IELTS vs TOEFL: What Are the Differences?

9 minute read

Scores of English proficiency tests are an essential part of university applications to English-speaking countries. All non-native speakers of the English language have to take these exams in order to complete their applications. Out of all, the popular ones are IELTS and TOEFL. Both of them assess the reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills of the candidates but in different formats. Are you wondering Why should I opt for ILETS over TOEFL or vice-versa? If yes, then here is an insightful blog on IELTS vs TOEFL! 

Details  IELTS  TOEFL 
Conducting Body British Council and IDP Education Ltd. Educational Testing Services 

Medium  Online and Offline  Online and Offline 
Variants  IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training IELTS Indicator TOEFL iBT

Duration  2 hours 45 minutes 4 hours 
Breaks No breaks during the listening, reading and writing sections, but the speaking portion can be taken up to a week before or after the rest of the test A 10-minute break between listening and speaking sections

Sections  Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking* Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking
Test Delivery Format  Paper-based Computer-based 
Score Range  0-9 0-120
Average Minimum Score Required by Top Universities 6.3 78

Exam Frequency  48 times in a year  More than 50 times a year 
Results Timeline Results are issued 13 days after the test Results are issued approximately 10 days after the test
Where All are the Scores Accepted Accepted by more than 9,000 organizations globally Accepted by more than 10,000
organizations globally
Cost  INR 14,700/- INR 13,780/  (TOEFL iBT)

What is IELTS vs TOEFL?

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an esteemed language proficiency test that is taken by candidates either willing to attain overseas education or for occupational purposes. It is accepted across 140 countries. IELTS has two variants, IELTS General Training (for working professional/ immigration purposes) and IELTS Academic (for education purposes).

On the contrary, TOEFL is an acronym used for the Test of English Language as a Foreign Language which is a famous language proficiency test frequently opted by students aspiring to study abroad. The exam lays emphasis on testing the abilities of applicants to communicate in classroom-based English and hence is accepted in around 130 countries.

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The major difference lies in the format of the questions as TOEFL comprises MCQs whereas IELTS would ask you to answer the questions in varied forms like fill in the blanks, short answers, etc. Along with this, one prominent distinction is the duration of both exams. IELTS has to be completed in 2 hours 45 minutes, on the other hand, it will take you 4 hours to complete TOEFL.

IELTS is available in two variants i.e., General Training and Academic, the applicants can choose their version test as per their purpose of visit. TOEFL offers only one type of exam and is mostly opted by the students enrolled in a program abroad. IELTS demands applicants to showcase their creative thinking abilities and comprehension skills, on the contrary, TOEFL would analyze your analytical thinking and how well you can weigh their different options. Thus, this becomes one of the main features of TOEFL vs IELTS.

IELTS Test Format 

Sections  Duration  Number of Tasks/Activities 
Listening  30 minutes  4
Reading  60 minutes  3
Writing  60 minutes  2
Speaking  11-15 minutes  3
Total  2 hours 45 minutes 

TOEFL Test Format 

Sections  Scoring Number of Questions  Duration 
Reading 0-30 36-56 60-80 minutes
Listening 0-30 34-51 60-90 minutes
Speaking 0-30 34-51 20 minutes
Writing 0-30 2 tasks 50 minutes
Total 0-120 4 hours

IELTS vs TOEFL Writing Section 

While attempting the ILETS paper, you would be asked to solve 2 writing questions. In the first one, you will have to explain the information given in the form of a diagram, table chart, etc. While in the second one, you will have to pen down 200-250 words upon the argument or a given viewpoint. If you take up the TOEFL exam,  you will have to draft a five-paragraph essay within 300-350. For the second question, you will have to fetch some notes from a given text and have to frame a response in 150-225 words.  

IELTS vs TOEFL Speaking Section

Speaking assessment in TOEFL will be recorded through a microphone and will be sent to the examiners while the IELTS speaking test will be face to face test for all the candidates. The duration of TOEFL would be 20 minutes IELTS would range a maximum of 10-15 minutes. An important distinguishing factor in TOEFL vs IELTS will be the option to attempt a speaking test before the other tests in IELTS whereas there is no such option in TOEFL. 

TOEFL vs IELTS Reading Section

The reading test of both the exams will include the texts around the lines of the ones they will encounter in their programs. TOEFL will offer 3-5 reading questions to be completed in 20 minutes. IELTS test will include 3 questions in this section and the applicants would be asked to answer questions in various formats like gap filings, short answers, etc.  

TOEFL vs IELTS Listening Section

The Listening skill test of both the exams is very different from each other. In the ILETS test, students can answer the questions while they are listening to the recording. Varied sort of long and short questions will be there. Whereas the TOEFL test will be based on classroom lectures and applicants take note of while listening to the audio. Students have to solve MCQs in a given duration of 40-60 minutes in the TOEFL listening component. 

