topic. You have to prepare for this topic in 2 minutes. Post which the instructor will have a discussion on the topic.

The TOEFL speaking test contains 6 sections each lasting 20 minutes. Two of them asses you on everyday topics forming the independent speaking test. The remaining four sections form the integrated speaking test, where you have to listen to or read some topic and build a response to the same.


The IELTS listening test comprises 10 everyday topic questions covering educational, training and social contexts. The question format includes fill in the blanks, answering True or False and completing the sentences, which you answer while the audio is playing.

In the TOEFL listening test, you listen to 4 to 6 recordings and then answer questions based on what you hear. These questions aim at your ability to understand the content and your ability to understand the speaker’s emotions and motivations while speaking. The recordings are of two types: conversation recordings and lecture recordings.


In IELTS, you are given a graph or chart in the first part. Then you need to compose a short essay of 150 words in 20 minutes on the information provided. In the second part, you will be provided with an argument or a point of view. You need to write an essay of 200-250 words on the given topic in 40 minutes.

In TOEFL, the first part of the two parts requires you to read a short text on a certain topic and then listen to a two-minute lecture on the same. Then, you have to write about 300 to 350 words in response to a question on this topic. The second part requires you to write another short essay in a similar way.


In both the tests, you have to answer questions on texts that are academic in nature. These check how well you understood the topic. In the IELTS, this section consists of 40 questions divided in three parts. The questions include short answers and fill-in-the-blank questions that cover different facets such as, reading for details and main themes, skimming the topic, logical arguments and recognizing the writer’s thoughts and purposes.

TOEFL has questions in Multiple Choice Formats and are divided into three to five parts. You will need to read the passages and then proceed to answer between 12 to 14 questions. The questions include defining a word also called vocabulary test, identifying an idea or understanding test & finding the false statement or a comprehension test.

The timing is similar for both the tests at 20 minutes for completing each part.


Actual human faculty evaluates the IELTS separately for each section from 1 to 9. An average score is generated for all the sections. The IELTS score helps in easily identifying the candidate’s English proficiency level; a low proficiency is a 1 and an expert score is 9.

Both humans and an automated scoring system evaluate the TOEFL exam. Each question carries 1 point out of a final score of 120.  A score between 0 to 30 is generated for each section. The TOEFL scores are accompanied with a performance feedback report.

  • preparing for toefl

You will have to wait for at least 10 days to receive the scores for both exams. The printed scorecards are mailed in 13 days from the test date.

Now that you’re better equipped on IELTS vs. TOEFL, you can take an informed decision on which test do you want to take and start preparing for the it.

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