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A comparative guide on TOEFL vs IELTS for International Students

A comparative guide on TOEFL vs IELTS for International Students

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Confused about whether to take IELTS or TOEFL for your university application? This blog gives a detailed comparison between IELTS and TOEFL, highlighting differences in format, test variations, duration, exam format, modes of exam, and score comparison.

GyanDhan
Rohit Gidwani
Updated on:  27 Oct 2023  | Reviewed By: 
Aman 
| 3.75K | 10  min read
IELTS vs TOEFL

When applying to universities abroad, non-native English speaking students are required to take either the TOEFL vs IELTS. Both exams are widely accepted, with IELTS accepted by over 9,000 universities in 140 countries and TOEFL by over 11,000 universities in 150+ countries. Although both exams are widely accepted, keep in mind that acceptance of these tests varies depending on the university, course or country you choose to study abroad. TOEFL is preferred by universities in the USA, while IELTS is preferred in countries like Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK, and others. 

 


General differences between TOEFL vs IELTS

To obtain a broad understanding of the distinctions between the two English language exams, a table outlining basic differences between IELTS and TOEFL has been presented below:

 

Basis of Difference IELTS TOEFL

Conducting body 

IDP Education Ltd. 

Educational Testing Services 

Test variations

  • list items IELTS Academic
  • list items IELTS General Training
  • list items IELTS Indicator
  • list items TOEFL iBT
  • list items TOEFL PBT

Test duration

2 Hours and 45 Minutes

1 Hour 56 Minutes

Break time

 No breaks. Although, the speaking portion can be taken up to a week before or after the rest of the test. 

5 - 10 minutes break between listening and speaking sections.

Test score range

0 - 9

0 - 120

Mean of accepted score

6.3

88

Test frequency in a year

48 times

50 times

Result timeline 

13 days after the test 

10 days after the test (result declaration exact date will be notified right after the test)

Allication cost

16,200 INR (198 USD)

15,750 INR (190 USD)

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TOEFL vs IELTS exam format

The format of the IELTS and TOEFL exams differ in a few ways. Below is a comparison of the exam formats:

 

Section IELTS TOEFL

Reading

  • list items Structure: 3 long passages
  • list items Number of questions: 40
  • list items Time: 60 minutes
  • list items Structure: 2 - 3 passages 
  • list items Number of questions: 20
  • list items Time: 35 minutes

Writing

  • list items Task 1: 150 word on visual description in 20 minutes
  • list items Task 2: 250 words on the argument/problem/viewpoint in 40 minutes
  • list items Writing for an academic discussion
  • list items For this an approx duration of 20 minutes would be given.

Listening

  • list items Structure: 4 recordings
  • list items Number of questions: 40
  • list items Time: 40 minutes
  • list items Structure: 1 - 2 lecturer conversations
  • list items Number of questions: 28 questions
  • list items Time: 35 minutes

Speaking

  • list items 3 parts (each question is more difficult than previous)
  • list items Time: 11 - 14 minutes
  • list items Independent speaking test of 1 minute
  • list items 3 integrated speaking test: speak 1 - 2 minutes after reading a passage/ article/ listening to a lecture
  • list items Time: 17 minutes

 

Although both IELTS and TOEFL are English language proficiency tests, many test takers perceive IELTS as being comparatively easier than TOEFL, primarily due to the reading section. In IELTS, the reading section involves reading excerpts from various sources, such as magazines, books, journals, and newspapers, which are generally easier to comprehend. In contrast, the TOEFL reading section includes excerpts from academic textbooks and publications, which may contain technical vocabulary that can be challenging to understand.

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TOEFL vs IELTS mode of exam

Both exams can be given by the students via different modes available. One needs to select the preferred mode while applying for the test. 

TOEFL: The two modes in which TOEFL is conducted are -

  • list items Paper-Based Test (PBT) - this is conducted at an offline location where there is no availability of internet. This has three sections - reading, writing, and listening.
  • list items Internet-Based Test (iBT) - this is an internet-based test that measures individuals against 4 sections that are reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It is the most preferred mode of TOEFL, almost 97% of people prefer this mode. The registration is also made more simplified.  

