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Is TOEFL or IELTS Easier?

Is TOEFL or IELTS easier is a common question for those thinking of taking either of the tests. Here we will consider the key differences to help with your decision.

The difficulty level of the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exams is subjective and can vary depending on individual strengths and weaknesses.

However, there are some key differences between the two tests that can help you determine which one might be easier for you.

The Main Differences

Test Format

The TOEFL is entirely computer-based, while the IELTS includes both computer-based and paper-based components. If you are more comfortable with paper-based tests, you might find the IELTS easier.

Academic Content

The TOEFL focuses more or less solely on academic English and is commonly used for university admissions. It includes reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections. It also integrates some of these skills, making it more like what you would have to actually do in university. For instance your writing will be based on a text you've had to read.

IELTS also consists of listening, reading, writing, and speaking modules. However, while the IELTS has an 'Academic' test for those who want to use it to study, it also has a 'General Training' test which is often required for immigration purposes. The reading section for this is not based on academic texts.

If you are more comfortable with academic English, the TOEFL might be easier for you, whereas if you prefer a more open style and you are in a situation where you can opt for the General Training test, IELTS might suit you better.

Integrated Skills

As noted above, in TOEFL, some of the skills are integrated, so you need to consider if this suits you when deciding if TOEFL or IELTS is easier.

In TOEFL in the writing section, test takers are required to complete two tasks. The first task involves reading a passage and listening to a lecture and then writing a response that combines information from both sources. The second task requires writing an essay based on a given topic or statement.

In IELTS in the writing section, test takers complete two tasks. Task 1 involves describing, summarising, or explaining information presented in a visual form, such as graphs, charts, or diagrams. Task 2 requires writing an essay based on a given topic or argument. You are not basing your writing on anything you have to listen to or read.

Question Types

The TOEFL tends to be mainly made up of multiple-choice questions, but the IELTS has a greater variety of ways in which questions are constructed and responses may be delivered. For example, in IELTS reading and listening there are gap fill questions, summary completion and matching paragraphs to headings.

So if you prefer multiple choice, TOEFL may be the test for you.

Speaking Section

Another key difference when you are considering whether TOEFL or IELTS is easier is the speaking test.

The TOEFL speaking section requires you to respond to recorded questions using a microphone, while the IELTS speaking section involves a face-to-face conversation with an examiner, either in person in the paper-based test or on a computer if it's online.

Some test takers find the TOEFL speaking section easier because they can record their responses privately, while others prefer the more interactive nature of the IELTS speaking test.


If you have a preference for certain accents when you listen to English, this could influence whether TOEFL or IELTS is easier. 

The TOEFL is primarily based on North American English accents, while the IELTS incorporates a variety of English accents from different English-speaking countries, such as British, Australian, American, and Canadian accents.

Test Duration

If you find it easier to concentrate for shorter periods of time, IELTS may be easier for you.

The TOEFL has a longer duration, typically lasting around 4 hours. The IELTS test duration varies depending on the test format. The computer-based IELTS usually takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes, while the paper-based IELTS can take approximately 2 hours and 55 minutes. IELTS also often has the speaking on a different day.

So Is TOEFL or IELTS Easier? 

It has been often reported by candidates that IELTS is a bit easier, so if the above points have not helped you decide, and it does not matter which you take, then IELTS could be the best choice.

As you can see though from the above points, which is easier also depends on your individual strengths and weaknesses when you take tests.

Still unsure of whether IELTS or TOEFL is the best test for you? Then check out a more detailed analyses of the differences between IELTS and TOEFL, including a full breakdown of what's in each section of the tests and how the scoring works.

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