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IELTS vs. TOEFL: Which Should You Take To Study Abroad?

Posted: 26-Jun-2015 [12:47:41] into Study Abroad by myschool paul for school | 14 Comments

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If you aren’t an English native speaker, you’ll almost always be required to sit an English language proficiency test as part of your application to study abroad at an English-speaking university.

The two most accepted English language tests worldwide are the International English Language Test System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) tests.

Whilst both accurately test your level of English and are widely accepted across over thousands of institutions worldwide, the two tests are different in their approach, structure and teaching criteria, so you should think carefully about which one you’ll choose to sit.

Read our guide to the differences between IELTS and TOEFL to help you decide which is best for you.

What is IELTS?

The IELTS is an English language test that is used for educational, immigration and occupational purposes, and is accepted by over 9,000 institutions across 130 countries worldwide. Jointly administered by the British Council, University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia, IELTS uses British English, and is more likely to be favoured by UK and institutions in Commonwealth nations such as New Zealand and Australia. Depending on the entry requirements of your study programme, you might need to take either the Academic or General Training IELTS exam.

What is TOEFL?

The TOEFL test seeks to test your ability to communicate in English in specifically academic, university and classroom-based settings. It is accepted by over 8,500 institutions across 130 countries, including the UK, USA and Australia, as well as all of the world’s top 100 universities. TOEFL is administered by US-based organization the Education Testing Service, and so is conducted in American English. This test is more likely to be favoured by American institutions.

General differences

Aside from the different styles of English each exam is are based on, TOEFL exam questions are almost entirely multiple choice, whereas IELTS requires you to respond to a range of different question types such as short answer, gap-filling and short essay tasks. The IELTS is significantly shorter than the TOEFL exam, taking approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes versus four hours to complete.

There is only one type of TOEFL exam that is done entirely on the computer, whereas there are two types of IELTS that are both completed on paper. Students applying for English-speaking tertiary programmes will need to sit the Academic IELTS exam, whereas the General Training exam is used to meet immigration and some occupational requirements.

IELTS and TOEFL favour different modes of thought and problem solving. As TOEFL is primarily multiple choice, students will need to be able to think analytically to weigh up the differences between their options. IELTS requires more use of memory, and draws on broader comprehension skills as students are faced with different question styles.

Exam Structures


Whilst both exams have a speaking component, the IELTS speaking test is taken face-to-face with an examiner.

In the TOEFL exam, you’ll answer six questions into a microphone which are recorded and later sent to a group of six reviewers. Your IELTS speaking score will only be determined by a single examiner.

The IELTS test will take between 11-14 minutes and may not necessarily be on the same day as the other exam components, whilst the TOEFL will take about 20 minutes and is always on the same day as the rest of the exam.

Where the IELTS exam features a range of different accents... read the full article here.

About author:

This post was written by Hotcourses Abroad. Prepare for your English test with their useful articles and guides. You can also search for universities overseas which offer English courses.

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Comments (14)
Master-Gee says;
Hmmmm. I'll prefer IELTS as for me.
27-Jun-2015 23:14:00 ·
leonard,D says;
IELTS is more better than the TOEFL, I will prefer it
04-Jul-2015 12:23:32 ·
Tedashi says;
A friend of mine says he scored 1460/2400 in TOEFL. Is he suitable for admission?
18-Jul-2015 21:20:41 ·
Myschool; Try to contact Hotcourses Abroad. They have friendly staff that are willing to accurately provide answers to your question.
27-Aug-2015 10:08:59 ·
legiT Austyn; TOEFL is scored over 120..It is the SAT you mean
20-Jul-2016 22:29:28 ·
Uchennaokolie says;
09-Aug-2015 01:08:38 ·
Myschool; Try to contact Hotcourses Abroad. They have friendly staff that are willing to accurately provide answers to your question.
27-Aug-2015 10:08:48 ·
Princetogram; I have tried reaching them, but not going... Can i get their contact??? When is the reg. And the exam starting???? Pls
11-Dec-2015 06:10:13 ·
Myschool; Please write them using contacts on this link:
25-Mar-2016 01:18:09 ·
sammajesty says;
Nice one !
01-Sep-2015 21:02:58 ·
Rick9 says;
Have been hoping to take such a test but have no idea about it at all. I need help @Myschool
06-Sep-2015 00:39:04 ·
Justina ID says;
please, is it really necessary that I sit for any of the tests listed above; before applying for any Canadian University?
13-Sep-2016 11:05:24 ·
Uchechukwu Okeoma says;
IELTS is better than TOEFL
22-Nov-2016 09:30:58 ·
Magjoe1; How do you know?
08-Sep-2017 14:44:40 ·

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