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Should You Take TOEFL or IELTS? 4 Factors to Consider


The TOEFL and IELTS are two of the most popular alternatives available if you need to take a test to demonstrate your proficiency in the English language. Should you take the TOEFL or IELTS, however? How is each exam structured? Do schools favor a certain test above others? Which one will you score better on?


For a detailed comparison between TOEFL and IELTS, as well as the solutions to all your questions, read this article!


We must discuss each exam before responding to the IELTS vs. TOEFL question.


Introduction to the TOEFL


The ETS, which also creates the GRE (a test for graduate school admissions) and several other exams, produces the TOEFL (Examination of English as a Foreign Language), an English language competency test.


The TOEFL comes in a variety of paper-based and computer-based formats. The TOEFL iBT, which is given online, will be the main emphasis of this tutorial. The in is the most popular and widely acknowledged version of the TOEFL.


TOEFL Format


Four components make up the 3.5 hours that make up the TOEFL. A ten-minute break separates the Listening and Speaking parts. You will be given a score between 0 and 30 for each section.


TOEFL Content


The TOEFL consists of four portions, each assessing a different aspect of your English language proficiency. A quick description of what to anticipate in each segment is provided below.


TOEFL Reading


Students will read three or four passages from academic literature for reading and respond to questions about them. The texts are from college textbooks that introduce a subject or field. There are three different kinds of questions: traditional multiple-choice questions requiring students to place sentences in the appropriate places within paragraphs and questions requiring them to correctly arrange the material into a chart or summary table.


TOEFL Listening


Each of the four to six recordings in the listening segment is followed by a series of questions. The interactions captured on the recordings are comparable to those students have with teachers and other students in the classroom, such as during lectures or discussions among students. Multiple-choice questions will ask you to organize stages in an event or process, and questions that ask you to match text or objects to categories on a chart.


TOEFL Speaking


The first two assignments require autonomous speaking, and the student’s responses are based on their thoughts, judgments, and experiences.


The last four tasks all involve collaboration. When responding to questions of this kind, students must employ many skills.


The other two integrated activities call for pupils to listen first and then talk, whereas the other call for reading and listening.


TOEFL Writing


Integrated Writing and Independent Writing are the two assignments in the Writing division. Students hear a brief audio and read a brief piece as part of integrated Writing. After that, they’ll have 20 minutes to compare and synthesize the data they gathered from these two sources. An answer should be between 150 and 225 words long.


Students must express their opinions on the subject they are assigned for Independent Writing. Clear Writing that is backed up by examples is required. Usually, students get 30 minutes to compose at least 300 words.


Who Accepts TOEFL Scores


Around the globe, more than 9000 universities accept TOEFL results. Most institutions questioned for the United States said they favored TOEFL scores above results from other English-language examinations. To find out which institutions accept TOEFL scores, utilize the TOEFL Destination Search.


We’ll discuss the IELTS test’s format next in comparing the TOEFL and IELTS.


Introduction to the IELTS


The British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment, and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are two organizations that jointly own this English language competence test.


The IELTS is available in two versions: Academic and General Training. IELTS Academic is for those wishing to pursue a career or further education. IELTS General Training is a must for those going to English-speaking nations for secondary school, job experience, or work experience. Since IELTS Academic is the version required for applicants to university and graduate programs, it will get the most attention in this tutorial (although the two versions both have the same scoring system and similar formats).


IELTS Format


The IELTS exam lasts for 2 hours and 45 minutes in total. The TOEFL and IELTS both include four portions; however, the two tests each section in a different sequence. On the IELTS, you will obtain a score between 0 and 9 for each part. Your total score ranges from 0 to 9 and is calculated as the average of those four values.


With the IELTS, you may take the Speaking portion up to a week before or after the other sections if you’d like, unlike the TOEFL, which you must take all at once (you schedule your Speaking time when you register for the exam).


IELTS Content


The four IELTS components are covered in greater detail below.


IELTS Listening


Four recordings are presented (two sets in an everyday social context, one set in an educational context, and one that is a university lecture). You must respond to 10 questions after each recording. Multiple choice, matching, diagram labeling, phrase completion, and short answer are a few questions.


IELTS Reading


There are three sections for reading, each followed by ten to fifteen questions. The quotations are from periodicals, books, magazines, and newspapers. They could use narrative, descriptive, or even persuasive Writing as their style. There will be at least one with a thorough justification.


The question types for the Reading part will be similar to those for the Listening section and include multiple choice, matching, diagram labeling, sentence completion, and short answer.


IELTS Writing


Two writing assignments are included. Students must use their own words to explain a visual item of information (such as a graph, table, chart, or diagram) for Task 1. They must compose an essay of at least 150 words. It is advised that students work on this assignment for 20 minutes.


Students are given a subject for Task 2, which is often one side of a debate or discussion. They must produce at least 250 words of academic writing on this subject. It is advised that they devote 40 minutes to answering this question. Students are evaluated on how effectively they react to the question, their writing organization, and the variety of their vocabulary, spelling, and grammar for both assignments.


IELTS Speaking


You’ll have an oral interview with an examiner for IELTS Speaking. There are three sections to this section.


  • In the first part of the interview, the interviewer will pose the student’s usual inquiries about their jobs, families, studies, and hobbies.
  • In the second part of the interview, the student will be given a card with a subject to cover. The interviewer gives the student one minute to prepare before asking two minutes of questions, which the student must then respond to.
  • Part 3: For four to five minutes, the student and interviewer will continue to detail the subject covered in Part 2.


