TOEFL vs IETLS: Which One Should You Take?

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As an international student, you may be planning to study abroad in an English-speaking country for your Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree, and may likely be required to submit either your IELTS or TOEFL test score. Although these two standardized tests determine your English level by testing your reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, they differ in format, scoring and other areas. We’ll use this article to explore key differences between the two and offer you tips on how to practice for and take the test that is suitable for you..

Many a times, the IELTS or TOEFL is needed as part of your application to a university that uses english and your ability to pass will demonstrate if you are able to understand the course material.

The IELTS and TOEFL exams at the moment are two of the most accepted English proficiency exams around the world. However,these tests are quite different in their exam structure, approach, and the teaching criteria. What this implies is that you need to understand how the two tests differ before deciding on which test to study and ultimately go for.

Read also: List of Countries to Study Abroad Without TOEFL/IELTS

What is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)?

IELTS is the abbreviation for International English Language Testing System. This test is designed in two formats: “IELTS Academic,” who intends to study at a tertiary institution abroad; and “IELTS General Training,” which deals with and focuses primarily on social skills and workplace issues/contexts. This article will focus on IELTS Academic.

The IELTS test utilizes British English and has four major parts: reading, listening, speaking and writing. It takes roughly two hours and 45 minutes to complete, plus transfer time from one section to the next. IELTS is generally accepted by over 9,000 institutions, each with varying requirements for IELTS scores. Once students sit for and pass the test, they are able to select up to five organizations where copies of their IELTS results will be sent without charge.

What is the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)?

TOEFL on the other hand is an acronym for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is basically an English proficiency test, designed by an American company, ETS, to assess an applicant’s reading, speaking, writing, and listening abilities in American English. TOEFL scores are a requirement by well over 900 universities and other institutions across 130 countries. There are basically two methods of sitting for this test; it can be taken via a Paper-Based Test (TOEFL PBT) or as an Internet-Based Test (TOEFL IBT); TOEFL IBT, however at the moment, is the popular one. You can easily register for and take the TOEFL IBT at designated test centers in almost all countries and it takes about four hours to complete. This test is generally accepted in Australia and the UK, and it is possible that American institutions will prefer this exam to the IELTS test.

Test scores

The IELTS test is assessed by humans and has separate scores for each section from 1 to 9, and then a final overall score of all the sections. So assuming you did not perform well in one of the sections, your score will negatively impact your average score. The IELTS score will help you easily identify your overall English proficiency level; usually, a non-user score is 1 and an expert score is 9. The TOEFL is reviewed by both humans and an automated scoring system and the score is structured differently with 1 point for each question, and a final score out of 120. That said,you will receive a score from 0 to 30 for each section. In addition to  your TOEFL scores, you will also receive a performance feedback report. This report will give you with the ordinary test takers’ score range, which provides a better indication of how you performed on your exam compared to the average. Bear in mind that with both exams, you will be required to wait at least 10 days to receive your scores and the printed score reports are then mailed to you 13 days after the test is taken.

Read also: Which Test Should You Take Between CELPIP and IELTS?

Which test should you go for?

As discussed at the beginning of this article, if you intend to study in the UK, you have no choice but to sit for and take the IELTS UKVI. But if you intend to study in Australia, Canada or the US, you can decide which one to go for because universities in those countries accept the two tests. So the question is which one is best suited for you?Let’s keep the answer simple, if you naturally prefer multiple choice questions, are comfortable writing on a keyboard, and understand an American accent much better, the TOEFL is then the best option. On the other hand, if you enjoy writing with a pen, are comfortable discussing with a person rather than a microphone, and prefer a variety of question types, then the IELTS is ideal for you.

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How should I prepare?

  • Practice! Practice!! Practice!!!

Before you start studying, it is beneficial to take a practice exam so that you can assess your abilities.  

In this case, your choice of specific exams matters a lot. Some IELTS or TOEFL practice tests are usually sloppy, made by people who are not carefully imitating the real exam. You should always use TOEFL or IELTS practice tests made by the same people who created the real ones. For more practice tests, look for materials developed by reputable companies that resemble the “real exam.” Schedule practice tests throughout your studying so you can consistently access your skills and see how you are improving over time.

Read also: How to write an IELTS essay

  • Look for prep material

The score you’ll get from your first mock test doesn’t just tell you how much you need to improve your overall TOEFL or IELTS score. But it also goes to tell you which sections of the test are the hardest ones for you. Look at these difficult sections as your target areas. These are the parts of the test that you need to practice hard on.

  • Make Payment and Register

Deciding on a date is alot more than making sure your IELTS or TOEFL plans are official. Deciding the right TOEFL or IELTS test date is an important one. Your IELTS or TOEFL test date will tell you how much time you have to prepare. And your choice of test day will also allow you to obtain your official score report in time for university application deadlines. In addition, it puts your target in sight and gives you a solid deadline that you can work with.