IELTS VS TOEFL

“What is the difference between the TOEFL and IELTS?”

“Should I take the TOEFL or IELTS?”

“Is the TOEFL or IELTS better for me?”

All of these are common questions to hear from students who need to choose between these two prominent English proficiency tests for university admittance, a job, immigration purposes, or simply to test their English level. Today, I will answer some of the most common questions about the differences between the TOEFL and IELTS.

At the end of the article, I will tell you what I really think so keep going to get my final opinion!

Please note, today I will be referring to the TOEFL iBT (internet-based test) simply as the TOEFL. This is important to remember as test takers can sometimes choose between the iBT and the PBT (paper-based test). I will also be referring to the Academic Version of the IELTS simply as IELTS. However, if you need the General Training Version of the IELTS, you will also benefit from reading this article.

Should I take TOEFL or IELTS?

Well, there is more to it than just what test you think is better, unless of course your are doing it for personal reasons. If you need to take either the TOEFL or IELTS for a university or college, for a visa or immigration purposes, or for a job, the first step is to find out if both tests are accepted. Then, find out if they require the iBT or PBT for the TOEFL, and the academic or general version for the IELTS. If both the TOEFL iBT and the academic version of the IELTS are accepted, then keep reading to decide which test is better for you!

What is TOEFL?

First, let’s learn a little more about the TOEFL. TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. The TOEFL was first introduced in 1964 and is the most common English proficiency exam in the USA today. It may also be required for other reasons, such as by licensing or government agencies, university scholarships, and even some jobs. The most common form of the TOEFL, and the one which I will focus on is the TOEFL Internet-based Test (iBT). The TOEFL iBT is made up of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking & Writing. The maximum number of points for the test is 120. A TOEFL iBT score is valid for two years.

What is IELTS?

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. Today, I am going to focus on the academic version of the IELTS which may be required by colleges or universities, or other academic institutions. The academic version may also be required by some jobs for non-native English speakers. The general version of the IELTS is sometimes required for employment or immigration purposes. There are four sections of the IELTS: Reading, Listening, Speaking & Writing.

The IELTS is scored by bands. The scores are as follows: Band 9: Expert user, Band 8: Very good user, Band 7: Good user, Band 6: Competent user, Band 5: Modest user, Band 4: Limited user, Band 3: Extremely limited user, Band 2: Intermittent user, Band 1: Non-user, Band 0: Did not attempt the test.
*An IELTS score is valid for two years.

What are the the differences between the TOEFL and IELTS?

Keep reading to go over the four main sections of the TOEFL and IELTS and compare each of them side-by-side to see which test is better for you.

TOEFL Reading Section vs IELTS Reading Section

What is the TOEFL reading section?What is the IELTS Reading Section?
The reading passages are similar to those in college textbooks and are designed to test your understanding of material that you will see at university or college. You may take notes as you read, but they will not be graded. The questions are multiple choice with most being worth one point, except the last question which is worth more one point.

There are two formats for the TOEFL reading section. On the short format there are three reading passages and on the long format there are four reading passages. Each passage has 12-14 questions about it. Only three passages are graded. The long format is part of a research and experimental section that is being conducted for future tests. You will not know which passage will not be counted for your score, so you must do you best for each one.

The academic version of the IELTS reading test is 60 minutes long. You will have three authentic passages and a total of 40 questions. You will be asked a variety of questions in order to test different reading skills. The tests are taken from books, magazines, newspapers, and journals. Although the passages are not selected for any particular audience, they are considered appropriate for the academic purposes of the test.

TOEFL or IELTS? IELTS or TOEFL?

  • If you get the long format, the TOEFL is significantly longer. Consequently, if concentration is a problem then you might be better suited for the IELTS.
  • The TOEFL reading test is only multiple choice, while the IELTS has a variety of question types. What do you think is easier for you?

TOEFL Writing Section vs IELTS Writing Section

What is the TOEFL writing section?What is the IELTS writing section?
During the listening section of the TOEFL test you will listen to various conversation, interactions, and lectures that are common on university campuses, both inside and outside of the classroom. The questions test your ability to understand these dialogues and situations.

There are two formats: long format and short format. The short format has two conversations, two lectures, and two discussions of which you are allowed 20 minutes to answer the questions. On the long format, you will listen to three conversations, three lectures, and three discussions of which you are allowed 30 minutes to answer the questions. You will only be marked on two of each, as the others are used for experimental purposes. If you get the long format version, you will not know which answers are counted, so you need to answer all of them to the best of your ability.
*Please note: the total amount of time needed for the TOEFL listening is 60-90 minutes.

Please note: test takers must type their essays instead of using pen and paper.

For the academic version of the IELTS, there are two separate writing tasks. The tasks are designed to test your ability to answer questions at the university level. Both writing tasks must be completed and under-length answers will be penalized. You have one hour to complete both writing tasks.
In the first writing task you will be asked to describe a process or describe a graph or table. You must write at least 150 words and you should spend about 20 minutes on this task.
In the second writing task you will be asked to answer an independent question, usually asking you to compare and contrast and/or give your opinion and expound on it. You must write at least 250 words and should spend about 40 minutes to complete the hour.
Please note: test takers must write their essays in the the answer booklets provided.

