Here we'll discuss the main differences between IELTS and TOEFL in case you are unsure of which test to take.
Both IELTS and TOEFL are exams that prove your English language skills. They are two of the most popular and widely used tests for doing this.
Both have a high degree of credibility and recognition by institutions that wish to assess a person's English. Both of them test reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.
So what is the difference between IELTS and TOEFL and which one should you take if you want to demonstrate your English ability?
TOEFL specifically sets out to test English communication ability for academic settings such as in classrooms and university.
The test tends to be more related to the USA and is more favoured by American institutions, such as schools and grad school. However, most countries and universities accept the test, including the UK and Australia.
It's important to note though that although TOEFL is accepted in UK university admissions applications, it is no longer accepted in applications for UK student visas due to incidences of fraud several year ago.
On this basis, UK immigration decline to accept it for this purpose. So if you wish to go to the UK, the best choice would really be to take the IELTS test.
A difference between IELTS and TOEFL is that while TOEFL is testing for academic settings, IELTS has two parts - an Academic Module that tests for academic settings, and the General Training Module, which is for work settings and general immigration purposes.
So the test mainly helps those wishing to work, study or migrate to native English speaking countries, such as UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and USA. It is recognised though globally by over 10,000 employers, universities, schools and immigration bodies in a multitude of countries.
Final total TOEFL scores fall between 0-120, with a score range of 0–30 for each skill of reading, listening, writing, and speaking.
ETC break that score down into the following proficiency levels so that institutions can assess a test taker's skill.
The scoring is another difference between IELTS and TOEFL, as rather than being a points system, it is based on band scores, ranging from 0-9.
The reading and listening tests are scored from 0-40, but these scores are then converted to band scores. Writing and speaking are based on a set of marking criteria which are assessed by an examiner, who then awards a band score.
So a candidate ends up with a band score for each skill (reading, writing, listening and speaking), and these are then averaged to give one final band score. Half scores (e.g. 6.5) are also possible.
This is how the scores roughly translate to proficiency:
You can learn more about IELTS band scores here.
TOEFL can be taken as either a Paper-Based Test (TOEFL pBT) or an Internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT). However, TOEFL iBT is by far the most popular.
Note though that the speaking module can't be taken on the paper-based test. Because of this TOEFL pBT is a slightly shorter test than the iBT. Also, there may be one less reading passage. for the reading section, and one less lecture and conversation for the listening section.
You will see from the outline below, that some parts of the test are integrated, which means it combines a mix of skills in one part, such as basing your writing on a text you have read.
The following is based on TOEFL iBT.
Like TOEFL, IELTS is paper-based or computer-based, depending on what you prefer and whether a centre has both options.
A clear difference between IELTS and TOEFL however is that no modules in IELTS involve integrating skills. For example, the speaking is not based on a reading, but is just based on questions asked by an examiner. So each skill is assessed independently.
Also, while no part of the TOEFL test includes human contact, in the IELTS test the speaking is undertaken with an examiner who asks the questions. This happens even if you opt to have the computer based test (the speaking test will take place before/later).
Another key difference between IELTS and TOEFL is that IELTS has two tests.
These both test the 4 skills, and the speaking and listening are the same. However, the writing and reading vary. The details are set out below.
A difference between IELTS and TOEFL is also in the accents you hear in the test. In IELTS you can get a mix of accents, while in TOEFL they will be North American accents only.
So let's summarise some of the main difference between IELTS and TOEFL with some key questions that may help you to decide what is your preference.
Where do you want to go?
What type of test format do you prefer?
Do you like multiple choice type questions?
Is reading your strong point?
Do your prefer writing by hand or computer?
Do you want the test for general migration or work?
Do you like speaking to a real person or does this make you nervous?
Where can you travel to take the test?
Is cost a factor?
If you are simply wondering which test might be easier for you, check out our summary on is TOEFL or IELTS easier?
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