Looking for how to choose the right English Proficiency test- IELTS vs TOEFL? It comes to testing your English language proficiency for academic or immigration purposes, two standardized exams are widely recognized:
- IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).
These tests are designed to assess your ability to understand and use English in various contexts, but they have some key differences.
In this article “IELTS vs TOEFL”, we will explore the distinctions between IELTS and TOEFL, helping you make an informed decision about which one is right for you.
IELTS vs TOEFL (Difference between IELTS and TOEFL):
The below are the key highlights for your better understanding of IELTS vs TOEFL and to make the right decision.
- IELTS: IELTS is jointly conducted by three organizations: the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English. It is available in two formats: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. The Academic version is typically required for university admissions, while the General Training version is often used for immigration and work purposes.
- TOEFL: TOEFL is conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). It offers only one format, which is primarily used for university admissions in the United States.
The below table provides a concise overview of the test formats, available versions, sections, and durations for both to understand the difference between IELTS and TOEFL:
2 hours and 45 minutes
|TOEFL||Standard (Internet-based)||Reading, Listening,
|Approx. 3 hours|
Test Question Types
While understanding the difference between IELTS and TOEFL, the below table provides a summary of the common question types you can expect in both exams:
|IELTS||Multiple-choice, Short answer, Matching,
Essay writing, speaking interview
|TOEFL||Mostly multiple-choice (Reading and Listening),
Recorded prompts (Speaking), Essay tasks (Writing)
IELTS vs TOEFL – Listening Section
In the Listening section of both IELTS and TOEFL, you will listen to recorded conversations, lectures, and discussions, and answer questions based on what you hear.
However, the below table highlights the key differences between IELTS and TOEFL exams – Listening section, including content, format, duration, and question types:
|Listening Content||Recorded monologues and conversations with various accents. Increasing difficulty.||Academic lectures and campus situations. Predominantly North American accents. Varies in difficulty within the test.|
|Number of Sections||4 sections||1 section|
|Duration||Approximately 30 minutes||Approximately 41 minutes|
|Number of Questions||Varies (typically 40-50 questions)||34-51 questions (depending on the test version)|
|Question Types||Multiple-choice, matching, labeling, and short answer questions||Multiple-choice questions|
|Response Format||Answer sheet provided for marking answers||Answers recorded electronically|
IELTS vs TOEFL – Reading Section
Both tests assess your reading skills, but the below table outlines the key differences between between IELTS and TOEFL exams – Reading section, including content, format, duration, and question types:
|Reading Content||Three texts of increasing complexity, covering general and academic topics.||3-4 academic texts from North American university textbooks.|
|Number of Sections||3 sections||1 section|
|Duration||Approximately 60 minutes||Approximately 54-72 minutes (depending on the test version)|
|Number of Questions||Varies (typically 40 questions)||36-56 questions (depending on the test version)|
|Question Types||Multiple-choice, matching, labeling, and short answer questions||Mostly multiple-choice questions, some drag-and-drop, and summary questions|
|Response Format||Answer sheet provided for marking answers||Answers recorded electronically|
IELTS vs TOEFL – Writing Section
The Writing section in both exams assess your ability to construct well-structured essays. The below table provides an overview of the differences between IELTS and TOEFL exams – Writing section, including the number of tasks, duration, word count, question types, and response format:
|Writing Tasks||Two tasks:
Task 1: Describe visual information (e.g., charts, graphs) and
Task 2: Write an essay on a general topic.
Integrated Task: Reading, listening, and summarizing and
Independent Task: Write an essay on a specific topic.
|Duration||Approximately 60 minutes||Approximately 50 minutes|
|Word Count||Task 1: At least 150 words,
Task 2: At least 250 words
|Integrated Task: Approximately 150-225 words,
Independent Task: At least 300 words
|Question Types||Task 1: Visual data interpretation,
Task 2: Essay on a general topic
|Integrated Task: Reading and listening comprehension, summary writing;
Independent Task: Essay on a specific topic
|Response Format||Paper-based or computer-based writing with answer sheets||Computer-based writing with on-screen typing|
IELTS vs TOEFL – Speaking Section
Both exams evaluate your spoken English, but the below table outlines the key differences between IELTS and TOEFL exams – Speaking section, including test format, duration, number of tasks, question types, and scoring methods:
|Speaking Test Format||Face-to-face interview with an examiner, divided into three parts: Introduction, Long Turn, and Discussion.||Responses to recorded prompts through a computer microphone, with six tasks in total.|
|Duration||Approximately 11-14 minutes||Approximately 20 minutes|
|Number of Tasks||Three tasks||Six tasks|
|Question Types||Part 1: Introductory conversation,
Part 2: Long turn on a topic,
Part 3: Discussion
|Six tasks, including speaking based on reading and listening prompts, expressing an opinion, summarizing, and providing a preference|
|Scoring||Assessed by a certified human examiner based on a detailed rubric||Assessed by automated scoring software, taking into account pronunciation, fluency, and content.|
Both tests provide an overall score, as well as scores for individual sections. However, the below table provides the differences between IELTS and TOEFL exam’ s scoring systems, including the score scales, section scores, total score ranges, score validity, and how scores are reported:
|Score Scale||0-9 Bands||0-120 Points|
|Overall Score||Composite of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking||Composite of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing|
|Section Scores||Individual scores for each section, also on a 0-9 scale||Individual scores for each section on a scale of 0-30|
|Total Score Range||0-9 Bands||0-120 Points|
|Score Validity||Typically valid for two years.||Typically valid for two years.|
|Score Reporting||You receive a Test Report Form with your band scores.||Scores are available online, and you can send them to institutions of your choice.|
The below tables will provide the differences between IELTS and TOEFL exam’s score descriptions, including the CEFR levels for IELTS and proficiency levels for TOEFL:
IELTS Score Description
|IELTS Band Score||CEFR Level||Description|
|8.5||C2||Very Good User|
|4.0||A2||Extremely Limited User|
|3.5||A2||Extremely Limited User|
|0.0||A1||Did Not Attempt the Test|
Also Read: How to prepare for IELTS Exam?