Who Accepts IELTS Scores


IELTS results are recognized by more than 9,000 universities worldwide, much as the TOEFL. The IELTS is more popular abroad, such as in the United Kingdom and Australia, and is taken less often than the TOEFL for students wishing to enter graduate school in the United States, although many American colleges still accept TOEFL results. To find out who accepts the IELTS, visit their website.


TOEFL vs. IELTS: How Can You Decide?


You now have a general idea of what to anticipate from both IELTS tests. Which exam ought you to take then? You should ask yourself the four questions listed below. To assist in making your selection, give each question significant consideration.


Which exam (s) Do the Schools You’re Interested in Accept?


The colleges you’re interested in attending must accept your exam results; all other considerations are irrelevant if they don’t. The TOEFL and IELTS have widely recognized exams at undergraduate and graduate institutions throughout the globe.


Although many colleges accept results from either test, American universities prefer the TOEFL, while international institutions prefer the IELTS. However, it’s also important to investigate whether a school has a preference for the test you take.


According to most American institutions assessed, TOEFL scores are favored above results from other English-language exams.


Overall, it’s probable that the institutions you’re considering will accept results from either exam, but it’s vital to double-check this before you decide on a test to prevent any unpleasant surprises later. It is simple to determine which universities accept the TOEFL and IELTS results.


Which Exam Plays More to Your Strengths?


Although the IELTS and TOEFL measure the same core competencies, they do so in somewhat different ways. The top five distinctions between the TOEFL and IELTS are shown below. Consider if one test appears more suited to your talents than the other as you read through both. If unsure, you may also take a practice test for each exam and determine which one you feel most confident taking.


Difference 1: Multiple-Choice vs. Short Answer


The IELTS requires you to create answers to many questions in the Reading and Listening portions, but the TOEFL provides you with all the response options. This is a significant distinction between the two examinations. Although not all of the TOEFL questions in these sections are multiple-choice, most of them are, so you won’t need to come up with solutions. Many of the questions on the IELTS require you to provide your responses.


As an example, both tests have questions that require you to compile an appropriately arranged list of actions or occurrences. You only need to follow the procedures on the TOEFL and arrange them in the right sequence. You must appropriately organize and write down the procedures for the IELTS.


The TOEFL may be more comfortable for you if you like more multiple-choice questions or ones where you may choose an answer from a list of possibilities.


Difference 2: Computer-Based vs. Paper-Based


Comparing TOEFL and IELTS is also a matter of computer vs. paper testing.

Nearly everyone who takes the TOEFL does it online. On the other hand, many test centers give the IELTS on a computer or using pencil and paper.


You could prefer the TOEFL if you type more quickly than you write, have sloppy handwriting, or prefer computer examinations over paper ones. The IELTS may be simpler for you if you prefer to write down your answers, are less at ease taking computer-based assessments, or are less used to English language keyboards.


Difference 3: Texts Used for the Reading Section


A set of questions follows each text in the TOEFL and IELTS reading part. The texts used in the two tests are different, however. Both academic texts and excerpts from newspapers and periodicals are used in the IELTS. The TOEFL primarily employs academic books. Therefore its reading sections are often denser and include harder-to-understand language and topics. The IELTS Reading part may be simpler if you need more confidence in your English reading abilities.


Difference 4: Computer-Based Speaking vs. Oral Interview


Like all other parts of the TOEFL, the Speaking component is completed on a computer. You’ll hear pre-recorded questions and use a microphone to answer them. With the IELTS, you’ll be speaking to a live person.


One of the most significant distinctions between IELTS and TOEFL is this. Speaking to a real person may be nerve-wracking for some individuals who would rather take the TOEFL. However, for others, speaking to a real person seems more comfortable and natural than speaking into the void for many minutes.


Additionally, the TOEFL’s Speaking portion is usually the third component of the test, but the IELTS allows you to take this component up to a week before or after the remainder of the exam. Some individuals like to finish their exams in one sitting, while others prefer to divide them into smaller, more manageable chunks.


Difference 5: Recommended Essay Lengths


You must write two essays for the Writing part of both tests. On the other hand, IELTS allows you 60 minutes to write the suggested 400 words, whereas TOEFL only allows you 50 minutes and suggests roughly 500 words. You may submit your essays for both tests even if they don’t fit inside those word limits, but you’ll probably be penalized for not having a complete answer. The IELTS writing portion may be simpler for you if writing in English is difficult and takes much time since fewer words are required.


Is One Easier to Get To?


The logistics of taking the TOEFL or IELTS should also be considered. You may find it easier to choose one exam if the testing location is closer to you and more test dates are available. Look at the TOEFL or IELTS exam dates and locations to find out more.


Is One Cheaper?


Finally, another aspect you should consider is the cost of each test. Both examinations typically cost between $200 and $250. However, the price varies based on the nation where you take the test. It’s important to compare prices for your nation to discover whether the TOEFL or IELTS is much less expensive. Visit the organizations’ websites to learn how much the TOEFL and IELTS tests cost.


Conclusion: IELTS vs. TOEFL


The TOEFL and IELTS are the most often given English language competency tests. Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing are the same four abilities tested on both exams, but the structure and methodology of the assessments differ.


To choose which test is better for you in the discussion between the TOEFL and the IELTS, pose the following four questions to yourself:


  • Which exams are accepted by the institutions you’re interested in?
  • Which exam best utilizes your strengths?
  • Is one more accessible?
  • Does one cost less?


What’s Next?


If you decide to take the TOEFL, you should know the date you may sit for the test. See your alternatives by looking through our comprehensive list of TOEFL test dates.


What TOEFL score should you be aiming for? Find out what a decent TOEFL score is depending on the universities you’re considering.


How should one get ready for the TOEFL? One of the finest study tools available is practice exams, and we have links to the top practice exams gathered in one spot.