TOEFL vs IELTS – Which One Should You Take In 2023?

With the growing popularity of English Language Assessment Tests as one of the core eligibility requirements for significant colleges and universities in countries like the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia where the English language is the primary mode of communication, TOEFL and IELTS are the only big players that come to the mind. In this article, we are covering TOEFL vs IELTS – which one you should take.

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IELTS and TOEFL are two of the main exams under English Proficiency Tests. If you want to study in any university abroad, chances are you’re giving either of them or both if you wish.

The basic outline for both of them is more or less the same – they both judge your English proficiency in Listening, Speaking, Writing, and Reading.

Even though both of them are more or less similar there is a very thin line of difference between the two and students have a hard time choosing between the two tests so this article will cover major differences and help you choose the right test to take.

TOEFL vs IELTS – Key Differences

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Topics TOEFL IELTS
Name The TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language The IELTS stands for International English Testing System.
Cost TOEFL costs approx. $180 or 15,000 INR. IELTS costs approx. $190 or 15,500 INR.
Score TOEFL is scored out of 120 marks (30 marks for each section). IELTS is scored out of 9 bands with half-point increments.
Authority TOEFL Score is accepted at over 11,500 institutions globally. IELTS Score is accepted at over 11,000 institutions globally.
Type TOEFL offers TOEFL IBT (Internet-based test). Some centers also offer TOEFL PBT (paper-based tests). IELTS has two types: IELTS General for people who want to immigrate for employment and IELTS Academic Module for studying overseas where both IELTS IBT and IELTS PBT are offered.
Availability TOEFL boasts a total of 4500 test centers spread across 169 countries. IELTS has a total of 1200 test centers globally.
Results The TOEFL Results are out in 10 days. The IELTS Results are out in 2 weeks.
Exam Duration The TOEFL examination takes about 3 hours and 15 minutes in total. The IELTS examination takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes in total.
Speaking Test The TOEFL involves speaking into a microphone. The IELTS involves a face-to-face session with an examiner.
Sending Results TOEFL Results take $18 or ₹1455 to send results. IELTS Results take $3 or ₹250 to send results.
10 Major Differences between TOEFL & IELTS

TOEFL vs IELTS – Differences and Similarities

We are going to have a look at all four parts of the tests and Stoodnt is going to tell you where they differ and where they are similar in the end you should be able to decide which test you should take.

Listening

Listening in IELTS has 4 parts, you listen to conversations or a lecture. The questions in IELTS listening are a mix of “Fill in the Gaps” and “Multiple Choice Questions”.

The IELTS listening test is supposed to be more challenging because:

  • You need to answer the questions while you’re listening and this can be incredibly overwhelming and downright difficult for a lot of students because you need to keep listening throughout writing your current answer so that you don’t miss out on essential information that might just be the answer to your next question. You’ll never know.
  • The second reason why the IELTS listening test is quite difficult is because of the Fill in Gap questions which will accept answers that are the exact words or phrases which means that you need to hear the audio even more carefully and closely without missing out on important points. In case, you forget the word or words to your question, you are usually lost as unless you make an assumption and write down a word that you guess might be correct, you will not be able to figure out the correct word that you need to fill in.
  • Also, in the Fill in the Gap questions, you need to write down the spelling of the word correctly; otherwise, it is going to be marked wrong.

Listening – TOEFL vs IELTS

Listening in TOEFL has you listening to conversations and lectures. There are only multiple choice questions, no ‘Fill in the Gap’ questions.

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The main difference between IELTS and TOEFL Listening Section is that in TOEFL, you do not need to answer the questions while you are listening to the audio. Instead, you first listen to the recording and you need to answer the questions after that. This can also be quite challenging to some students because you are supposed to take down notes while listening which can be troublesome in TOEFL.

You are subjected to a lot of information that is meant to confuse you as you will never know which one is supposed to be an answer. Additionally, writing down every piece of information and point that you hear is close to impossible and troublesome.

