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Differences between TOEFL and IELTS

The International English Language Test System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are the two most widely accepted language tests for non-native English speakers who wish to study abroad. Both the test scores are accepted at several educational institutions across the world as part of their admission process.

What is TOEFL?

TOEFL tests your English proficiency in academic tasks through reading, writing, listening and speaking tests. It is designed and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private, non-profit organization. ETS has its headquarters at Princeton, New Jersey.

Top colleges and universities in the United States and Canada accept TOEFL score. Some leading universities in Europe, Australia and New Zealand also accept TOEFL scores. However, IELTS is well accepted outside United States.

What is IELTS?

The IELTS is an English language test that is used for educational, immigration and occupational purposes and is accepted by over 9,000 institutions across 130 countries globally. It is jointly administered by the British Council, University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia.

IELTS that uses British English is more likely to be preferred by educational institutions in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations such as New Zealand and Australia.

Though both the tests accurately test your English proficiency, they do differ in their approach and structure. When it comes to the question of which test you may have to sit for, certain factors like your comfort levels with North American or British accents, speed of typing on a computer, skill in note taking and the ease of coping with different styles of questions do play a role in deciding the test.

Read on to learn the differences between both the tests that should help you map out the one that best match your purpose and skill set.

Test Duration4 hours long2 hours & 45 minutes long
Nature of English Tested Only academic English Academic & General English (more of real world feel)
Purpose Generally taken as an entrance test for admission into colleges/universities in the United States and CanadaAcademic IELTS test suits those applying for English-speaking tertiary programs. IELTS General Training test is generally preferred for immigration purposes to the United Kingdom
Test Format TOEFL iBT is entirely tested on computer; TOEFL Paper-Based Test (PBT) is for those who do not have internet connectivity Two types of IELTS; both are pen-paper tests
Question Style Primarily multiple choice questions (MCQ) Different types such as short answers, gap fill questions and matching exercises that draw on broader comprehension skills
Exam Structure : Speaking Speaking section lasts 20 minutes, is digitally recorded and rated by 3-6 evaluators of ETS; involves recording responses to six different questions based on brief descriptions; includes only American English speakers Speaking test will last for 12-14 minutes; takes place with an examiner; includes a short warm-up exercise followed by your response to some visual stimulus, finally leading up to a more extended discussion on a related topic; to be reviewed by a single examiner; features a range of different English accents
Exam Structure : Writing Has two tasks that should be completed in 50 minutes: first task is to write a 150-225 word piece using notes, integrating both the reading and listening selections; second task is to write a five –paragraph essay between 300-350 words taking notes (note taking is very important) from a selection in a textbook and then a lecture on the same topic Has two sections: first one asks you to write a 200-250 words’ short essay to a prompt that carries a point of view or argument; second task is to summarize the information presented in infographics
Exam Structure : Reading This section lasts for 60-80 minutes. You will have 3-5 reading selections of 20 minutes each; academic in nature You will have 3 reading selections of 20 minutes each; academic in nature
Exam Structure : Listening You are required to listen to 60-90 minutes of selections from lectures or campus conversations, take notes and respond to MCQs Has exercises of varying lengths; you may have to answer a variety of question types as you move through the section
Scoring On a sliding scale from 0-120; 4 sections that carry 30 marks each Graded on a band system from 1-9
Score Validity 2 years 2 years

If you still want to explore more on which test to appear for, it is recommended that you connect with well-informed instructors at an online tutoring portal who could guide you on the best way forward.

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