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Mastering English Proficiency: TOEFL vs IELTS – Know the Differences

Introduction to TOEFL and IELTS

The world is becoming more connected, and this has created a greater need for individuals who communicate effectively in English. Whether you’re a student, a professional, or someone who wants to emigrate to an English-speaking country, having a strong grasp of the English language is a necessity.

Therefore, various test bodies offer exams that assess and measure the level of an individual’s English proficiency. Two popular exams are the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Definition and Popularity of TOEFL and IELTS

TOEFL and IELTS are both standardized tests used to evaluate the English language proficiency of non-native speakers. Achieving a strong score in either exam provides evidence that an individual is proficient in the English language, having a good command of vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and fluency.

TOEFL is administered by the Educational Testing Services (ETS) and is also accepted by universities and colleges in the United States, Canada, and other countries. The exam is recognized by more than 11,000 institutions worldwide, and over 20 million students have taken it since its inception.

IELTS, on the other hand, is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP Education, and Cambridge Assessment English. The exam assesses an individual’s ability to communicate effectively in English, and it is widely accepted by universities, immigration authorities, and employers globally.

It is estimated that around 3.5 million students take the IELTS exam annually.

Differences between TOEFL and IELTS

Although TOEFL and IELTS are designed to measure the same skills, there are several differences between them. Let’s examine some of these differences.

Structure: The TOEFL exam is computer-based, while IELTS is either computer-based or paper-based, depending on the preference of the candidate. Speaking Test: The speaking test in TOEFL is done on a computer and involves responding to prompts on the screen, while IELTS includes a face-to-face speaking test with an examiner.

Content: TOEFL consists of multiple-choice questions and has four sections, including Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. In contrast, IELTS has two types of exams: the Academic test, which assesses an individual’s ability to communicate in academic settings, and the General Training test, which is suited for individuals who want to work or live in English-speaking countries.

Scoring, Application, and Preparation of TOEFL

Scoring: Each section of the TOEFL exam is scored on a scale of 0-30 points, with a total score of 120 for the entire test. Institutions set their own minimum score requirements, which can range from 60-110.

Application: The TOEFL exam can be taken in more than 165 countries at ETS-approved testing locations. The registration process can be done online, and the exam fee ranges from $160-$260, depending on the location.

Preparation: To prepare for the TOEFL, candidates can purchase study materials from ETS or enroll in a test preparation course. The TOEFL test-taking strategies include learning to manage time efficiently, developing good reading comprehension, and strengthening English skills through consistent practice.


In conclusion, TOEFL and IELTS offer individuals a way to demonstrate their proficiency in the English language. Both exams have their differences, and candidates should weigh them carefully before deciding which test to take.

Doing well in either of these exams is a gateway to international education, professional opportunities and allows individuals to connect better with English-speaking communities. IELTS is considered one of the most renowned English proficiency tests globally.

It is essential for students, immigrants, or professionals who need to prove their level of English-language skills. Like TOEFL, IELTS plays a vital role in determining if an individual can communicate effectively in an English speaking environment.

This article provides an in-depth look at the structure, scoring, application, and preparation of IELTS.

Structure of IELTS

IELTS is divided into four distinct sections focused on testing reading, writing, speaking, and listening abilities in the English language.

– Reading: The reading section consists of three long reading passages with questions to assess reading comprehension.

Students must answer 40 different questions in 60 minutes. This section is known for its difficulty and requires a high level of concentration and focus to do well.

– Writing: The writing section comes in two parts and lasts for 60 minutes. In the first part, students are asked to describe information presented in a graph, chart, or diagram.

The second part is more complex as it requires students to write an essay in response to a specific topic, prompt, or question. – Speaking: In the speaking section, the student meets with an examiner one-on-one.

This section lasts for 11-14 minutes and comprises three parts that are intended to test the student’s ability to speak and engage in a conversation. The first part typically consists of introductions and general questions.

The second part involves speaking about a topic for up to two minutes. Finally, the third part involves a more in-depth discussion of the topic from the second part.

– Listening: The listening section is composed of various audio recordings that students listen to, followed by questions that test both their understanding of the content and their ability to follow along. Like the reading section, the listening section lasts for 40 minutes.

It includes four recordings of increasing difficulty, starting with a conversation and progressing to a lecture. All four sections are graded on a scale of 0 to 9, and scores assigned to each section are averaged into the overall band score.

Scoring, Application, and Preparation of IELTS

– Scoring: IELTS scoring is unique compared to TOEFL, with most institutions requiring an overall score of 6.5 or higher. Universities and colleges set their own individual requirements, and some even accept partial scores as an alternative.

Institutions use the band score to evaluate whether a candidate is proficient enough in English to succeed in their academic program. – Application: Students can register for IELTS through either the British Council or IDP: IELTS Australia.

The application process is usually done online, and applicants must pay the registration fee, which differs based on the country and test location. The exam is available all year, with varying test dates and locations.

– Preparation: Various free and paid resources are available to help candidates prepare for the IELTS exam, including study materials, textbooks, and test review courses. To prepare for the exam, it is recommended that students focus on their general English Language proficiency skills, whether through speaking practice sessions with native English speakers, writing exercises, or reading comprehension.

