Differences between IELTS & TOEFL: Which Is Easier?

Differences between IELTS & TOEFL: Which Is Easier?

Many students think of studying abroad at some point. However, before that, a lot of planning should happen. You should choose the program, the university, the country, collect all the documents, and pass the needed exams – the list goes on. Throughout the process, you have to select which English test to pass. In particular, if your university accepts both IELTS and TOEFL, the choice can be puzzling.

In this article, we’ll elaborate on the similarities and differences between IELTS and TOEFL. These tests are the most commonly accepted exams proving your English level. Universities worldwide (USA, UK, Canada, Australia, etc.) get the results to ensure international students have enough English fluency to study.

Similarities between IELTS and TOEFL.

But don’t worry!

Our experts elaborated on the differences and similarities, allowing you to pick the most relevant exam. Moreover, we will help you see which test is easier: TOEFL or IELTS.

📌 What Are IELTS & TOEFL? 

Many students think of studying abroad at some point. However, before that, a lot of planning should happen. You should choose the program, the university, the country, collect all the documents, and pass the needed exams – the list goes on. Throughout the process, you have to select which English test to pass. In particular, if your university accepts both IELTS and TOEFL, the choice can be puzzling.

In this article, we’ll elaborate on the similarities and differences between IELTS and TOEFL. These tests are the most commonly accepted exams proving your English level. Universities worldwide (USA, UK, Canada, Australia, etc.) get the results to ensure international students have enough English fluency to study.

IELTS in a Nutshell 

IELTS is an abbreviation for the International English Language Test. It is available in two formats:

  • IELTS Academic (for those who want to study abroad), 
  • IELTS General Training (for those who wish to work overseas and need to test their skills). 

The acceptable score varies from school to school and from faculty to faculty. Generally, a student aims to pass the exam for not less than 6.3 to be admitted.

The IELTS test is the most popular option if you plan to move to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or the UK.

TOEFL in a Nutshell 

TOEFL is an abbreviation for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. It was developed by an American company called ETS. The test measures English proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Most universities around the world require TOEFL scores for an international student to be admitted. 

There are two options for taking the test:

  • PBT (paper-based),
  • CBT (computer-based).

American universities traditionally favor the TOEFL test over IELTS. Nevertheless, most schools in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia also accept it. The average score that most universities require is 75, yet the numbers vary from institution to institution. 

What English exams UK and US accept.

📝 IELTS vs. TOEFL: Format

Let’s start comparing the differences between IELTS and TOEFL by talking about the format. In this section, you’ll find out how both tests are conducted.

See the IELTS vs. TOEFL table below. It explains what to expect on your exam day, how much it costs, and where it can be taken.

ExamIELTSTOEFL
Length2 hours 45 minutes4 hours
Price (differs by country)$215 – $245$165 – $300
Locations1,100 locations in 145 countriesOffered worldwide
Variant of EnglishBritish EnglishAmerican English
Accepted byInternational Schools and Employers, some US Graduate SchoolsUS and International Graduate Schools and Employers
Accents you might hearAustralian, Canadian, New Zealand, British, American Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, British, American
How often is the test offered?More than 48 test dates per yearMore than 50 test dates per year
Results are valid for2 years2 years

In the later sections, you will learn about the major parts of the exams and how they differ in TOEFL and IELTS.

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Listening

The listening part of any of these two exams involves recordings with several questions followed after. The number of questions and recordings differs.

IELTS Listening.

Students listen to four recordings and answer ten questions for each as they listen:

  • The tasks have true and false answers, fill-in-the-gap, and complete the sentence.
  • The exam features different accents in the recordings.
  • Generally, students have 30 minutes to complete the listening section.

TOEFL Listening.

For TOEFL, students have to listen to 4-6 recordings:

  • The recordings include both academic speech and everyday situations.
  • Afterward, students should reply to multiple choice answers, which measure their overall understanding of the context.
  • Students have 60-90 minutes to complete the listening section.

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Reading

The tests provide you with texts, followed by the questions that will evaluate your reading comprehension. The pieces are academic in both IELTS Academic and TOEFL, but IELTS General Training will include everyday language.

IELTS Reading.

Students receive three passages to read:

  • The texts can come from books, journals, or newspapers.
  • The difficulty level and vocabulary will depend on the IELTS type (academic vs. general training).
  • After every session, students will be asked to reply to 10 questions. The timing of 20 minutes is the same for both tests.

TOEFL Reading.

This TOEFL section comprises of 3-5 passages:

  • The texts are from university-level textbooks.
  • You’ll see the questions with multiple-choice answers.
  • They are to evaluate your vocabulary, comprehension of the text, and your reasoning skills.
  • On average, students are asked to answer 12-14 questions.