You need to filter out related information so that you understand what relevant points to write down and what information to skip. Also, writing down notes while listening can distract you from listening attentively when you’re just hearing not listening to the actual recording.

Tips for the Listening Section

Check out which test format you like better because, in the end, it comes down to your preference-Whether you would like to listen to the audio before and answer the questions later or answer the questions while listening to the audio. Personally, Stoodnt would choose the TOEFL test as even though I might skip out on points while writing down notes, I’ll still know the correct and exact answers to all that I have written down which you can’t in IELTS, if you got the word or the spelling wrong, you miss out on the point.

Reading

Reading IELTS and TOEFL are both quite similar in that you have to read some text passages and then you need to answer questions based on what you read in the passages.

Tips for the Reading Section

In both TOEFL and IELTS reading sections, there are several question types. Stoodnt recommends you know these question types before the exam so that you know you are going to have an idea of what to expect in the test which will make it easier for you to answer the questions correctly.

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You also need to have a reading strategy for both IELTS and TOEFL as reading everything in detail does not make any sense and takes up lots of your useful time which can be used somewhere else.

Although both the IELTS and TOEFL reading tests are more or less similar to each other, Stoodnt finds IELTS reading a bit easier than the TOEFL reading because the passages in TOEFL are very long and complex and the questions are of the descriptive type meant to not make it easy for you to complete the test in the given time.

IELTS on the other hand didn’t have complex passages and the questions were simpler giving you enough time to go back and check your answers for errors. So, if reading is not your cup of tea, you may want to take the IELTS rather than TOEFL. Also, consider checking the websites for free practice tests where you’ll get an idea of the type and complexity of the passages you have to read.

Writing

In the IELTS writing test, you will have two sets of tasks to complete:

  • In the first task, you have to describe something, which can be a map or a chart.
  • In the second task, you need to write an essay.

Other than that, there are several question types such as: Agree or Disagree questions, Advantages or Disadvantages, etc.

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In the TOEFL writing test, there are also two sets of tasks:

  • Task 1 is the integrated essay, where you’ll have to read an article and listen to a lecture after that. And in your essay, you must state the arguments of the writer and the counter-arguments of the lecturer.
  • Task 2 is the independent essay, which is quite similar to IELT task two, where you’ll need to write down an argumentative essay and there are several question types involved.

The main difference between IELTS and TOEFL Writing Tests is the first task. In IELTS, this task is supposed to be very factual whereas in TOEFL you have to present arguments and combine information both from the article and lecture in your essay which can be quite challenging. The two tests also differ in how you have to write the answers; the format of writing.

Tips for the Writing Section

You need to use a broad range of vocabulary and complex grammar in both tests to show the examiner that you are able to write sophisticated texts. From our experience, the IELTS writing section is a bit harder as you need to write down a lot of different sentence structures if you want a high score.

You have to figure out the type of task according to your preferences: Do you prefer describing maps or charts or do you prefer talking about different arguments? If writing is not your forte, then Stoodnt recommends you take the TOEFL exam.

TOEFL vs IELTS
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Speaking

In Speaking, both the TOEFL and IELTS tests are very different from each other. The IELTS speaking test is face-to-face which is kind of like an interview. The examiner will ask you questions and you need to answer them. The questions are based on everyday life.

In TOEFL speaking, you need to speak in front of the microphone of your computer.

It is more like giving a presentation in TOEFL speaking. There are 4 different sets of tasks included and for each task, you have a determined amount of time to prepare an answer for that task and a certain amount of time to speak your answer.

This can be quite challenging because in some tasks, you need to read a passage and then listen to the audio and then you have to combine this information into one answer.

Tips for the Speaking Section

You need to filter the relevant information that you need in order to deliver a well-rounded and structured answer. You need to determine whether you’re more comfortable talking directly to a person sitting in front of you or speaking into the microphone of your computer.

Also, consider looking at and understanding the various task types of IELTS speaking and TOEFL speaking to figure out which suits you better.

