English Language Proficiency Tests: TOEFL vs IELTS

Most colleges and universities in the US require international students to submit their scores on English language proficiency exams like TOEFL and IELTS. If you are not a native speaker of the English language, it might be difficult for you to learn in English. English language proficiency exam tests your ability to learn from the curriculum that is completely designed in English in an English-speaking environment. 

Colleges and universities consider these exams important since your ability to perform there depend upon how able you are to grab the knowledge provided by them. One cannot gain knowledge without knowing its language. 

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is the most accepted English proficiency test in the US. It is recognized by all the universities in the US. Many universities also consider IELTS (International English Language Testing Service). Some also accept the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE-Academic). Recently, a larger number of universities than ever have started accepting IELTS.

You might be wondering which test you should take. We have marked some differences between these two tests for you to choose one between them. 

Administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS)British Council, University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, IDP
UsesUS EnglishUK English
Sections ReadingSpeakingListeningWritingReadingSpeaking (in person)ListeningWriting
Scores Total 0-120 pointsBetween 0 and 9 with half scores
CostUS $ 160-250Depending on locationUS $ 205 Depending on the location

The TOEFL Exam

The TOEFL exam is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a U.S. non-profit organization. Therefore, the exam is conducted in U.S. English. The test is administered either 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 $160 to $250 USD, depending on where you take the test.

The TOEFL is broken into four 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: the British Council, the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, and IDP Education Australia. As a result, the test uses U.K. English. For students more familiar with U.K. English, the IELTS may be a better option. Like 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 main differences of IELTS is that you can take an Academic exam or General Training exam. The Academic exam is geared toward those seeking to enter university whereas 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. While the exact cost is determined by your local currency, if you take the test in the U.S., it costs around $215 to $240 USD. Similar to the TOEFL, 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:


*Source: http://www.ets.org/toefl/institutions/scores/compare/

However, not all universities in the US accept both the tests. You can check the respective college sites to learn about their English proficiency requirements. 


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