Which is Better, the TOEFL or the IELTS?

Which is Better, the TOEFL or the IELTS?

If you want to apply to a postgraduate degree at a foreign university or to some scholarships that allow you to do so, you may have realized that one of the requirements is to demonstrate that you have the ability to communicate in the English language through the TOEFL or the IELTS. Institutions often ask for it to ensure that you have the language tools necessary for academic success. For this reason, we will explain the main differences between each exam so that you can choose which one to present according to your profile.

It should be noted that both the TOEFL and the IELTS have different types of tests, according to abbreviationfinder. But, as we are interested in talking about these exams as a requirement to enter a foreign university, we will focus on the TOEFL iBT (Internet Based Test) and the IELTS Academic.

Which is better the TOEFL or the IELTS

What is the TOEFL iBT?

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardized test in order to measure proficiency in the English language. This test belongs to Educational Testing Service (ETS for its acronym) and, according to its page (sf) the qualification awarded “is accepted by more than 10,000 universities and other institutions around the world […]. It is the most preferred English test of universities in the United States, France and Germany, and of graduate programs in Canada ”. Usually, this exam is one of the requirements for foreign students who want to apply to universities in Canada or the United States and who did not complete their high school diploma in an English-speaking country.

What is the IELTS?

The IELTS (International Language Testing Service) also measures English language proficiency in a standardized way and belongs to the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English. According to the official page of this test (sf), ” an IELTS certificate is recognized as evidence of English proficiency by more than 10,000 education and training providers around the world.” This exam is mostly accepted by universities in the European Union, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. No minimum score is required to pass this exam, but the institutions are in charge of determining the score threshold that you must meet in order to be accepted.

Exam format

The duration of the IELTS is 2 hours 45 minutes, while the TOEFL iBT is approximately 3 hours in total.

Both tests seek to measure your skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking. However, the way to do it is very different.


Regarding the TOEFL iBT, you will be asked to read 3 or 4 paragraphs of texts and answer 30 to 40 questions in a time of 54 to 72 minutes. While for the same section, in the IELTS you will have 60 minutes to read 3 texts and answer 40 questions.


In the TOEFL, listening you will have to listen to lectures, debates and conversations in class to later answer 28 to 39 questions in 41 to 57 minutes. While for the IELTS you will have 30 minutes to listen to 4 audios to answer 40 questions.


If you take the TOEFL, in this section you will have to express an opinion on a familiar topic, speak on the basis of reading and listening tasks in 17 minutes. While for the IELTS you will have to answer a series of questions asked by the examiner about familiar topics (family, work, interests, etc.) and about a particular topic assigned in a time of 11 to 14 minutes.


Finally, in the TOEFL you will have to write answers in the form of an essay on reading and listening tasks; as well as substantiate a written opinion within a limit of 50 minutes. For the IELTS in this section you will have 60 minutes to complete two tasks. The first is to describe visual information such as tables, graphs, and diagrams in your words. The second will be to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem.

Top Score

For the TOEFL iBT you will receive 4 scores per section and a total. The section grades will range from 0 to 30 and the overall grade can range from 0 to 120. For the IELTS, the results are reported as scores ranging from 1 (lowest) to 9 (highest). This result is obtained from the score of each section of the exam, which are averaged and rounded.

Score validity

Both exams are valid for 2 years from the exam date. After that time, you will have to take the exam again since the command of the language can change in a short period of time.

Where to take the exam?

These exams are carried out in authorized centers located in different parts of the world. To do this, if you want to know the center closest to you to take any of these two exams, we recommend you do it through its official pages.



In summary:

Exam features IELTS TOEFL
Skills to evaluate Listening comprehension, reading comprehension, written expression and oral expression. Listening comprehension, reading comprehension, written expression and oral expression.
Modality required for academic studies IELTS Academic TOEFL iBT (Internet-based test)
Exam duration 2 hours 45 minutes 3 hours approximately
Evaluation scale 0 (did not present) – 9 (expert user) All sections: 0 to 30 points.Total: 0 to 120 points.
Price It depends on the country and the modality It depends on the country and the modality
Validity 2 years after the exam date 2 years after the exam date


What test to take?

Neither exam is easier than the other since both only seek to identify your level of English, but it is true that you can choose one or the other strategically to obtain the best results. The factor or factors that should lead you to choose one exam over the other are precisely the differences between the two tests, since that is why one can perform better than the other.

One of the main differences to take into account is that the IELTS is a paper test that requires you to write with good spelling and grammar for most of the test since mistakes are penalized. Meanwhile, in the TOEFL the written part is lower compared to the IELTS. Also, another big difference is that the Speaking section is done with a qualified examiner as far as IELTS is concerned. On the other hand, for the TOEFL you will only have to speak through a microphone and your audio will be sent to ETS where you will be scored by a combination of AI and accredited evaluators. Also, it should be noted that the IELTS tends to use British English and TOEFLuse American English. So, for the hearing tests, you should take into consideration whether you are more used to the American accent or the British accent.

When deciding which exam to take, you should take into account your strengths and weaknesses. That is, if your strength is not written essays, but you have very good grammar and vocabulary, IELTS can make it easier for you. But, if you have less ability to express yourself orally than in writing, the TOEFL may be convenient for you.

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