TOEFL vs IELTS – Taking the Test

The TOEFL and IELTS also differ in the way you can take these tests. You can take the IELTS on a computer in the test center or a paper in the test center. However, not all test centers offer both versions. In some countries, you can also take the IELTS at home (IELTS Indicator). However, you need to check if your institution accepts the IELTS indicator. IELTS is also often a two-day event.

The TOEFL has always been a computer-based test. You cannot take the TOEFL exam on paper. You can take the TOEFL at the test center or at home (TOEFL Home Edition). For choosing between the TOEFL test center and Home edition, consider taking the one which is accepted by your educational institution. TOEFL is a one-day event.

TOEFL vs IELTS – Which one is easier?

Both the TOEFL and IELTS are vastly different in several respects some things are easier in the IELTS and some things are simpler in the TOEFL. Which test is ultimately the right choice for you depends on your strengths and weaknesses.

Reading

In both tests, you get several types of texts and you have to answer questions based on these texts. Both tests do not seem to differ a lot in terms of the reading section, but the TOEFL reading section is literally tough. The text in the reading section is supposed to be harder than the IELTS.

The TOEFL Texts are long and complex and reading takes up a lot of time so you also need a strategy to save time otherwise you won’t be able to finish the section in the given time. If you have a hard time and take time reading, do not go for the TOEFL exam, but for the IELTS exam. The text in the IELTS section is much easier than in the TOEFL section.

Listening

The tests differ in the type of English language accent. The IELTS is about British English while the TOEFL is about American English. So if British English is easier for you, you may choose the IELTS. If you are more used to American English, you may choose the TOEFL. If you have a hard time listening to speeches and words when listening to English or if you have difficulties spelling English words, you might want to take the IELTS rather than the TOEFL exam.

Speaking

If you’re interested in doing presentations you should take the TOEFL exam. If you have a hard time talking without having a conversational partner and if the conversation suits you better and comes to you more naturally, IELTS is for you.

Writing

The TOEFL and IELTS writing section differ a lot from each other. The second task in the TOEFL exam has a more free form where you can use personal experience making the writing process much easier. In the IELTS you need to describe maps and charts.

So, if you do not know how to describe a map or a chart, you need to learn how to do so. In the second task in IELTS, you need to write several types of essay formats which might be argumentative, expository, narrative, descriptive, rhetorical, etc.

IELTS is particularly harder in terms of the fact that you need to describe charts and maps and know the structure of essay formats of all the types of formats out there because you never know which one you have to write.

Frequently Answered Questions: TOEFL vs IELTS

Which country are you aiming for?

Most institutes in the US, prefer TOEFL over the IELTS. Other countries such as the UK, Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand prefer IELTS over the TOEFL. Then there are countries like Singapore and Canada where both tests are accepted. Other countries like Poland, don’t require any of these tests, if you had an English medium background, you’re eligible to study there.

Can you take the IELTS if I want to study in the US?

Yes, it is possible but it depends on the university. Research if your university requires the TOEFL or IELTS or accepts both.

Should you take the IELTS Academic or General Training?

If you are a student planning to study abroad, you need to take the IELTS Academic test, not the General Training, they both are two different types of IELTS tests.

Conclusion: TOEFL vs IELTS

In a nutshell, the TOEFL and the IELTS differ greatly in some respects but they are greatly accepted in most universities across the world. Do research about the course and institution to check which test is the right one for you.

If you manage to find the test that is easier for you, because it fits your strengths, It will definitely help you in boosting your score. So think about what your strengths and weaknesses are and make a list of them and weigh up which test suits you the best.

If you’ve come to a conclusion and still have doubts or if you’re facing problems coming to a conclusion, you can drop us a mail at customer[dot]support[at]stoodnt.com.

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Maitrayan Bera
Maitrayan likes to be called Matty. Matty hails from Kolkata, India. He is a final-year Media Science student. When he’s not creating great content, or staring at his laptop screen waiting for inspiration, he’s probably contemplating life on the roof with a cup of coffee.
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