Note: Educational Testing Services (ETS) has also launched a TOEFL home edition for test takers which can be taken on your own computer from home. It is monitored by a human proctor online

IELTS: This is also conducted in two modes.

  • list items Computer-Delivered IELTS exam - this was introduced back in 2017 in which you have to type the answers on the boxes provided. For this test, you have to go to the IELTS test centers. The 4 sections that are in this exam are writing, reading, listening, and speaking. 
  • list items Paper-based IELTS exam - for this test, you will have to write the answers on paper and then submit them to the invigilator.

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TOEFL vs IELTS score comparison

Both these exams have a similar type of question that requires objective answers as input. Apart from the writing section that includes writing essays, the entire test consists of objective type of questions.IELTS scores the candidate on a range of 0 - 9 while TOEFL scores the candidate on a score range of 0 - 120. A comparison of their respective scoring system is shown below:

IELTS Score TOEFL Score  Score Description

9

117 - 120

Expert user

8

110 - 116

Very good user

7

102 - 109

Good user

6

94 - 101

Competent user

5

79 - 93

Modest user

4

60 - 78

Limited user

3

46 - 59

Extremely limited user

2

35 - 45

Intermittent user

1

32 - 34

Non-user

0

0 - 31

Poor or did not attempt the test

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Important things to know:

How will you get your IELTS result?

Test Report Form (TRF) is sent to you by your IELTS test center to your postal address. In case you have given a computer-based test then you can expect the TRF in 3 - 5 days while in case you have given a paper-based test then TRF will be posted to you by 13 days after the exam date. You can also download an online copy of your result by verifying your IELTS result and then clicking the download result option.

How can you send your IELTS score to universities?

You can send your IELTS score to 5 universities within one month of the exam date. The university will receive the scores via e-mail, regular posts, courier, or overseas postage. Beyond these 5, any Additional Test Report Forms (ATRFs) will involve an administrative charge of 250 INR per university via online medium and 1500 INR per university via a physical medium.

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How can you get your TOEFL result?

Upon completing the test, you will receive a notification with the specific date on which your scores will be released. Additionally, you will receive real-time notifications in the event of any changes to your score status. Your scores will typically be available for viewing on your ETS account approximately 6 days after the test date, with an email notification sent to you upon their availability. Access to your account can be achieved online or through the official TOEFL app. Downloadable PDF score reports will be ready for download within 8 days after your test. 

How should you send your TOEFL scores to universities?

The initial fee that is paid for TOEFL includes the cost of sending the TOEFL test cores to 4 universities that need to be selected by the candidate before. They can change the same till 10:00 PM before the exam day. If you want to send the test results to more than 4 universities then you would need to pay an additional sum of 20 USD per university.

Note: Your TOEFL score is valid for 2 years from the date of the exam

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IELTS vs TOEFL: Which is better for visa process

When it comes to visa process, both IELTS and TOEFL scores are widely recognized by universities and authorities around the world. However, which test is better for visa depends on the country and specific requirements of the visa process.

In general, IELTS is typically preferred for migration to countries such as Canada, Australia, and the UK, where it is often a requirement for immigration, work, and study purposes. On the other hand, TOEFL may be more suitable for migration to the US, where it is often required by universities and some employers.

It's important to note that each country visa process has its own specific language requirements, so it's essential to check with the respective authorities which test is suitable for your specific situation.

So IELTS vs TOEFL: Which is better for you?

There is no definitive answer to which test is better as it depends on several factors. Understanding these factors can help you make an informed decision. Consider the following:

  • list items University or country preference: Check which test your desired university or country prefers. For instance, in the USA, TOEFL is generally preferred over IELTS.
  • list items Preparation time: If you have a shorter preparation time of 3-6 weeks, then IELTS may be a better choice, while TOEFL may be suitable for a longer preparation time of 8-16 weeks.
  • list items Mode of exam: IELTS is a computer-based test that requires you to go to the respective testing center, while TOEFL is an internet-based test that can also be taken from home. Consider your preference for the mode of exam.
  • list items Payment options: TOEFL now accepts more local payment options like local credit cards, debit cards, and wallets, including payment in INR.


With a thorough understanding of both tests, you can make the best choice for yourself. Ultimately, both tests are globally recognized, so it comes down to personal preference. For more information on these tests or admission processes for universities in different countries, click here.

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