Preparing For TOEFL and IELTS: A Comparative Guide

    Updated on: 27 Sep 2022

    Now that you have decided on your education abroad, it is time to consider eligibility criteria. For all non-native English speaking students, universities need you to appear for the TOEFL and the IELTS primarily. These two are the most widely accepted entrances that will determine your admission at a university abroad. Every year, a whopping 2.3 million students appear for these two entrances from all over the world. 

    While it may sound intimidating, with the right preparation and go-getter attitude, you will be able to crack either of the two exams. Here is a systematic guide on TOEFL and IELTS that you need to know before you begin preparation. 

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    Overview of TOEFL and IELTS Tests 

    Before you start with the meticulous task of preparation, it is crucial to learn about the basic features of the two entrance tests. Let us begin with TOEFL

    1. TOEFL: Also known as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, TOEFL scores are accepted all over the world in most reputed universities. Conducted by the US non-profit organization Education Testing Service, this exam tests your command over the English language. 
    2. IELTS: The IELTS, also known as the International English Language Testing System, tests aspirants in 4 areas - Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking. This too has two modes - Paper-based and Computer-based. 


    While both the entrances may seem similar, they differ in scope. IELTS has a comparatively wider scope than TOEFL. Apart from students, it is important for those migrating abroad for occupation. TOEFL purely serves academic purposes. IELTS has different versions of the exam depending on whether you are going abroad for higher degree courses or vocational training or occupation. 

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    Setting Objectives for TOEFL and IELTS Tests

    What’s interesting about both TOEFL and IELTS is that there are no standardized fail or pass scores. However, all reputed universities have their minimum TOEFL and IELTS scores that the candidate must obtain. You can begin by setting up a score goal that will get you into your dream university. Needless to say, it is advisable to always aim higher. 

    Once you have set your score goal, you can design your study plan accordingly. Through self-analysis, find out where you stand on the English speaking spectrum. Is your knowledge of the language preliminary or professional? Groom your skills accordingly. 

    The benefits of having a good score in these two entrances are many. Some universities offer special opportunities to students with exceeding scores in TOEFL or IELTS. 
    How to determine a good score?

    Due to the absence of a specific pass or fail score, the decision of what is a good score in TOEFL and IELTS remains up for discussion. Here are some standard examples of good scores that most universities follow - 


    • For Reading and Listening a high score would be between 30-22
    • For Speaking a high score would be between 30-26
    • For Writing a high score would be between 30-24


    • For IELTS, the score ranges between the scale of 1-9 with 9 being the highest. 
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    Designing a Study Plan

    Nothing can beat a planned preparation when it comes to these two entrances. Instead of reading up every material under the sun blindly, it is feasible you plan every step of the preparation. This is definitely a smart way to approach the entrances. 

    The first step is to get your hands on the required book list. Now, you do not need to buy every book related to TOEFL or IELTS. Nowadays, affordable study materials are available online alongside free tutorials. Websites like Exam English and 4 Tests offer free tests to students to check their efficiency. Combine self-study with interesting videos to keep your study resources interesting. 

    The second step to a successful study plan would be to fix a schedule. Whether you are preparing for TOEFL or IELTS, it is important to keep separate time brackets for each component like writing, reading etc. Practice with mock tests after every week. It is necessary to make a weekly to-do list to cover each topic thoroughly. 

    The third and final step towards designing the study plan is to familiarize yourself with the test format. 

    1. TOEFL is a 4-hour duration test that can be broken down into the following segments. 
    2. IELTS is a 2 hour 45 minutes long test that can be broken down into the following segments. 

    Do keep in mind that TOEFL is centred more around academic topics. IELTS on the other hand consists of real-world, analytical, multiple-choice questions based on actual conversations and lectures. 

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    Getting Help for TOEFL and IELTS

    One question that is much debated among the student community is that - do TOEFL and IELTS require tutoring or can the exams be cracked with self-study only. This remains subjective as the growth and understanding of each student is different. 

    However, if you want to opt for tutoring and want to join a course, you can very well do so. While self-study may work for some, having a professional tutor ensures you give regular mock tests and never slack on practice. This way, your learning gaps will be minimized and you will be better equipped with the right skill set to crack the entrances. 

    We really hope that this blog helps you design a planned schedule for TOEFL and IELTS. If you have further queries regarding your study abroad journey, you can head over to the University Living website. It is a global student housing marketplace that provides student accommodations, helps with forex, international sim and other facilities so that a student undergoes a smooth transition while going to study abroad. 

    And for the final step, it is extremely important you relax and give it your best. That way you will be armed with the right skill set to ace your exams. 

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