IELTS v/s TOEFL: Which one is your gateway to study abroad?

Planning to study abroad in an English speaking country requires you to select a standardised test for showing your English language proficiency. Students often come to a fix where they find it difficult to choose between IELTS and TOEFL. For your ease, we have compared both the tests on five parameters.

The majority of institutions in the US accept TOEFL scores more readily than IELTS band scores. This does not imply that the IELTS score will be rejected by the university. However, it is better to check with your universities before you pay for these exams. Both the tests are widely accepted all over the world so you needn’t worry too much about their country-specific acceptance but you have to focus on the universities’ preference.

Comfort with accents
In the IELTS listening section, you will hear multiple accents ranging from British, Scottish, Australian and Canadian while the TOEFL listening section will mostly have American accents. The duration of the listening tests also vary. The IELTS listening section is 30 minutes long with 10 minutes transfer time. The TOEFL listening section takes about one hour. Both the tests have conversational and academic based monologues.

Preference of the personal interview
The speaking section of the IELTS test has an examiner who starts the test with a conversation. This experience will not be there in the TOEFL speaking section because the test taker will be speaking into a recorder. Those who get nervous in front of strangers often opt for the TOEFL exam while those who need a human touch while starting a conversation opt for IELTS. Another point of difference is that the IELTS speaking test is taken either two days before or after the main test. TOEFL speaking test takes place together with other sections.

The necessity of Writing prompts
IELTS asks students to complete two tasks in the writing section. Total time given is 60 minutes. Task 1 can be a 150 words letter (for IELTS General) or a comparative analysis of a given visual data. Task 2 is a 250 words essay on a given topic. Many students find the TOEFL writing section more complex as compared to the IELTS writing tasks. This is simply because the TOEFL writing section asks students to read an article followed by a 2-minute long audio listening. Finally, the test taker will have to answer a question using the information shared by the article and the audio in 350 words. The second task is based on a short essay type question.

Multiple-choice questions vs short answer questions.
The TOEFL exam’s format has multiple-choice questions for both reading and writing sections. On the contrary, IELTS tends to ask both multiple-choice questions and short answer type questions in the reading and listening sections. Some students prefer IELTS because it allows them to answer the questions subjectively without keeping all the options in their minds. But, some prefer TOEFL as it saves the time required in writing the correct answer. So, before you opt for either of these options, keep the question types in your mind.

Stands for International English Language Testing System Test of English as a Foreign Language
length 2 hours 30 minutes 4 hours
Acceptance 10000 organisation in 140 countries 11000 universities in 150 countries 
cost Varies according to the country

(in India INR.14,000)

Computer based INR 11,468-INR 17,919

Paper based- INR 12,901

validity 2 years 2 years
Format  Paper-based and computer-based Paper-based and computer-based
Frequency  48 times in a year (Saturdays and Thursdays More than 50 times in a year
Scoring Range 0 to 9 bands 0 to 120 
sections Listening    40 minutes 

Reading     60 minutes

Writing       60 minutes

Speaking   10-15 minutes 

Listening      60-90 minutes 

Reading       60- 100 minutes

Writing         50 minutes

Speaking     20 minutes 

Both the exams test the same skill set of English language proficiency: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. However, their technique of assessing them varies. Now, that you have read the difference between them, make the list and select what works best for you. In case, you still find yourself in a fix then give mock tests available online and choose the one you are more comfortable with.