TOEFL vs IELTS: How Can You Decide? Universities want to make sure you have the English language skills necessary for successful study so almost all institutes of higher learning require you to take a test of English. The IELTS Academic and TOEFL iBT are the two biggest standardized tests of the English language.

Here are some points to take into consideration before you decide whether to take the IELTS or the TOEFL exam.

  1. Which exam is accepted by the university you’re interested in?
    This is the most important consideration because if the university you’re interested in doesn’t accept the score of the test you take, no other factors matter. Both the TOEFL and IELTS are widely accepted at undergraduate and graduate schools around the world. However, a school may have a preference to which test you take, so that is also worth checking out.
    The TOEFL is more commonly accepted by American institutions, while the IELTS is more commonly accepted overseas, especially in the UK and Australia.
  2. Are you more comfortable with American English or British English?
    If you have more experience with British English (or Australian English), take the IELTS as vocabulary and accents tend more towards British English. If you watch a lot of Hollywood movies and like US idiomatic language, choose the TOEFL as it reflects American English.
  3. Can you type relatively fast?
    The TOEFL requires you to type your essays in the written section of the test. If you type very slowly, I would strongly recommend taking the IELTS as you handwrite your essay responses.
  4. Do you want to finish the test as quickly as possible?
    If you become extremely nervous during a test and want the experience to end as quickly as possible, the choice between IELTS or TOEFL is easier. The TOEFL lasts approximately 4 hours, whereas the IELTS is significantly shorter – about 2 hours 45 minutes. Remember, however, that shorter does not necessarily mean easier!
  5. Do you feel comfortable with a wide range of question types?
    The TOEFL exam is made up of almost entirely multiple choice questions. The IELTS, on the other hand, has a much wider range of question types including multiple choice, gap fill, matching exercises, etc. If you do NOT feel comfortable with multiple choice questions, the TOEFL is not the test for you.
  6. Are you proficient at taking notes?
    Note taking is important on both the IELTS and the TOEFL. However, it is much more critical on the TOEFL exam. The listening section in the TOEFL depends on note taking skills as you answer questions after you have listened to a longer selection. The IELTS asks you to answer questions as you listen to the exam.

TOEFL vs IELTS: How Can You Decide? The Major Differences between the IELTS and the TOEFL

  • Reading
    TOEFL – You will have 3 – 5 reading selections of twenty minutes each. Reading materials are academic in nature. Questions are multiple choice.
    IELTS – 3 reading selections of twenty minutes each. Materials are, as in the case of the TOEFL, related to an academic setting. There are multiple type questions (gap fill, matching, etc.)

  • Listening
    TOEFL – The listening selection very different from the IELTS. In the TOEFL, you will have 40 – 60 minutes worth of listening selections from lectures or campus conversations. Take notes and respond to multiple choice questions.
    IELTS – The largest difference between the two exams is in listening. In the IELTS exam there are wider varieties of question types, as well as exercises of differing lengths. You will answer questions as you move through the listening selection of the test.

  • Writing
    TOEFL – Two written tasks are required on the TOEFL and all writing is done on the computer. Task one involves writing a five paragraph essay of 300 to 350 words. Note taking is important as the second task asks you to take notes from a reading selection in a text book and then a lecture on the same topic. You are then asked to respond using notes by writing a 150 – 225 word selection integrating both the reading and listening selection.
    IELTS – The IELTS also has two tasks: The first writing task asks you to look at an infograhic such as a graph or chart and summarize the information presented in 150 words. The second task is a short essay of 250 words based on a given topic.

  • Speaking
    TOEFL – Once again the speaking section differs greatly between the TOEFL and the IELTS exams. On the TOEFL you are asked to record responses on the computer of 45 – 60 seconds to six different questions based on short descriptions / conversations. The speaking section of the test lasts 20 minutes.
    IELTS – The IELTS speaking section lasts from 12 to 14 minutes and takes place with an examiner, rather than a computer as on the TOEFL. There is a short warm up exercise consisting mainly of small talk, followed by a response to some sort of visual stimulus and, finally, a more extended discussion on a related topic.

Major Differences between the IELTS and the TOEFL: The Conclusion
The TOEFL and IELTS are the two most commonly administered English language proficiency exams. Both test the same four areas: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing, but the tests vary in terms of format and the way they test skills.
In the debate of TOEFL vs IELTS, ask yourself the following six questions to figure out which exam is best for you:

  • Which exam is accepted by the university you’re interested in?
  • Are you more comfortable with American English or British English?
  • Can you type relatively fast?
  • Do you want to finish the test as quickly as possible?
  • Do you feel comfortable with a wide range of question types?
  • Are you proficient at taking notes?

Good Luck!

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