IELTS vs TOEFL: Learn the Complete Differences

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Meridean Overseas

Updated On 04 November 2023 & Read Time 12 minutes

3.7k

Overview

When it comes to assessing English language proficiency, two major tests that often stand at the forefront of decision-making are IELTS and TOEFL. These standardised tests play a crucial role in the academic and professional lives of those seeking to study or work in English-speaking countries. However, choosing between IELTS and TOEFL can be a daunting task, and it's essential to understand the key differences between these tests to make an informed decision.

 

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) have unique features, formats, and target audiences. In this blog, we will delve into the complete differences between IELTS and TOEFL, enabling you to choose based on your individual needs and aspirations.

 

A Quick Difference between IELTS and TOEFL

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an exam that assesses an applicant's command of the English language.  The exam assesses a person's English language skills in four areas: reading, listening, writing, and speaking.

 

On the other hand, The TOEFL English test is primarily used in academic settings, especially for admission to universities in the United States. The test assesses proficiency in academic English and is recognised by institutions worldwide. It is divided into four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. TOEFL features academic content and focuses on testing a candidate's ability to understand and use English in a university setting.

 

Now, let’s explore the basic IELTS and TOEFL difference in the tests below:

Basis of Difference

IELTS

TOEFL

Scope

The scope of IELTS is broader. It is used as an English proficiency test for people who want to study abroad, for jobs, and for immigration to English-speaking nations. 

TOEFL is only used for academic purposes. Generally, students who want to study at English-speaking universities appear for it. 

 

Types

Two types:

IELTS Academic

IELTS General

Only academic variation

Locations Available

Taken by students in over 140 countries at around 1,600 locations.

Testing centres are available in more than 165 countries at over 4,500 locations.

Interaction With Examiner 

Students are required to communicate directly with the examiner for the IELTS speaking section test.

The TOEFL exam is entirely computer-based. As a result, students have no personal interaction with the examiners. For the TOEFL speaking portion, students must record and submit their speech for review.   

Scoring

It is graded on a band system ranging from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest)

It is scored out of 120 points. Each section is graded on a scale of 0-30. 

Duration of the Exam

It takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete.

Internet-based TOEFL exam duration is 3 hours long, and the paper-delivered exam is 2 and a half hours long. 

Number of Times Exams Conducted

It is scheduled over 48 days per year.

TOEFL iBT exam is scheduled over 60 times a year

Result Declaration

For online tests, it takes around a week and for pen-paper based tests, it takes around 13 days.

TOEFL score is made available to the students anywhere between 6-10 days from the test date 

Comparing the sections of IELTS Vs TOEFL

Although the core concept for measuring English language skills is the same for both TOEFL and IELTS, the strategy for assessment differs. Let's take a deeper look:

 

IELTS Vs TOEFL: Listening Section

The TOEFL listening section requires you to listen to 3-4 lectures and 2-3 conversations and then take notes and answer multiple choice questions. A lecture is followed by 6 questions each, and a conversation is followed by around 5 questions each.

 

However, on the IELTS, you must answer the questions while the audio is playing. IELTS questions will comprise filling in the blanks, completing sentences, and answering true or false, which are based on the 4 recorded monologues.

 

Furthermore, the IELTS employs a variety of accents, whereas the TOEFL employs American. The TOEFL speaking test lasts 41 to 57 minutes, whereas the IELTS only lasts 30 minutes.

 

IELTS Vs TOEFL: Speaking Section

The speaking portion of the test is much different. If you feel more at ease speaking English to someone face to face rather than over a microphone, the IELTS may be a better fit for you. The oral portion is handled in the manner of a typical discussion. You will be alone with the exam instructor, who will tape record you while asking you common questions about your hometown or even your career goals.

 

The TOEFL speaking exam is divided into four tasks and lasts around 20 minutes. Questions will range from intellectual to personal in nature. You will also be given a brief discussion or text and asked to summarise it. Before answering the question on the microphone, you will be given some time to prepare for each section.

 

IELTS Vs TOEFL: Writing Section

Both assessments have a writing section that requires you to compose a brief essay in two parts. The first section of the TOEFL requires you to read a short paragraph about a certain topic and then listen to a 2-minute lecture about that topic. Then, you must respond to a question about this issue in between 300 and 350 words.

 

In the IELTS, you'll be given a graph or chart in the first part, and you are then required to write a short essay based on that information. The second component of the TOEFL exam requires you to write another short essay. On the other hand, in the second half of the IELTS, you will be given an argument or a point of view and asked to write a 200-250-word response.

 

The duration of the IELTS writing section is 60 minutes, whereas the duration of the TOEFL writing section is 50 minutes.

 

IELTS Vs TOEFL: Reading Section

Both tests present you with academic materials, which are subsequently followed by questions that assess how well you absorbed the text. The TOEFL, like every other section of this test, will have multiple-choice questions broken into three to four passages. Based on each of these passages, you will have to answer a set of about 10 questions per passage.

 

On the other hand, the IELTS reading section comprises three passages, each with a different form of question, such as short responses and fill-in-the-blank questions. The total duration of the TOEFL and IELTS reading sections is 54 minutes to 72 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively.

 

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IELTS Vs TOEFL: Question Types

The types of questions asked in both tests are quite different. The table below lets you explore the types of questions asked in each section of both tests.