TOEFL Score Description
|TOEFL Score||Level of Proficiency||Description|
|0-9||Inadequate||Little to no English proficiency|
|10-18||Limited||Minimal English proficiency|
|19-29||Low||Limited English proficiency|
|30-40||Intermediate||Basic to moderate English proficiency|
|41-60||High Intermediate||Moderate English proficiency|
|61-78||Good||Good English proficiency|
|79-93||Advanced||Advanced English proficiency|
|94-101||Very Advanced||Very advanced English proficiency|
|102-110||Expert||Expert-level English proficiency|
|111-120||Native Speaker||Native or near-native English proficiency|
CEFR Score Equivalents
Understanding how IELTS and TOEFL scores relate to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) can be helpful, especially if you plan to study in a European institution that requires CEFR-based scores. Here is a rough equivalence:
- IELTS Band Score 9.0 ≈ CEFR C2
- IELTS Band Score 7.0-8.0 ≈ CEFR C1
- IELTS Band Score 5.5-6.5 ≈ CEFR B2
- IELTS Band Score 4.0-5.0 ≈ CEFR B1
Please note that these are approximate equivalences, and institutions may have specific score requirements.
IELTS vs TOEFL: Which is right for you?
After knowing all the above important key points on IELTS vs TOEFL, still, the choice between IELTS and TOEFL depends on your individual preferences, goals, and the requirements of the institutions or organizations you are applying to. Here are some factors to consider:
If you plan to study in the United States, TOEFL may be the preferred option for many universities. However, IELTS is widely accepted worldwide, including in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Consider which test format aligns better with your strengths. IELTS includes a face-to-face speaking component, which some test-takers find more comfortable. TOEFL, on the other hand, has a speaking section that involves responding to recorded prompts.
Check the availability of test centers in your location. Some areas may have more IELTS test centers, while others may have better access to TOEFL centers.
Also Read: IELTS Exam Dates in December 2023
Research the specific score requirements of the institutions you are applying to. Some universities may have preferences for one test over the other.
Choose the test that you feel more comfortable with and believe will allow you to showcase your English skills to the best of your ability.
Colleges / Universities That Recognize IELTS vs TOEFL
The difference between IELTS and TOEFL is an important aspect for choosing the right exam based on your needs. Both IELTS and TOEFL are widely accepted by universities and colleges around the world. However, the preference for one test over the other can vary by institution and country. Here’s a general overview:
- IELTS is accepted by thousands of institutions globally, including prestigious universities in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It is also recognized by many universities in the United States, although TOEFL is more commonly required there.
- TOEFL is most commonly required by universities in the United States. While it is accepted by institutions worldwide, it is essential to check the specific requirements of the universities you are interested in.
Quick-listicles of Differences Between IELTS and TOEFL
- Test Format: IELTS has Academic and General Training versions, while TOEFL offers one format.
- Sections: Both tests have Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing sections.
- Question Types: IELTS has a wider variety of question types, including essays. TOEFL uses mostly multiple-choice questions.
- Speaking: IELTS has a face-to-face speaking interview, while TOEFL uses recorded prompts.
- Test Duration: TOEFL is generally longer, taking around 3 hours compared to IELTS’ 2 hours and 45 minutes.
- Scoring: IELTS scores on a 9-band scale, while TOEFL scores range from 0-120.
Prepare for IELTS and TOEFL with IELTS Ninja
If you are still unable to find the right exam and if you’re looking to excel in either the IELTS or TOEFL exams, consider preparing with IELTS Ninja. Our comprehensive test prep resources, including practice tests, study materials, and expert guidance, can help you achieve your target scores and improve your English proficiency.
FAQs: IELTS vs TOEFL
1. Which test is easier: IELTS or TOEFL?
Ans.: The difficulty of IELTS vs TOEFL depends on your strengths and preferences. Some find TOEFL easier because it focuses on academic English skills and includes more multiple-choice questions. Others may find IELTS easier due to its face-to-face speaking component.
2. Which test is better for me: IELTS or TOEFL?
Ans.: Choose the test that aligns with your goals and the requirements of the institutions you are applying to. Consider factors like the test format, destination country, and your personal comfort with the test structure.
3. Is TOEFL better than IELTS?
Ans.: Neither test is inherently better than the other. The choice between TOEFL and IELTS depends on your goals, destination, and personal preferences.
4. How long will it take for me to prepare for IELTS?
Ans: The duration of your preparation depends on your current English proficiency and how much time you can dedicate to study. Typically, a few months of consistent preparation is recommended.
5. How can I prepare for IELTS?
Ans.: You can prepare for IELTS by using official IELTS practice materials, taking practice tests, enrolling in preparation courses, and seeking guidance from experienced instructors. Websites like IELTS Ninja offer comprehensive preparation resources.
6. Does the USA accept IELTS?
Ans.: Yes, many universities and colleges in the United States accept IELTS scores for admissions. It’s crucial to check the specific English language proficiency requirements of the institutions you plan to apply to.