IELTS or TOEFL? Which one to choose?

IELTS or TOEFL? Which one to choose?

Standardized Tests | April 10, 2019

IELTS or TOEFL ? Which one to choose?

Students aspiring to go abroad for higher studies for bachelors or masters are very well aware of these two terms, but their biggest dilemma is which test to appear for? So here we have tried to explain the main differences between the two tests, which hopefully will help you to clear most of your doubts.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) are standardized English proficiency test which are accepted by almost all the universities globally. Both the tests are of academic English. Students appearing for TOEFL have to choose TOEFL iBT test while those appearing for IELTS have to choose IELTS Academic test. These are the tests which are desired by the universities abroad.

General Information

Test format for both the exams are the same consisting of four parts-Reading, Listening, Speaking and writing.

TOEFL test is created by USA based company ETS (Educational testing service). So for the listening section it will have more of American accent and expressions. TOEFL test has more of multiple choice questions and almost entirely done on computer. It’s 4 hours long and is conducted in a single day.

IELTS test is created by The university of Cambridge so the listening part has more of British accent and expressions. IELTS test have different range of questions like short answers, essays, fill in the blanks, describing etc. IELTS test is 2 hours 45 minutes long and the speaking part is conducted on the same day or up to seven days after all other tests.

Test Structure


TOEFL reading part varies for 60 minutes to 100 minutes depending on what you get. There is no choice for time duration. So you get 3 passages of 20 minutes each for 60 minutes reading test or 5 passages of 20 minutes each for 100 minutes reading test. All the passages have the same difficulty level and are of multiple choice-A, B, C & D.

IELTS reading part always have 3 passages of 20 minutes each. Its starts with easy level in the first passage and gets harder by the third passage. Question asked are of all kinds from multiple choice, true or false to just choose a word from the passage and answer the question.


TOEFL listening part lasts from 40 to 60 minutes and has multiple choice answers. You get to listen to campus conversation and academic lectures as you take down notes. After that, you see the questions and choose the right answer.

IELTS listening part lasts for 30 minutes . There are varieties of questions asked. You listen to the passage and answer as you go along. Sometimes you have to fill in the blanks or charts or at times match terms.


TOEFL speaking section last for 20 minutes. Here you record your answers on the computer using headphone and microphone. You have six different tasks to complete and have to speak for about 45 seconds to maximum 60 seconds for each task.

IELTS speaking section last for about 11 to 14 minutes. You sit with an examiner and give a sort of interview. First stage is a warm up kinds, like answering general questions about your name and where you come from, hobbies etc. In the second stage you are given a card which you study for couple of minutes and then you are asked to speak on it for about 2 minutes. The third part consist of discussion in which you elaborate a bit more on the topic with the examiner.


TOEFL writing section first task is to write an 5 paragraph essay of about 300 to 350 words on a given topic. Time duration is about half an hour. Second task  is integrated one and various skills are tested. You are given a 3 paragraph short passage based on academics from a text book. You read it for about 3 minuets and then you listen to a lecture about the same topic. The lecture may support the reading or contradict it. So most important is to keep taking notes. After that you answer the questions in about 150 to 250 words.

IELTS writing section first task is to write about 200 to 250 words essay on any one topic given.For the second task you have to describe or explain the information given in a table, chart, graph or a diagram.


TOEFL is a single test that is graded out of 120 points.

IELTS is graded on a band system from 1-9 with your overall score being an average of your separate scores in all four tests.


We would suggest the best way to figure out which test to appear for should be based on which English (British or American) , accent and expression you are most comfortable with. Even how good are your computer operating skills if you are opting for TOEFL which is computer based test. Though IELTS is conducted in lesser time than TOEFL, it doesn’t mean it’s easier. Hope this helps you to solve all of your queries and helps you to choose your test wisely.


Picture credits:

Neha Gajrawala

Author Neha Gajrawala

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