TOEFL or IELTS: Which test should you take to study abroad?

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  • By:CANAM Group
  • Updated On:Jul 08,2023 04:46 PM IST

When planning to take an exam to prove your English language skills, you need to choose from two of the most popular options out there - TOEFL or IELTS. Here we provide the complete information to help you decide which test should be taken relevant to your needs.

TOEFL or IELTS Which test should you take to study abroad.webp
All non-native speakers of the English language are required to take English Proficiency Tests in order to complete their applications. The most recognised tests are IELTS and TOEFL. Both of these assess all four aspects of English language development as reading, writing, listening and speaking skills, but in different formats.
IELTS is the International English Language Testing System and TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. Students need to take either the IELTS Academic test or TOEFL iBT to apply to the university. Both the tests are endorsed by the majority of educational and business institutions. Read on to find out more about each of these tests to decide which one is more relevant to you.

Difference between IELTS and TOEFl:

These tests are owned by separate testing organisations, as IELTS is co-owned by British Council, Cambridge Assessment English and IDP Australia. IELTS is written and administered by Cambridge Assessment English. Its test centres are run by British Council and IDP around the world.

TOEFL iBT is owned, written and administered by the Education Testing Service (ETS), an organisation in the USA.
Some of the key differences between these two exams are shown below:

Key PointsIELTS
Test Duration2 hours and 45 min.
Score Range0-9
Approximate number of institutions accepting these testsFrom 9,000-11,000

Also, IELTS exam is conducted both on paper as well as online, whereas TOEFL is conducted just online. Their results are declared within 10 to 13 days, and both exams are marked by human examiners automated marking/machine marking.

IELTS vs TOEFL- Types of Questions:

TOEFL iBT has multiple choice questions, whereas IELTS has several question types like- Multiple choice, matching, plan, map, diagram labelling, form, note, table, flow chart, summary completion, sentence completion, short answer question, true-false, not given.

Format of Tests- Both IELTS and TOEFL test the same set of skills, but in slightly different ways as:

IELTS AcademicQuestionsTOEFL iBTQuestions
Listening30 mins4041-57 mins28-39
Reading60 mins4054-72 mins30-40
Writing60 mins2 tasks50 mins2 tasks
Speaking11-14 mins3 parts17 mins4 tasks

IELTS vs TOEFL- Listening

There is a common belief that IELTS represents British English and TOEFL represents American English, but this is just a misconception, as both these tests include wide range of English accents- North American, British, Australian and New Zealand accents.

As far as Listening test is concerned, IELTS listening test is comprised of ten questions each. There are four parts of the test, out of which, parts 1 and 2 are in general context and 3,4 are in academic context. Likewise, part 1 and 3 involve more than 1 speaker whereas parts 2 and 4 are monologues i.e. just one person delivers the dialogues.

In TOEFL iBT test, two kinds of listening parts are there as lectures and conversations, and both are closely relevant to language similar to be heard at university campus or in real life by students. TOEFL test is comprised of 3 to 4 lectures with six questions each and 2 to 3 conversations with two speakers and 5 questions per conversation.

IELTS vs TOEFL- Reading

IELTS Academic Reading test includes three passages similar to comprehension passages, where passages 1 and 2 have thirteen questions, and passage 3 has fourteen questions. These passages cover varied range of questions and these are to be answered based on the content of the passages.

TOEFL iBT test includes three or four passages and each passage is followed by ten multiple-choice questions, which are again to be answered based on the passage content.

IELTS vs TOEFL- Writing

IELTS test is comprised of two tasks- Task 1 includes graphs, charts, tables or diagrams and 20 minutes are given to explain the information given in these forms in about 150 words. Task 2 is an essay writing type of question, where topics could be opinion based or comparison between two things and 40 minutes are given to write it in about 250 words.

TOEFL iBT has slightly different format as task 1 includes a short passage and a short lecture, as an integrated task, after listening and reading to these, one needs to write a response based on this information. Task 2 is again an essay writing question, based on personal experience or opinion as given in a topic in about 50 minutes.

IELTS vs TOEFL- Speaking

IELTS Speaking test includes three parts; first few questions are about personal information or everyday topics. During second part, examinee is given a topic with three sub-topics to talk about for two minutes at least. Next and the last part deals with the discussion with examiner on the same topic given in the second step, mostly with extended questions related to same. Also IELTS is conducted face to face with examiner or on a video call, and test is recorded for training or verification purposes. This test is marked by examiner and further verified may be by other examiners.

In TOEFL iBT, examinee listens to questions and answers into a microphone and these answers are marked by the AI (Computer-rated) as well as human examiners.

One more major difference between IELTS and TOEFL is that former is always taken a day prior or after the other three modules, whereas in TOEFL, speaking test is conducted on the same day as the other three.


As we have discussed the complete structure and format of both tests, there’s not much difference in the level of content or language. It really depends on an individual as some people prefer certain type of questions or some find it easier to read and listen rather than writing task 2 essays. Other than this, both tests examine the English language levels.
Out of all four modules, speaking module is the one which slightly differs regarding its conduct and timing. In IELTS, first of all, examinee has to answer questions face-to face with examiner, whereas in TOEFL, examinee listens to questions and answers in the microphone. Other modules are more or less similar in format. One more difference between both is that IELTS speaking test is taken either prior or after the other three modules, whereas in TOEFL, all modules are conducted on the same day.
For IELTS test conducted almost 48 times in a year, INR 15,500 is charged. TOEFL is conducted over 50 times in a year and 15,678 is charged every time.
IELTS is considered qualified with the minimum score of 6.5 out of 9 and TOEFL could be qualified with minimum score of 90 out of 120.
Although similar to IELTS, TOEFL is also accepted to over 11,000 colleges and universities worldwide in at least more than 150 countries. It is equally recognized, but earlier, or still in few universities in USA, TOEFL is preferred or given first priority.

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