At ClickStudies, we are often asked about the differences between the IELTS vs TOEFL test, and which one is better or easier to take. If you’ve been wondering the same thing, the following information will be helpful.
The IELTS test was developed in Britain, while the TOEFL test originated in the USA. Therefore, this influences other factors, such as who accepts the results and the type of English used in each test.
Both tests are designed by experts and supported by rigorous research and trialling to ensure their validity.
Who accepts IELTS and TOEFL?
Both tests are accepted as evidence of English language proficiency by more than 9,000 universities and educational institutions in over 130 countries around the world.
In general, TOEFL is more widely accepted in the USA and Canada, whereas IELTS is more commonly accepted in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
As a consequence, many institutions accept both tests, but some do not. Always check with the school you want to attend before you decide which test to take.
IELTS is accepted for migration, work and study in Australia, Canada, NZ and the UK. The US does not accept it for migration purposes.
TOEFL is accepted by the US and Australia for immigration purposes, but it is not accepted by the UK, Canada or New Zealand.
IELTS tests can be done at 1100 testing centres in 140 countries.
TOEFL tests are more widely available (due to the computerised format of the test) and can be done at 4500 testing centres in 165 countries.
Both tests cost between US $150 and $250, depending on the country in which you take the test.
The IELTS test is generally a bit more expensive than the TOEFL. For example, in Australia, the IELTS test typically costs AUS$330 (2016) whereas the TOEFL ranges from AUS$240-$300.
Validity of results
Both IELTS and TOEFL test results are valid for a period of 2 years. However, some academic institutions may have specific requirements about the validity of the IELTS vs TOEFL test and the timing for course commencement. Again, you need to check carefully with the exact requirements of the college or university you would like to attend.
For skilled migrant visas in Australia, the period of validity has been extended to 3 years.
|Format||Paper-based and Computer delivered in some countries||Computer-based|
|Focus||Academic or general||Academic only|
|Time Duration||2 hrs 45 mins||4 Hrs|
|Results||13 Days for paper based, less of computer delivered.||10 Days|
|Skills Tested||Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking||Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking|
|Scoring||0 - 9 bands of proficiency||0 - 120 points|
|Dialects of English||British usage; variety of international accents (e.g. Irish, Australian, NZ)||Standard American usage and accent|
|Question types||15 different question types (e.g. gap-fill, multiple choice, True/False, matching)||All multiple choice|
1 general conversation, 1 general informational lecture, 1 academic conversation, 1 academic lecture
Read questions before and during listening
Memory and note-taking skills not important
2-3 conversations and 4-6 lectures – all related to university life
Read questions only after listening and taking notes
Memory and note-taking skills important
3 passages (Academic test)
5 shorter texts (General test)
Increasing level of difficulty
Academic texts only
Same level of difficulty
Task 1 Academic – 150-word report describing a graph, table or diagram
Task 1 General – 150-word letter
Task 2 - 250-word opinion essay
Answers typed into computer
Task 1 – Read a short passage and listen to a 2-minute lecture, then write a 150-225-word answer to a related question.
Task 2 – 300-350-word opinion essay
Talking with an examiner in person
Answer short questions on familiar topics
Two-minute speech on a given topic
Answer follow-up questions on your speech topic from part 2.
Assessed at the time of speaking
Talking to a computer
2 x question on familiar topic
2 x summary and opinion of short written text and conversation
2 x summary of short conversation
Assessed later by an examiner
Which test should I take?
The answer to this question depends on:
The requirements of the school you wish to attend or the country you wish to migrate to. Check them carefully!
Your skills. If you are better at typing than handwriting, then the TOEFL test may be a better option for you. If you are not at all comfortable with computers and don’t like the idea of talking to a computer instead of a person, you might be better at the IELTS test. If you like multiple-choice questions and listening to American accents, then you may find TOEFL easier than IELTS. However, if you are not good at taking notes while listening to a lecture, TOEFL will be harder for you.
Look carefully at the format of each test in the table above and decide which one is better suited to your skills.
Based on conversations and online comments of students who’ve taken both tests, the consensus seems to be that TOEFL requires a higher level of concentration and stamina for a longer period of time. It can be exhausting! The fact that IELTS also contains general English tasks (not just academic) and a greater variety of question types (not just multiple-choice) leads many students to prefer the IELTS test.