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Writing

The writing section for both tests consists of two tasks in which you are required to write an essay. The timing in both areas is different, just as vocabulary in the IELTS exam: it varies for academic and general types.

IELTS Writing.

The writing part lasts 60 minutes and includes two tasks:

  • For the first one, students should describe a piece of visual information. It can be a chart, a graph, or a diagram. Students are supposed to do it in 20 minutes and write not less than 150 words.
  • For the second task, they will be given 40 minutes. In this section, students get a topic to write 250 words on.

TOEFL Writing.

This section lasts 50 mins and also has two parts: integrated writing and independent writing.

  • For the first one, students will receive a short recording and a text. They will have 20 minutes to summarize and compare the information that they got. The response they should provide should be between 150-225 words.
  • For the second part, students are expected to express their opinion on a matter. They should write 300 words in 30 minutes.

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Speaking

The speaking parts of the tests are very different. IELTS will be a good fit for those who feel more comfortable speaking to a real human being. For those who have no problem speaking English and using the mic, TOEFL will be well-suited.

IELTS Speaking.

For the speaking part, students have an interview with an oral examiner. This section consists of 3 parts:

  • As the first task, the interviewer will ask questions about family, work, interests. The student should answer quickly, without preparation.
  • In the second part, the interviewer will demonstrate a card and ask you to discuss it. You’ll have to speak for 2 minutes.
  • In the last section, the student and the interviewer should discuss the topic in greater detail for another 4-5 minutes.
  • Overall, the speaking section of IELTS takes 11-14 minutes.

TOEFL Speaking.

The speaking section is divided into several parts as well:

  • The first two tasks are independent speaking, in which the student has to rely on his thoughts, experiences, and ideas.
  • The following four tasks are integrated. They require you to read, listen, and then speak.
  • Students get 20 minutes to complete six tasks.

💯 IELTS vs. TOEFL: Scoring

Finally, we are going to discuss scoring – the last part of any exam. This section of the article will learn how the systems differ and how the exams are scored.

These are the critical aspects of scoring that you should know:

  1. Band Scores vs. Standard Scaled System.

For IELTS, the system is based around “band scores.” They range from 0-9 and reflect the number of questions you get correct. You will get a raw score for each section, but the total number will be averaged.

Scoring for TOEFL is based on a standard scaled system. It means that the score you receive does not correspond to the number of questions you get correctly.

  1. Human vs. Machine

The TOEFL exam, in general, is graded both by humans and by an automated scoring system. You will receive a score from 0 to 30 for each section. The maximum score for the exam is 120.

IELTS is graded by humans and has separate scores for each team. You can get anywhere from 0-9, and if you did not perform well at one of the sections, it would bring your total down.

For both exams, you will have to wait at least ten days to get your results.

  1. Precise vs. Averaged

With the TOEFL score, you get a more precise understanding of your English proficiency because it uses 1-20 scoring methods for each section. Plus, TOEFL does not round up the scores, while IELTS scores are rounded up.

Total score comparison:

TOEFL ScoreIELTS Band
0-310-4
32-344.5
35-455
46-595.5
60-786
79-936.5
94-1017
102-1097.5
110-1148
115-1178.5
118-1209

For a more detailed comparison between IELTS and TOEFL scoring and conversion, go to the official ETS website.

✍️ Which Is Easier: TOEFL or IELTS?

One more question remains open: what test is easier to pass? Of course, it is a personal choice. Nevertheless, we’ve prepared a survey that will help you to determine what test suits your needs better.

Before making this decision, you have to find out:

  • Do you even have an option to choose between the tests, or you have to pass a specific test?
  • What test is more preferable in the country where you are planning to go?
  • Does your university accept both tests or a specific one?

Even though it is hard to compare IELTS and TOEFL directly, answering these questions can help you determine which is better: TOEFL or IELTS for you. Answer yes/no to each question.

  1. Are you comfortable with computers? Yes/No
  2. Are you pleased speaking to a mic? Yes/No
  3. Can you type quickly? Yes/No
  4. Do you prefer standard American English? Yes/No
  5. Are you good at answering multiple-choice questions? Yes/No
  6. Is it easy for you to take notes from a recording? Yes/No
  7. The sources that you listen to in English are informative rather than entertaining? Yes/No

Look at your answers: if you have more YES than NO, TOEFL will probably be a much easier option for you. In another case, you should consider IELTS.

Thank you for reading the article, and hopefully, it will help you choose what exam to pick. Share it with your classmates, friends, and colleagues who are facing the same choice. Good luck with your exam!

🔗 References

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