IELTS vs TOEFL Score Comparison 

The TOEFL Speaking and writing portions are assessed primarily on how they look, including your vocabulary range, writing style, and grammar. The IELTS is evaluated based on distinct marks for specific criteria like logic, coherence, grammar, and fluency. For example, an essay with a logical flow of ideas but bad grammar may score higher on a TOEFL exam, but an essay with good grammar and vocabulary but a lesser ability to communicate a concept will score higher on IELTS criteria. The IELTS is evaluated on a scale of 1-9, with your total result being the average of your individual scores in all four exams. If your total average is 6.25, it will be rounded up to a final score of 6.5. TOEFL is a single test with a maximum score of 120 points. TOEFL and IELTS total scores can be broadly compared as follows:

118-120 9
115-117 8.5
110-114 8
102-109 7.5
94-101 7
79-93 6.5
60-78 6
46-59 5.5
35-45 5
32-34 4.5
0-31 0-4

Score Description 

Band score Skill level
Band 9 Expert user
Band 8 Very good user
Band 7 Good user
Band 6 Competent user
Band 5 Modest user
Band 4 Limited user
Band 3 Extremely limited user
Band 2 Intermittent user
Band 1 Non-user
Band 0 Did not attempt the test

Also read: Study in UK without IELTS

CEFR Score Equivalents

The CEFR scale, which tests European language competency in terms of letters and numbers, will be more recognisable to many European students. In general, a student who wishes to study abroad at the undergraduate level must have completed CEFR B2 level or above in the institution’s teaching language. A CEFR level of B2 corresponds to an IELTS score of 5.5-6.5, although you can’t usually commonly use a CEFR level in place of a requested IELTS or TOEFL score.

Major Factors to Consider

You should consider the following factors before you make a decision between IETLS vs TOEFL:-

  • University preference– You should first check what is the acceptable and preferred language test by the universities that you want to apply to.
  • Time for preparation– On average, you need 3-6 weeks for IELTS preparation and 2 to 3 months for TOEFL preparation. If your application deadline is only a few months away, IELTS will be suitable. 
  • Computer-based or written– IELTS is conducted on either paper or computer and TOEFL is conducted only on the computer. If you have good typing speed then you can go for either and if you write better on paper, you can go for TOEFL. 
  • Exam format– For IELTS, you can break up the sections of the IELTS papers and give them in the time span of weeks. For TOEFL, you need to give the exam in one sitting.

Which universities accept IELTS vs TOEFL?

Over 9000 universities around the globe accept either IELTS or TOEFL or both. If you are applying to universities in UK or Australia, IELTS is more widely accepted. Universities in USA accept TOEFL largely.

Different courses at universities across the world have specific English language score requirements. The table below depicts what IELTS and TOEFL iBT scores are required at different course levels:

Degree  Minimum IELTS
Minimum TOEFL iBT
Foundation 5 35-45
Undergraduate 6 60-78
Postgraduate 7 94-101

Which One to Choose?

To begin, find out which test(s) the institutions you’re interested in will allow. If you don’t have a time constraint, think about which test is ideal for you among IELTS vs TOEFL. TOEFL is lengthier but fully computer-based, so if you’re worried about your penmanship — or your English while speaking with a native speaker — it could be a good choice for you. IELTS is a shorter, maybe more rigorous examination with a greater range of questions and assignments, including direct communication with an examiner. TOEFL costs between $200 and $325 CAD, whereas IELTS is somewhat more expensive, ranging between $260 and $390 CAD. This may be an issue if you’re on a tight budget. Finally, which exam is best for you is a matter of personal opinion. Each exam is approved by hundreds of institutions throughout the world, and there are test dates available throughout the year.

Main Differences between IELTS vs TOEFL

After going through the entire blog, here is a gist of IELTS vs TOEFL differences for aspirants and who are planning to pursue their studies abroad. 

  • The IELTS exam is less time consuming than the TOEFL.
  • The IELTS speaking test is conducted in front of an examiner.
  • The TOEFL normally mandates that you utilise solely US English or UK English throughout the exam and not a combination of the two, although the IELTS appears to be a little more lenient.
  • The TOEFL is mostly made up of multiple-choice questions, but the IELTS offers a greater variety in how questions are constructed and responses must be delivered.

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Is TOEFL easier than IELTS?

IELTS and TOEFL both test basic English proficiency tests. IELTS is considered to be easier than TOEFL by most of the test takers. Many students believe that the IELTS reading section is easier than TOEFL’s reading section.

Is TOEFL better than IELTS?

Both TOEFL and IELTS are accepted by most universities abroad.

Is TOEFL accepted in the UK?

Yes, TOEFL is accepted in all the universities in the UK. You can confirm the details with Leverage Edu study abroad consultants!

What is the TOEFL exam used for?

Yes TOEFL exam is accepted as the primary English proficiency test by all the top universities. It is accepted by over 8,500 institutions across 130 countries, including the UK, USA, and Australia.

Does the USA accept IELTS?

Yes, IELTS results are accepted as proof of English language competency in the United States. Major universities around the United States recognise IELTS as an accurate measure of your ability to understand, read, write, and speak English.

These were all the differentiating factors of IELTS vs TOEFL. We at Leverage Edu provide excellent guidance for both of these standardized English tests. If you are planning to take any of these tests in the near future, get in touch with our well-versed faculty and get started with your preparation!

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    1. Hi Irshad,
      Although to study at some of the prestigious German universities, students have to give and pass the German Language proficiency tests like DSH, TestDaf, WiDaf, and more, there are a few prominent universities that offer their courses in English to international students for which students are required to have a competitive English Proficiency Language test scores. There are, however, two examinations that are accepted by almost all German universities. These are IELTS and TOEFL! So whether you give IELTS or TOEFL, you have an equal opportunity to study in Germany. Hope this helps. You can know more about the German Language Tests to study in Germany here:

  1. can I have institutions who did not requested for IELTS OR TOEFL as requirement to study in Europe pls.

    1. Hi Irshad,
      Although to study at some of the prestigious German universities, students have to give and pass the German Language proficiency tests like DSH, TestDaf, WiDaf, and more, there are a few prominent universities that offer their courses in English to international students for which students are required to have a competitive English Proficiency Language test scores. There are, however, two examinations that are accepted by almost all German universities. These are IELTS and TOEFL! So whether you give IELTS or TOEFL, you have an equal opportunity to study in Germany. Hope this helps. You can know more about the German Language Tests to study in Germany here:

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