IELTS Vs TOEFL: Which is Best for You?

    Karishma Khatri Karishma Khatri
    Exams Prep Master

    Here comes the big question, of whether to choose TOEFL or the IELTS! Well, most of you, who are not native English speakers, will almost always be required to sit an English language proficiency test as part of your application to study abroad at an English-speaking university. For all the ones who always endeavored of studying abroad, often deal with choosing between these two heavy words, TOEFL and IELTS!

    These are the two most widely accepted exams, that test your English competency. We are sure you all must be in a fix and here we are, to give you a helping hand! This article gives you a breakdown of the difference between the TOEFL and IELTS. Read on to know about their strengths, differences, approach & structure. We hope you weigh both sides and decide the best for yourself!


    Before we begin to dig deep, let us first know a little bit about the two exams- TOEFL and IELTS!

    What is TOEFL?

    The TOEFL test seeks to test your ability to communicate in English in specifically academic, university and classroom-based settings. The TOEFL Test is believed to be accepted by over 10,000 institutes across 130 countries. This TOEFL Scores are accepted in the world’s top 100 universities. TOEFL is administered by US-based organisation the Education Testing Service, and so is conducted in American English. This test is more likely to be favoured by American institutions.

    What is IELTS?

    International English Language Testing System or popularly recognized as IELTS, is an English language test which is used for educational, immigration and occupational purpose. The test is available in two formats – IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. IELTS Academic is for the candidates planning to pursue higher studies abroad and IELTS General Training is for the people going abroad for occupational purposes. It is believed to be accepted by over 10,000 institutes across 140 countries. Jointly administered by the British Council, University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia, IELTS uses British English, and is more likely to be favoured by UK and institutions in Commonwealth nations such as New Zealand and Australia.

    Also Read TOEFL Exam: 10 Simple TOEFL Quick Prep Strategies for Writing Section 

    TOEFL vs. IELTS: A Comparison

    There are multiple differences that have been noticed about the two exams. We have listed a few of them below:

    1. Type of questions: Where, the TOEFL Exam questions are entirely objective, the IELTS Exam questions vary. They may be in the form of gap-filling, short answer type or short essay types.
    2. Duration: Both the exams are quite the same in terms of their total duration. The total duration of IELTS being 2 hours and 45 minutes and TOEFL being 3 hours. 
    3. Frequency: IELTS Test is available on 48 test dates per year, whereas TOEFL is available on more than 50 dates per year.
    4. Cost: The cost of the TOEFL and IELTS varies as per countries. In US IELTS costs between $215 – $245. TOEFL usually costs between $165-$300, in most countries it is under $200. The cost for the IELTS Exam in India currently is INR 13250/- and the registration cost of TOEFL in India currently is INR 12758/-
    5. Scores: The TOEFL Score works on a sliding scale from 0 to 120. The IELTS Score works on 9 “bands”, or levels of proficiency.
    6. Exam Objective: The TOEFL exam requires the candidate to think analytically to weigh up the differences between their opinions. For the IELTS Exam, it requires you to use your memory to test their comprehension skills.
    7. Score Acceptance: IELTS score is accepted by over 10,000 colleges/ institutions spread over 140 countries. TOEFL scores are accepted by over 10,000 colleges/institutions in over 130 countries.
    8. Exam Mode: IELTS is available in both paper delivered and computer-delivered modes. Whereas, TOEFL is conducted in a computer-delivered mode in all the areas, except where the facility is not available. In such areas only, TOEFL is conducted in a paper-delivered mode. So if you prefer paper
    Both IELTS and TOEFL scores are valid for a period of 2 years. 

    TOEFL vs. IELTS: Difference in Exam Structures

    The two exams are divided into 4 major sections namely, speaking, writing, reading and listening. Here is a comparison of all the 4 sections in the two exams. 

    Speaking: Face to Face Vs Computer based

    • Both the exams, TOEFL and IELTS, put extra emphasis on the speaking section.
    • Speaking test formats of IELTS and TOEFL differ remarkably from each other. 
    • Where the IELTS Speaking Test is taken face-to-face with the examiner, the TOEFL Test has six questions which are recorded and later sent to a group of reviewers.
    • However, your IELTS speaking score will only be determined by a single examiner.
    • The duration of the IELTS Speaking Test generally ranges between 11-14 minutes while the TOEFL Speaking exams takes about 17 minutes.
    • Speaking to a real person might make some people nervous. Whereas some might prefer talking to a real person rather than speaking into a void.


    • Both the tests – IELTS and TOEFL consist of two tasks in their writing section.
    • The IELTS Exam tool has two tasks. The first one requires you to summarize/interpret the information given through a graph, chat, table or diagram in 150 words. In the second task, candidates are asked to write a 250 words response that assesses your point of view/ argument.
    • The first part in TOEFL demands reading a short essay on a topic and listening to a two-minute lecture on the same. Thereafter, the candidate has to write a 300-350 words response to question based on the essay and recording. The second part involves another task of writing an essay.

    Also Read TOEFL Exam Pattern


    • This is one area which is quite somewhere similar in both, TOEFL & IELTS.
    • The TOEFL Reading Test has five reading sectionsfor which you get a total time of about 54-72 minutes. The questions are objective that test how well you have understood the texts.
    • On the other hand, IELTS Reading Test has three sections. Each is of 20 minutes long. Questions are designed to test how well you’ve understood the text in its particular use of language, ideas and style.

    Also Read IELTS Preparation Tips


    • Both the tests vary as far as their Listening test is concerned.
    • The TOEFL Listening test is generally between 41-57 minutes. It involves you listening to excerpts from university lectures or conversations on a university campus. You will be required to take notes whilst listening and answer a series of multiple choice questions afterwards.
    • For the IELTS Listening test, students can answer questions whilst they are listening to the recordings, and will need to respond to a number of different question types and exercises of different lengths. 

    Both of them have a fair share of strengths and weaknesses. A major factor before deciding is the universities you are applying to and the scores preferred by them. We hope to this made your decision about choosing the two exams a little easier.



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