Indian students are increasingly choosing English-speaking countries as their preferred study abroad de­stinations. Of the many attractive aspects for choosing English-speaking countries are the prospects of academic e­xcellence, cultural diversity, and global recognition. Earning degrees from renowned institutions in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia opens a wide range of career opportunities too.
However, it is not an easy process to get selected into your dream institute, that too in your preferred course. English language tests are just one of the many challenges that candidates need to take in order to prove themselves. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and international English Language Testing System are two of the most common English language tests that students pursuing their study abroad dreams have to sit for.
These tests are aimed at measuring how well candidates understand and speak English. Universities use the results to make sure that candidates have the language skills they need to succeed in their studies. So, what’s the basic difference between the two?
IELTS is administered by the British Council, in association with Cambridge Assessment English and IDP Australia and TOEFL is conducted by the Education Testing Service (ETS), an organisation based out of the USA.
Both tests are held in online computer test-based mode with acceptance by more than 10,000 institutes across the world. Here’s a deeper look into the key aspects of the tests.
The test format
Both the tests are divided into four broad sections- Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.
It includes various question types such as multiple choice, matching, sentence completion, short answer questions or summary completion etc. Each section of both tests are equally important for the candidate to score in. Here are the differences between TOEFL and IELTS.
IELTS vs. TOEFL Reading test
In the IELTS Academic Reading test, you’ll encounter three passages (texts) with a total word count ranging from 2,150 to 2,750 words. In the TOEFL iBT reading section, you will find two reading passages, each around 700 words in length, accompanied by ten questions. Similar to IELTS, you are not required to possess prior knowledge of the subject matter; your responses are based on the content provided in the passages.
IELTS vs TOEFL Writing test
In the IELTS Writing test, Task One presents information in the form of a graph, chart, table, or diagram. You are given 20 minutes to complete this task and must write a minimum of 150 words.
Task two in the IELTS Writing test allows you 40 minutes to craft a response of at least 250 words, addressing a point of view, argument, or problem. Notably, Task two carries double the marks of Task One. If you’re taking the paper-based IELTS test, both tasks require handwritten responses.
In the TOEFL iBT Writing section, you engage with integrated reading and listening materials. You read a brief passage and listen to a short lecture, then write a response based on the information presented. The TOEFL iBT Writing section allows a total of 30 minutes for completion.
IELTS vs TOEFL Speaking test
The primary distinction between the IELTS and TOEFL speaking assessments lies in their format. IELTS Speaking involves a face-to-face interaction with an examiner or a video call. This session is recorded for training and verification purposes, with your responses assessed by the examiner and reviewed by others if needed.
In contrast, the TOEFL iBT test requires you to listen to questions and respond by speaking through a microphone. Your answers undergo evaluation by a combination of artificial intelligence (computer-based assessment) and human reviewers.
Regarding scheduling, the IELTS speaking test may be administered on a different day from the other sections, while the TOEFL iBT speaking component is typically taken on the same day as the rest of the test.
The IELTS Speaking test is divided into three parts. In the first part, you provide personal information and engage in discussions on everyday topics. The second part involves a task where you have one minute to prepare your response, followed by two minutes to deliver your talk. The final part consists of a discussion with the examiner, focusing on a topic related to the one in part two.
IELTS vs TOEFL Listening test
Contrary to a common misconception, both IELTS and TOEFL encompass various English accents, including those of North America, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.
In the IELTS Listening test, there are four sections, each with ten questions. Sections 1 and 2 revolve around everyday social situations, while sections 3 and 4 focus on educational and training contexts. Sections 1 and 3 involve multiple speakers, whereas sections 2 and 4 consist of monologues delivered by a single speaker.
TOEFL iBT, on the other hand, features two types of listening items: Lectures and conversations. These items are designed to reflect the language typically used in university settings. The TOEFL iBT listening section comprises 3 lectures, each with six questions.
2 conversations involving two speakers, with five questions for each conversation.
IELTS score vs. TOEFL Scores
In the IELTS exam, you receive a band score ranging from 0 to 9 for each skill, and an overall band score. On the other hand, TOEFL iBT provides scores between 0 and 30 for each skill, resulting in a total score ranging from 0 to 120.
Should you take the IELTS test or the TOEFL?
This choice should be based on two factors: The institutes that you are applying to and the difficulty level. Pick up the one that is accepted by the colleges or universities that you have chosen. If your target institutions accept both tests, you can choose the one you find easier to prepare for and perform better in.
To understand which test you can easily prepare for, take mock tests of both available online at no-cost. You will be able to get an understanding of both the tests, their patterns and what level of preparation you need to excel. This will give you a better sense of how you perform on each test and which one you feel more comfortable with.

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