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15 Apr 2017

IELTS vs TOEFL: Which Should You Take To Study Abroad?

IELTS vs TOEFL: Which Should you Take to Study Abroad?

For non-native English speakers wishing to further their studies or pursue a career in an Anglophone country, you may be required to take an English language proficiency test to test your ability to communicate in English language. The two most popular and widely accepted English language proficiency tests are IELTS (International English Language Test System) and TOEFL (Test of English Language as a Foreign Language). Either one these tests can be used to verify your ability to communicate efficiently in English language.


The International English Language Test System is accepted by more than 9000 institutions in over 130 countries. It is mostly conducted for educational, immigration and occupational purposes. The IELTS is managed chiefly by the British Council, in conjunction with University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia. The IELTS apparently favours the use of British English in conducting examinations for candidates who have signed up to take the test. It goes without saying then that most schools in the UK, European Union, Common wealth countries like New Zealand and Australia usually strongly advise international aspirants from non-native English speaking countries to take the IELTS in order to make their admission process hitch-free.

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The Test of English as a Foreign Language is conducted chiefly to assess a candidate’s ability to understand and communicate efficiently in the English language in classroom-based settings. TOEFL is accepted by more than 8000 institutions in over 130 countries. The test is conducted by Education Testing Service and of course, in American English.

Differences between IELTS and TOEFL

Question Type

While TOEFL makes use of strictly multiple choice questions, IELTS features various forms of question structures including ‘fill-in-the-gap’, short essay questions and theory questions. This is to say that, while TOEFL aims to test a student’s ability to compare and contrast among so many options and still choose the correct answer, IELTS tends to find out how knowledgeable a student is on the subject being discussed in a question.

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Duration of exam

IELTS takes about 2 hours 30 minutes to complete compared to TOEFL’s almost 4 hours. Usually an IELTS exam is not conducted in one day as it is divided into different components whereas a TOEFL exam is usually carried out in one day.

Medium of examination

TOEFL conducts only one type of exam which is always computer based. IELTS, on the other hand, conducts two types of exams which are always carried out on paper – one for admission requirements and the other for immigration and occupational purposes.

Speaking component

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While both exams have a speaking component, TOEFL involves a candidate speaking into the microphone while he’s assessed by a group of six examiners. On the contrary, IELTS speaking component involves a candidate and just one examiner in an oral interview.

In conclusion, both IELTS and TOEFL are great English proficiency tests. However, before making a decision on which of the exams you should go for, it is important that you know the specified requirement of the school and course you wish to apply for or in the case of occupation and immigration, one of these two exams are usually specified in the Visa requirements.

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