If you are applying to university or college in an English-speaking country and English is not your first language, your institution may require you to take a standardised test to prove your English language proficiency. And this will bring up the big question: should you take the IELTS or TOEFL exam? Let’s find out the difference between the two.

IELTS & TOEFL: know the basic

IELTS and TOEFL are the most popular standardised English language tests taken worldwide.

Centres 1,100 test centres in over 140 countries. 4,500 test centres in over 165 countries.
Exam It lasts for about 2h 45 minutes. It lasts for about 4 hours.
Scoring Each section is marked with a band from 0-9 (from these section scores, an overall 0-9 band is awarded). 120 marks, with 30 marks available for each section.
Styles Exam questions are almost entirely multiple choice Requires you to respond to a range of different question types such as short answer, gap-filling and short essay tasks.
Takes approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes Takes four hours to complete

Note: the desired score for IELTS is of around 6.5+ and for TOEFL – 80+.

What is IELTS?

The IELTS is an English language test that is used for educational, immigration and occupational purposes, and is accepted by over 9,000 institutions across 130 countries worldwide. Jointly administered by the British Council, University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia, IELTS uses British English, and is more likely to be favoured by UK and institutions in Commonwealth nations such as New Zealand and Australia. Depending on the entry requirements of your study programme, you might need to take either the Academic or General Training IELTS exam.

What is TOEFL?

The TOEFL test seeks to test your ability to communicate in English in specifically academic, university and classroom-based settings. It is accepted by over 8,500 institutions across 130 countries, including the UK, USA and Australia, as well as all of the world’s top 100 universities. TOEFL is administered by US-based organisation the Education Testing Service, and so is conducted in American English. This test is more likely to be favoured by American institutions.

Which is Best For You?

If you are planning to study in the UK, you have no choice but to do the IELTS UKVI. But if you plan on studying in Canada or the US, you have a choice as to which test you can take, because they accept either test. So which is best suited for you? To keep it simple, if you prefer multiple choice questions, feel more comfortable writing on the keyboard, and understand an American accent easier, the TOEFL is better suited for you. If you enjoy writing with a pen, feel more comfortable talking to a person rather than a microphone, and prefer a variety of different question types, then the IELTS is best for you.

IELTS vs TOEFL: Which should I choose?

If You can Answer Yes to Most of the Following Questions You Should do the IELTS Test:

  • I find American accents easy to listen to.
  • I like multiple choice questions.
  • I prefer reading and listening in an academic context.
  • I can concentrate for long periods of time.
  • I prefer talking to a computer.
  • I am good at typing.
  • I can easily follow a lecture and take notes.
  • I am comfortable with computers.

If You can Answer Yes to Most of the Following Questions You Should do the TOEFL Test:

  • I like talking to people one-on-one.
  • I don’t like multiple choice questions.
  • I don’t like reading or listening to academic contexts.
  • I like to write by hand.
  • I can understand a variety of English-speaking accents.
  • I prefer shorter tests.
  • I prefer a range of questions.
  • I find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time.