Difference between TOEFL and IELTS

Key difference: IELTS and TOEFL are international language tests that are used to assess the proficiency of candidates in English. The key difference between the two tests is based on the vocabulary and accents of the students wherein IELTS is a British\ Australian Exam and the TOEFL is an American Exam.

TOEFL and IELTS are two main language tests that are mainly designed to test a student’s profanity in the English language, especially their ability to communicate effectively in a classroom and to fit in a predominant English speaking culture. Also, it is usually a requirement for students from countries, where English is not the primary language. Hence, it is a way for universities and colleges to check a student’s compatibility with English. Although, both these tests are similar in their ambition and focus, they widely differ in their approach and testing criteria.

The term ‘TOEFL’ stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is the most popular and recognized test that are taken by nonnative students of English. It is generally required by most US institutions. It measures the student's ability to write, read, and communicate in English under the college and university settings. After the exam, the result of the test is then used by colleges, universities and scholarship agencies to access students for accepting to a university.

TOEFL can be usually given on a paper based test, or a computer based test or directly through the internet. Though, currently, there are only paper based and internet based (iBT) options available. These sections consist of reading, listening, speaking and writing sections that are required to test a student.

On the other hand, the term ‘IELTS’ stands for International English Language Testing Service. Similar to TOEFL, IELTS is too designed for nonnative speakers of English. Also, it is used to measure a student’s ability to communicate in English though the same listening, reading, writing and speaking skills. It can also be given by people who are in foreign countries under work visa. Though, IELTS is required by higher education institutions and various programs in UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Thus, from the above definition, it is pretty clear that international students can opt for either TOEFL or IELTS. But, then again, both these exams have their differences, which can be read in the table below. So, which exam is considered the best? The answer depends on where the student wants to go and which exam pattern he or she is comfortable with. TOEFL may tend to favor more abstract learners as many of the questions are multiple choices whereas IELTS may be more suited to concrete learners as it involves memory recall. Also, one should make sure which test does the company or university, she or he is applying too, prefer.

Comparison between TOEFL and IELTS:





The term ‘TOEFL’ stands for ‘Test of English as a Foreign Language’.  

The term ‘IELTS’ stands for ‘International English Language Testing System’.


It is conducted by ETS (United States of America)

It is conducted by University of Cambridge UK.


It measures a student’s ability to communicate effectively in a classroom and to fit in a predominant English speaking culture.

Here, the intent is to check a tester’s English speaking ability for work, college, and at times, it is also required for visa.


  • The main focus, here, is on the North American speakers and hearers.
  • It incorporates only north American accent in the test.
  • It is designed to fit in a variety of languages and accents.
  • It incorporates the accents of many different countries in the test.


The test is based on American English.

The test is based on British English.


There is only one type:


There are two types:



Accepted in

It is accepted in American universities. Though, it is now accepted globally.

It is accepted in UK, Australia, and other common wealth countries.

Test basis

It is an internet based test.

It is a paper based test.

Test time

The time is 4 hours.

The time is 2hrs and 45 minutes.

Test sections  

It has four sections:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening and
  • Speaking

It has four sections:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening and
  • Speaking

Test format

It consist of:

  • A 20 minute speaking task.
  • A 60-90 minute listening task.
  • A 60-90 minute reading task.
  • A 50 minute writing task.

It consist of:

  • An 11-14 minute speaking task.
  • A 40 minute listening task.
  • A one hour reading task.
  • A one hour writing task.

Test score

The perfect score for this test is 120.

The perfect score for this test is 9.

Listening section

It has multiple choice questions.

Students have to copy down words after listening to them.

Difficulty level

It is considered easier because of the constant format of the test.

It is considered difficult because of the constant changes in the format.


The small grammatical mistakes are ignored.

The mistakes are not ignored.


There is no difference between the candidates.

There is a general version for immigrating candidates.


Depending on the countries, the price may vary, but often it is cheaper as compared to IELTS.

Depending on the countries, the price may vary, but often it is more expensive as compared to TOFEL.

Image Courtesy: higherscore.ca, enrichinstitute.org

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