TOEFL or IELTS? IELTS or TOEFL?

  • Perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself is, “How are my English typing skills?” This is something to consider as you will have to type your answer if you choose the TOEFL iBT.
  • Can you produce the minimum word count required by the IELTS? Although the TOEFL has word minimum expectations, there is no fixed requirement.
  • How is your listening and reading comprehension? If you choose the TOEFL, you will have to listen and then read a passage before you write your integrated essay.
  • Are you good at describing processes, tables, or graphs? Some students find this easier than others and can do very well on the first IELTS writing task.

TOEFL Listening Section vs IELTS Listening Section

What is the TOEFL Listening?What is the IELTS Listening?
During the listening section of the TOEFL test you will listen to various conversation, interactions, and lectures that are common on university campuses, both inside and outside of the classroom. The questions test your ability to understand these dialogues and situations.

There are two formats: long format and short format. The short format has two conversations, two lectures, and two discussions of which you are allowed 20 minutes to answer the questions. On the long format, you will listen to three conversations, three lectures, and three discussions of which you are allowed 30 minutes to answer the questions. You will only be marked on two of each, as the others are used for experimental purposes. If you get the long format version, you will not know which answers are counted, so you need to answer all of them to the best of your ability.

*Please note: the total amount of time needed for the TOEFL listening is 60-90 minutes.

Test takers will listen to a total of four different recordings throughout the test and answer a series of varying question types testing different listening skills. The listening test takes 30 minutes altogether.

Listening section one is generally a conversation between two people and features a casual social or general topic.

Listening section two has a theme that is similar to section one, but it’s a monologue, not a conversation.

Lstening section three features an education or training-oriented conversation and may include up to four speakers.

Listening section four features a lecture on an academic subject.

TOEFL or IELTS? IELTS or TOEFL?

  • The TOEFL only has multiple choice answers while the IELTS features different question types.
  • The TOEFL listening is considerably longer.
  • The TOEFL only features American accents while IELTS has various accents from different English speaking countries.

TOEFL Speaking Section vs. IELTS Speaking Section

TOEFL SpeakingIELTS Speaking
The TOEFL speaking section presents test takers with six questions. Each question is asked only once and may be in response to an independent question, or based on a lecture or reading. Answers are evaluated on the accuracy of the answer, as well as fluency.

After each question there is a short preparation time before a strictly timed response time.

*Please note: test takers speak into a computer microphone which starts and stops the recording process automatically. The entire speaking section takes about 20 minutes to complete from start to finish.

The IELTS speaking is a one-to-one interaction between the test taker and an examiner. The questions are asked by the examiner and then recorded in conversation style.

There are three sections in the IELTS speaking. In the first section, you will answer questions about yourself and your family. In the second speaking part, you will be given a topic card, a minute to prepare, and then expected to speak for about two minutes. Part three is further in-depth discussion about the speaking topic and related points.

The entire test takes between 11 to 14 minutes to complete.

TOEFL or IELTS? IELTS or TOEFL?

  • Do you prefer speaking into a computer or would you prefer an interaction with an examiner?
  • Do you prefer strictly timed answers? If so, the TOEFL may be the test for you.
  • How are your listening and reading comprehension skills? If you opt for the TOEFL, you will need to listen and/or read for some of the questions. Please note: some students have a difficult time with these questions.
  • Do you prefer the American accent? Although the TOEFL only has American accents, the IELTS does not feature any accents that are very difficult to understand.

Which is better for you, the TOEFL or IELTS?

Well, what do you think? The final decision needs to be made by you, the test taker. Read the factors above and choose if the TOEFL or IELTS is better for you. You might want to also consider the cost and the availability of the test. This can change depending upon your location, so make sure to check the available dates and the costs associated with the test before you make your final decision. A word to the wise: you might need to take the test more than once in order to get your desired result. If you don’t succeed in your first attempt, just keep trying. You can do it!

My final opinion

I will take off my “teacher hat” for a moment and tell you what I really think. In my 15 years of experience, I have seen that the IELTS is a better judge of a student’s true English level. While the TOEFL has it’s merits, it feels impractical and inadequate. It also frustrates me when I have to teach a student how to pass the TOEFL and not how to really improve their English reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. All things considered, the IELTS, to me, just seems more real. On the other hand, if you are good at preparing for and taking tests, then you can do very well on the TOEFL. These are just my thoughts. Rant, over!
If you have any questions about the TOEFL or IELTS, please email, call, or comment below, and I will be sure to answer. I hope you have enjoyed this TOEFL vs. IELTS comparison.

Recent Posts
Showing 2 comments
  • Leonardo Gamba
    Reply

    Thanks, this article is very useful to me!

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Hello mates, its great piece of writing concerning tutoringand fully defined, keep it up all the time.

Leave a Comment

Get a Free Quote
GET A FREE QUOTE

Fill out the form below and receive an instant quote!





Start typing and press Enter to search