Differences between TOEFL and IELTS

Method and Length of Time

The IELTS and TOEFL exams differ in several ways, starting with their format and the length of each exam. TOEFL is typically computer-based, while IELTS can be taken as either a computer or paper-based exam depending on the preference of the candidate.

The TOEFL exam lasts around four hours, with the reading, writing, listening, and speaking sections each taking roughly an hour. In contrast, the IELTS exam lasts roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes, with the reading and writing portions taking 60 minutes, the listening section taking 30 minutes, and the speaking test typically between 11-14 minutes.

Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing

TOEFL and IELTS differ in the presentation of their reading and listening tests. IELTS has a broader range of accents used in its listening section, while TOEFL focuses on North American English accents.

In the reading section, IELTS offers a broader range of question formats than TOEFL, including multiple-choice questions that require a range of different answers. TOEFL and IELTS also differ in their speaking sections.

The TOEFL speaking test requires students to give recorded responses to prompts on a computer, while IELTS has a face-to-face speaking section with an examiner that compels the test-taker to answer more personal questions. In regards to writing, IELTS requires students to write longer responses than TOEFL, with some tasks requiring them to write essays of up to 300 words.


The IELTS exam is one of the most recognized English proficiency tests in the world, and getting a high band score on the exam is crucial for anyone who needs to demonstrate their English language proficiency. Knowing the structure, scoring, application, and preparation of IELTS is essential for anyone looking to take the test.

Additionally, understanding the differences between TOEFL and IELTS can assist students in selecting which exam they want to take, based on their personal preferences and academic background.

IELTS Scores

IELTS scores are measured on a band scale ranging from 1 to 9. On this scale, 1 is the lowest score, while 9 is the highest.

The IELTS exam is divided into four sections – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – each section having separate band scores.

In general, universities and institutions require a minimum overall band score of 6.5 or 7 to be considered for acceptance.

Some universities may have higher score requirements up to 8 or 9 for admission into specific programs that demand a higher level of English proficiency. IELTS scores represent an individual’s level of proficiency in English and are highly respected by universities, governments, and employers worldwide.

The band scores can assess a candidate’s understanding of the language, including formal grammar and vocabulary, conversational skills, an ability to understand spoken English, and their ability to present ideas in writing.

TOEFL Scores

TOEFL scores are measured on a scale of 0 to 120 and are divided into four sections Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing each section having a maximum score of thirty. TOEFL scores are designed to measure an individual’s ability to use and understand scholarly English.

Institutions typically require a minimum total score of above 80 or 90 for admission into specific programs. The scores can give insight into an individual’s English proficiency, including reading and listening comprehension, writing skills, and English fluency.

Scores are sent directly to the institution of choice upon the candidates request. The scores are valid for up to two years from the test date.

Applying for TOEFL

To apply for the TOEFL exam, candidates must first create a profile on the Education Testing Services website (the organization responsible for administering the test). After that, students need to book a test center location, choose a test date, and pay the exam fees, which vary depending on the location.

Typically, the cost is in the range of $180 to $300. Candidates can choose to take the test either at an authorized test center or online using the ProctorU platform.

The online test comprises of the same sections, but the difficulty and format of the exams may be modified to adjust for technical limitations present in an online setting. To prepare for the exam, students can practice with the official TOEFL study materials offered by the Education Testing Services, hire a private tutor, or enroll in test preparation courses.

Applying for IELTS

Applying for the IELTS exam usually involves two main steps: registration on the British Council or IDP: IELTS Australia website, and choosing a test center location and a test date. After submitting the registration form and payment, candidates will receive an email confirmation within 48 hours.

The cost of the test varies depending on the location and is around $200 to $240. It is essential to note that the IELTS exam offers two types of tests – Academic and General.

The former is intended for individuals who wish to pursue higher education, while the latter is for individuals seeking a work visa or immigrating to an English-speaking country. It is advisable to confirm which test is appropriate before registering for the exam.

IELTS test-takers can prepare for the test by studying the official IELTS study materials, attending classes or online courses, practicing with practice tests, or collaborating with a private tutor. The official study materials, which are readily available on the IELTS website, consist of various practice tests, sample questions, and tips on how to prepare for the exam.


In conclusion, both TOEFL and IELTS are two of the most renowned English language proficiency tests globally, and being prepared for them can make all the difference in an individual’s academic or professional prospects. It’s important to understand the conditions for each exam and the requirements for the institution or program which requires the results of the exam for admissions purposes.

By understanding the format and scoring of the exams, and properly preparing and applying for them, individuals can raise their chances of achieving the score they require. In conclusion, the TOEFL and IELTS exams play a crucial role in assessing an individual’s English language proficiency for academic and professional purposes.

While TOEFL measures proficiency in North American English and is computer-based, IELTS offers a broader range of accents and can be taken as a computer or paper-based exam. Both exams have their own scoring scales and require adequate preparation and application.

Understanding the structure, scoring, application process, and preparation methods for TOEFL and IELTS is essential for individuals aiming to achieve their desired scores. By approaching these exams with the right mindset and adequate preparation, individuals can open doors to further their education or advance their careers in English-speaking environments.

Remember, investing in language proficiency is an investment in future opportunities.

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