Section 

IELTS 

TOEFL 

Listening 

40+ Multiple- choice questions based on 

2–3 conversations & 3–4 lectures

Questions like Multiple choice, Sentence completion, Summary completion, Flow-chart completion, Diagram labelling, Matching information, etc. based on recorded monologues or conversations

Speaking 

1 Independent Speaking task  

3 Integrated tasks – Read or/ and listen and then Speak 

A 3-part face-to-face interview

Part 1: Introduction of the candidate 

Part 2: Speaking on the given topic

Part 3: Discussion

Writing 

1 integrated task based on reading a short passage, listening to a short lecture and then writing 

1 Independent Essay Writing task (30 minutes)

1 writing task of writing around 150 words based on the given topic

1 Writing task of a short essay of 250 words on a given topic

Reading 

40 Multiple-choice questions based on 

3-4 passages

Questions like Short answers, Matching headings, Multiple choice, Sentence completion, Summary completion, Flow-chart completion, Diagram labelling, identifying writer’s views/claims, etc., based on 3 long passages

TOEFL Vs  IELTS Score Comparison

 The TOEFL score and grading method are completely different from the IELTS grading system. TOEFL scores are based on a single score out of 120. Whereas IELTS is graded using a band system. The bands range from 1 to 9, with your overall IELTS score being an average of your distinct exam scores in all four components. Your overall score will be rounded to the nearest half-band. The table below shows the comparison between the TOEFL Vs IELTS score of both tests.

IELTS band score

TOEFL iBT score

0-4

0-31

4.5

32-34

5

35-45

5.5

46-59

6

60-78

6.5

79-93

7

94-101

7.5

102-109

8

110-114

8.5

115-117

9

118-120

Now that we have compared the scores of both the tests. You must be wondering how much score you are required in these tests in order to study abroad. So, let us tell you that the IELTS or TOEFL score required to study abroad varies depending upon the level of program, specialisation, university, and the country for which you are applying. However, in general, universities require the following score to enrol international students.

Degree level

IELTS

TOEFL iBT

Foundation

5

35-45

Undergraduate

6

60-78

Postgraduate

7

94-101 

IELTS Vs TOEFL: Which is Better? 

Many students face difficulty in choosing which exam is better for them: IELTS or TOEFL. However, the decision between the two examinations and their difficulty level is entirely subjective. Various factors can be considered for determining your preferred fit:

 

Exam Accepted by Your Preferred University

Although both scores are recognised for entrance to undergraduate and graduate programmes around the world, you should double-check.  Check if the university/school prefers accepting English language competency exams. Also, check the specific scores required by the university for the course you are interested in.

 

Types of Questions

The IELTS and TOEFL assess the same abilities: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. They do it, however, in a very different way.  For example, if you are more comfortable answering multiple-choice questions, you might prefer the TOEFL exam over the IELTS.  Apart from this, if you are comfortable in appearing for a pen-paper based test, then IELTS would be a better choice.

 

Availability

The availability of a test centre near you also influences your exam selection. You can select an exam for which the exam centre is conveniently accessible, as well as dates that are easily available.

 

Your Level of Comfort with the Exam Pattern

The design of the Speaking part differs significantly between the TOEFL and IELTS tests. The IELTS speaking examination is given in front of an examiner, who decides your speaking score. Furthermore, the IELTS speaking test may not be scheduled on the same day as the remainder of the exam.

 

In the case of the TOEFL, you must use a microphone to answer the questions. These are then recorded and distributed to reviewers.

 

Examination Fees

The cost of IELTS vs. TOEFL can also be a decisive factor. Both exams are typically priced between $200 and $250 USD. These expenses, however, vary depending on the country in which you take the exam. So, if cost is a key worry for you, examine the prices of the tests in your country before making a decision.

 

Conclusion

In the world of English language proficiency testing, the choice between IELTS and TOEFL is not about which one is universally better but which one is better for you. Your decision should depend on your specific goals, the requirements of the institution or organisation you're applying to, and your personal preferences. Understanding the differences, as we've explored in this blog, is the first step in making an informed choice. Whether you opt for IELTS or TOEFL, both tests are reliable indicators of your English language skills.

 

So, if you are planning to start your study abroad journey to English-speaking nations? we encourage you to have a word with our team of expert counsellors at Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC) for the best guidance in choosing between TOEFL and IELTS. If you are unable to travel to our offices, we offer online counselling services via our website. Our dedicated counsellors will provide you with the best guidance regarding your application to study abroad. Apart from this, our expert counsellors will also provide assistance in the visa process for your successful study abroad journey. Don't hesitate to contact us at application02@meridean.org or call us at 1800-1230-00011.

 

FAQs

Q: What are IELTS and TOEFL, and what do they test?

A: IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) are standardised tests that assess a person's English language proficiency. IELTS measures your ability to communicate in English in academic and general contexts, while TOEFL primarily evaluates academic English proficiency.

 

Q: What are the major differences in test format between IELTS and TOEFL?

A: IELTS includes both Academic and General Training versions, and it features face-to-face speaking interviews. TOEFL is primarily academic and employs recorded responses. The format differences can affect your choice based on your needs.

 

Q: Which test is more widely accepted globally?

A: Both IELTS and TOEFL are widely accepted by universities and institutions worldwide. The choice may depend on the preferences of the institution you are applying to.

 

Q: Can I take both IELTS and TOEFL?

A: Yes, you can take both tests if you wish, but it's essential to consider the cost, time commitment, and the specific requirements of your target institutions or employers.

 

Q: Are there any advantages to taking one test over the other?

A: The choice between IELTS and TOEFL ultimately depends on your specific needs, including whether you prefer a computer-based or face-to-face interview format, the accents you are comfortable with, and the requirements of your target institution or organisation.

 

Q: How long are IELTS and TOEFL scores valid?

A: Typically, IELTS scores are valid for up to two years, and TOEFL scores also have a two-year validity period.

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