Thursday, November 14, 2013

TOEFL vs. IELTS for English Proficiency Exams

Admit Data: Make Informed Admissions Decisions
By Mirae Kang

Chances are if you studied in a non-English speaking country, you will need to take an English proficiency exam. The most common exams are the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing Service).

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These two exams are administered by two different companies - and now that you know that, you may be left wondering, “What option would be the best for me?” Don’t worry! We’re here to help you understand some of the differences between each exam as well as which may be better for you. 

The TOEFL Test

The TOEFL test is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a U.S. non-profit organization. Therefore, the exam is conducted based off of U.S. English. The test is either administered via paper or the Internet, depending on where you take the test. The Internet-based test is commonly called TOEFL iBT and accepted by more than 8,500 institutions worldwide. The TOEFL test can be taken more than 50 times a year and students can retake it as many times as they want. However, you are allowed to take it only once every 12 days. Keep in mind too that the cost of the test ranges anywhere from US$160-US$250, depending on where you take the test. 

The TOEFL is broken into four separate sections that test each student on their reading, listening, speaking, and writing abilities. The entire test takes four and a half hours overall, with scores ranging from 0-120 points.

The IELTS Test

The IELTS test is administered by three companies which include the British Council, the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia. As a result, the test uses UK English. For students more familiar with UK English, the IELTS may be a better option. Like the TOEFL, you can take the exam either as a computer-based test (CBT) or paper-based test. The IELTS is accepted by more than 8,000 organizations worldwide! One of the IELTS’ differences is that you can take an Academic exam or General Training exam. The Academic exam is geared towards those seeking to enter university while the General Training exam is more for individuals planning to immigrate to English-speaking countries.

The IELTS is offered up to four times a month worldwide and costs around US$205 – but the exact cost is determined by your local currency. Similar to the TOEFL, the IELTS is broken into four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. However, the speaking portion of the exam is administered face-to-face by a native speaker. The entire exam takes about two hours and 45 minutes and test scores range between 0-9 with half scores.

Below is a comparison of test scores for TOEFL and IELTS:

So, if you are an international student thinking about studying abroad in the U.S. make sure to confirm with the schools that you will apply to for their testing requirements. Not all U.S. universities may accept both or some may prefer one over the other. Don’t hesitate to ask questions!


Mirae Kang is a Research Associate of the Research and Advisory Services team for World Education Services in New York. She manages WES Student Advisor, an initiative to help prospective international students find free and reliable information about studying abroad in the U.S. When not helping students, she likes to cross oceans and relax with a great fiction novel.


  1. RAHUL GATHANIAJuly 07, 2014

    This is rahul gathania i am MBA and currently doing job with MNC and i want to apply for course of 1 year in SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT, couid you please help me out in kind of admission process when to apply and what is procedure to get loan facility and scholarship.

  2. it is difficult to predict about success without knowing more about language performance in the individual sections and English level generally.

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  3. it is difficult to predict about success without knowing more about language performance in the individual sections and English level generally. A lot also depends on how much time student have to study and improve your English and which methods are using to do this.

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  4. I took IELTS 2 years back and last week I took TOEFL. One major difference I found is that while IELTS concentrates on one skill at a time, you may need to you multiple skills at once in TOEFL. This is true especially for TOEFL Speaking and Writing sections which have integrated tasks.

  5. Hi, I have a question, I have more of an American accent but I am from Europe and living in Europe, where I have heard the Cambridge exam is better known. Would it be a problem if I have an American accent and use American English during the Cambridge exam?

  6. I work with many 'highly skilled' migrants. Doctors in fact. And I can assure you that the requirement for an English language test is entirely necessary. I think you'll find you have to sit the IELTS test if applying to work in the UK or US as well.

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  7. This is important to remember while you are browsing IELTS or TOEFL preparation course, if you are planning on applying for citizenship or collage and intend to use your results as an entry requirement.

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  8. Great Blog! I am preparing for IELTS preparation & looking forward to get admitted to USA top university. I really enjoyed your blog and definitely share with friend. Thanks

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  9. Good and interesting information.


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