IELTS vs TOEFL Exam: Learn the Complete Differences - Complete Gudie
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IELTS vs TOEFL Exam – Which Test is Right for You?


Overview of IELTS VS TOEFL

In the realm of international education, proficiency in English is often a prerequisite for admission to universities and colleges worldwide. For non-native English speakers, demonstrating language proficiency is essential, and two of the most widely recognized English language proficiency tests are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the differences between these two exams, helping you understand which one might be more suitable for your needs.

What is IELTS?

IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

IELTS, or the International English Language Testing System, is a globally recognized standardized test designed to assess the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. It measures a test-taker’s ability to communicate effectively in English across all four language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The IELTS test is widely accepted by universities, colleges, employers, and immigration authorities in English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, as well as many institutions and organizations worldwide.

Types of IELTS

  • IELTS Academic: Designed for students applying to universities or institutions for higher education.
  • IELTS General Training: Suitable for individuals seeking immigration to English-speaking countries or applying for secondary education or work experience.

What is TOEFL?

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

TOEFL, which stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language, is an internationally recognized standardized test used to evaluate the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. It assesses the test-taker’s ability to understand and use English in academic settings. The TOEFL test measures proficiency in four key areas: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. It is commonly required for admission to English-speaking universities and colleges, as well as for immigration purposes and professional certifications.

Types of TOEFL

  • TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test): The most commonly taken version of the exam, conducted online.
  • TOEFL PBT (Paper-based Test): Offered in areas where the TOEFL iBT is not available.

Key Differences Between IELTS vs TOEFL

Test SectionsIELTS comprises four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.TOEFL consists of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing.
DurationThe IELTS exam duration is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.TOEFL test duration is around 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Speaking ComponentIn IELTS, the Speaking test is conducted face-to-face with an examiner, providing a more interactive experience.TOEFL includes a recorded Speaking section where test-takers respond to prompts using a microphone.
Scoring SystemIELTS scoring is based on a band scale from 0 to 9 for each section, with the overall band score calculated as an average.TOEFL scoring ranges from 0 to 120, with 30 points allotted to each section.
Score ValidityIELTS scores are typically valid for two years, after which they expire.TOEFL scores remain valid for two years from the test date.

Which Exam Should You Choose?

Choosing between the IELTS and TOEFL exams depends on various factors, including your personal preferences, the requirements of the institutions or organizations you are applying to, and your familiarity with each test format. Here are some considerations to help you decide:

  1. Test Format: Both exams have similar sections, including reading, listening, speaking, and writing. However, the formats differ slightly. IELTS has separate reading and writing sections, while TOEFL integrates these skills into single tasks. Consider which format aligns better with your strengths and preferences.
  2. Purpose: Determine the purpose for taking the exam. If you are applying to universities in the UK, Australia, or Canada, IELTS may be more commonly accepted. On the other hand, if you are applying to institutions in the United States, TOEFL is often preferred. Some institutions accept both exams, so research the requirements of your target institutions.
  3. Speaking Test: Consider your comfort level with the speaking component. In the IELTS exam, the speaking test is conducted face-to-face with an examiner, while in the TOEFL exam, it is recorded and assessed by examiners later. Some test-takers may prefer the interaction of the IELTS speaking test, while others may feel more comfortable with the TOEFL speaking format.
  4. Test Availability: Check the availability of test centers in your area. Both exams are widely available worldwide, but there may be differences in scheduling and location options. Choose the exam that offers convenient test dates and locations for you.
  5. Scoring System: Consider the scoring system of each exam. IELTS provides a band score from 0 to 9 for each section, with the overall band score being the average of the four section scores. TOEFL uses a scoring scale from 0 to 120, with each section scored separately. Determine which scoring system aligns better with your goals and the requirements of your target institutions.

Ultimately, the decision depends on your individual circumstances and goals. Research the requirements of the institutions you are applying to, consider your strengths and preferences, and choose the exam that best suits your needs.


Choosing between IELTS vs TOEFL depends on various factors, including personal preferences, target institutions, and test format suitability. Both exams offer comprehensive assessments of English language proficiency, enabling non-native speakers to pursue academic or professional opportunities worldwide. By understanding the differences outlined in this guide and considering your individual circumstances, you can make an informed decision that best aligns with your goals and aspirations.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Are IELTS vs TOEFL equally recognized by universities worldwide?

Yes, both exams are widely accepted by universities and institutions globally.

2. Can I take both exams and submit scores from either one?

Yes, you can take both exams, but it’s essential to check the specific requirements of each institution.

3. How long are IELTS vs TOEFL scores valid?

Both IELTS and TOEFL scores are typically valid for two years from the test date.

4. Is one exam easier than the other?

The difficulty level can vary depending on individual strengths and preferences. Some test-takers may find the IELTS speaking component more challenging, while others may prefer the TOEFL format.

5. Can I prepare for IELTS and TOEFL simultaneously?

Yes, many test preparation resources cater to both exams, allowing candidates to prepare effectively for both simultaneously.

6. Do universities have minimum score requirements for IELTS vs TOEFL?

Yes, most universities specify minimum score requirements for admission, varying across programs and institutions.