Choosing Between IELTS and TOEFL

TOEFL and IELTS are two English language proficiency tests that are widely recognized around the globe. While both tests check the reading, writing, listening and speaking skills of non-native English speakers, there are plenty of differences. In most cases, the choice to take either test lies with you. It is important to understand the basic differences between the TOEFL and IELTS.


IELTS is an examination that is recognized in over 130 countries and 9000 institutions worldwide. It is jointly conducted by the British Council and The University of Cambridge and is preferred in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom. IELTS is used for the purpose of administrating Visas for education and immigration purposes.


TOEFL examination is recognized in over 130 countries and 8500 institutions worldwide. Though it is recognized by New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom, it is mainly used for academic and classroom training. The TOEFL examination is administered by the Education Testing Service, an organization based in the USA.

The following are the differences between TOEFL and IELTS:

Differences between TOEFL and IELTS

•  The IELTS examination tests your Academic as well as general English skills and has real life value. The TOEFL examination basically tests your Academic English skills as it is meant for a classroom environment.
•  IELTS examination takes around 2 hours 45 minutes to complete and is notably shorter in duration. TOEFL takes around 4 hours to complete.
•  IELTS scores candidates based on a band or rating system of 1-9 with 9 being the highest. TOEFL scores candidates on a scale of 0-120.
•  IELTS takes into consideration various accents and English speaking styles from all over the world. TOEFL is limited to American English.
•  IELTS written test is done on paper while TOEFL is done on a computer.
•  IELTS requires the candidate to use memory and comprehension skills and is a lot broader in scope. TOEFL tests the logical and analytical skills and is a multiple choice paper.
•  IELTS is a hand written paper whereas TOEFL examination is conducted on a computer.

Structure of the Examinations

The examination structure is divided into 4 categories.


•  The IELTS speaking test involves face-to-face conversations with a single examiner and takes anywhere between 11 to 14 minutes to complete. It is important to remember that there is a range of accents involved in IELTS. The final score will be determined by the same examiner. However, you may not get the results on the day of the exam.
•  The TOEFL speaking test requires candidates to speak into a microphone and have their voice recorded. The test takes around 20 minutes to complete. The recording is sent to 6 separate examiners. However, the result of the examination is attained on the very same day.


The IELTS written test is divided into 2 parts:
1.  Academic English: This is mainly for students looking to attend university. Candidates will have to explain a chart, map, table, diagram or graph.
2.  General Training: This involves writing a 200-300 word article on a given topic.

The TOEFL written test is similarly divided into two parts.
1.  One task involves writing a 5 paragraph article on a given topic containing around 300-350 words.
2.  The other task involves listening to an audio clip and reading a text. The candidate would have to jot down important points and respond accordingly in 150-225 words.


•  IELTS reading test comprises of 3 parts which take around 20 minutes each. The text would be both; academic and general. The candidate would have to complete various tasks such as writing short answers, filling in blanks and so on.
•  TOEFL reading test is completely academically derived. The candidates would be required to answer multiple-choice questions on a computer.


•  IELTS listening test is 30 minutes in length and the candidate might have to listen to accents from UK, Australia, Scotland, Canada, Ireland, Wales, USA and more. The exercises would involve responding to multiple types of questions that differ in length. It is possible to answer some of the questions even while the audio is being played.
•  The TOEFL listening test is significantly longer and takes anywhere between 40-60 minutes. Candidates would have to note down points while the audio is being played. Once the audio runs the length of its course, multiple choice questions are to be answered.

Take the time to think about the test you would like to take before settling for IELTS or TOEFL.

It is important to remember that no matter how good a person’s English skills are, a significant amount of preparation would be required in order to familiarize oneself with the examination structure.

Enrolling in IELTS or TOEFL training session from institutes such as Direct English can help candidates boost their confidence by providing them tips, tricks and practice material to help get over the line with a good score.


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