The TOEFL and IELTS are two major standardized exams of English language proficiency. They’re both commonly accepted by universities in the US, England, Australia, Canada, etc. as a part of admission requirement for non-native English speakers. While both tests are accepted internationally, they have several significant differences. This guide provides you with the characteristics of both tests so you can make a decision on which test suits you best.
| || TOEFL || IELTS |
| Reading || 0-30 || 1-9 |
| Lisening || 0-30 || 1-9 |
| Speaking || 0-30 || 1-9 |
| Writing || 0-30 || 1-9 |
| Total || 0-120 || 4-36 |
- English: Do you feel more comfortable with American English or British English?
The IELTS test is jointly managed by the British Councils, the University of Cambridge, and IDP Education. It was traditionally used by universities in England, New Zealand and Australia. On the other hand, the TOEFL is administered by ETS, a private non-profit organization based in the U.S.
Nowadays, most universities around the world accept both the IELTS and TOEFL exams as proof of English language proficiency so you only need to take the one feel more comfortable with. As you might notice in the following structure comparisons, the IELTS is comparably shorter in almost every section. The entire TOEFL test can take up to 4 hours, whereas the IELTS is about 2 hours 45 minutes. For those having difficulty to concentrate for long periods, the IELTS seems to be a better choice. But keep in mind that shorter doesn't necessarily means easier!!
TOEFL: This section includes 3 or 4 passages, you have no control over how many you'll get. For each passage, you have 20 minutes to complete 12 to 14 questions. All of the questions are multiple choice.
IELTS: 3 reading passages are given of 20 minutes each. Different question types will be given, you may be asked to do a multiple choice, fill in the blank, match words and ideas...etc.
As you can see, even though the reading section is longer in the TOEFL, the question type is more predictable and simple. Especially if you are not good at spelling, the IELTS reading can really lower your total score.
| Reading || Number of Passages || Time per Passage || Question Type || Total Time |
| TOEFL || 3 or 4 || 20 Mins || Multiple Choice || 60-80 Mins |
| IELTS || 3 || 20 Mins || Various: Multiple Choice, Fill In the Blank, Matching, True/False etc || 60 Mins |
TOEFL: This section includes 4 to 6 lectures and 2 to 3 conversations. Again, you won't be able to choose. You'll have total of 40 to 60 minutes, with mixture of lectures and conversations. Taking note while you are listening is extremely important. You'll answer 5 questions "after" listening to a lecture/conversation.
IELTS: The listening section in the IELTS lasts approximately 30 minutes with total of 40 questions. You need to write the answers as you go along the listening and you'll find a variety of question types.
So here comes the biggest differences of the two tests, the accents and vocabularies in the IELTS are British or Australian, whereas in the TOEFL they are generally American or Canadian. Students are suggested to choose the one they are more familiar with.
| Lisening || Accent || Number of Sections || Time Per Sections || Question Type || Taking Notes || Total Time |
| TOEFL || American || 4-6 Lectures |
| 3-5 Mins || Multiple Choice || Yes || 40-60 Mins |
| IELTS || British || 4 || 10 Mins || Various || Not Necessary || 30 Mins |
TOEFL: The speaking section has 6 questions and approximately 20 minutes in total. You'll speak to a computer and the responses will be recorded and sent to the ETS.
IELTS: The candidate will have a face-to-face interview with an examiner. It consists of three parts, general questions, specific topic, and a discussion. The whole section takes 11 to 14 minutes.
Therefore, if you get nervous or intimidated easily, or feel more comfortable speaking into a machine than to an interviewer, you might find the speaking section in TOEFL easier.
TOEFL: Two written tasks are given, integrated writing task (20 minutes) and independent task (30 minutes).
IELTS: The candidates also have to produce two written pieces in 60 minutes. Usually in task 1, candidates need to write an essay in response to a situation. While in task 2 the candidates are asked to give an opinion or to discuss an issue.