TOEFL and IELTS are the most prominent English language proficiency tests. Most of the world’s top universities accept the scores from these tests for admission into their colleges. These tests also provide benchmarks for other language proficiency tests.

TOEFL Overview

TOEFL uses computer-based online methods for its tests. The duration is typically 2 hours, and results are delivered between 4 and 13 days via email. Students can also access their results via the website’s account, which is valid for 2 years. TOEFL has global acceptance in over 160 countries with its scoring system that assigns marks from 0 to 120.

IELTS Overview

IELTS allows examinees to choose between paper-based or computer-based exams that both last for the same duration of 2 hours and 45 minutes. The result processing takes 3 to 5 days for computer-based exams and up to 13 days for paper-based exams, available at the test center or test taker portal. IELTS awards examinees with band scores from 0 to 9, valid for 2 years. Over 11,000 organizations across 140 countries recognize these band scores as measures of applicants’ proficiency in English.

TOEFL vs IELTS: Test Format

TOEFL and IELTS both have four test sections. Each section has a different number of questions and test duration.

1. Reading Section

The reading section for TOEFL has a duration of 54 to 72 minutes with 3 to 4 passages. The objectives of this section are to read the passages and respond to the related questions. The passages can be up to 800 words long, with 10 questions each.

The IELTS reading section has 60 minutes for 3 passages with about 2500 words each. There are 40 questions of various types for every passage, such as multiple choice, matching headings, true or false, yes or no, sentence completion, and summary completion.

2. Listening Section

The listening section for TOEFL lasts 41 to 57 minutes and has around 28 questions to answer. Test takers must listen to about 6 audio clips during the test and answer the questions based on them. The clips are of university lectures or conversations between two or more people.

The IELTS listening section is further divided into four parts. These parts have a dialogue, a short speech, an academic conversation, and an academic lecture. The question types are similar to those in the reading section, with 40 questions and 40 minutes to answer.

3. Speaking Section

Test takers have 17 minutes to attempt 4 tasks in the TOEFL speaking section, during which they have to listen to questions and speak their answers into the microphone. Either computer AI or human examiners mark the answers based on various factors, such as correctness, clarity, and delivery.

Unlike TOEFL, an examiner conducts the speaking section of IELTS. The test may also be recorded for training and verification purposes. The speaking section has 3 parts: an introduction, speaking about a random topic, and a two-way conversation with the examiner.

4. Writing Section

The writing portion of TOEFL spans 50 minutes and consists of 2 parts. The first part requires reading a passage, listening to a recording, and writing a response. The second part has a task to write an essay following an online classroom discussion. The essay should support the opinions of the test takers formed during the talk.

The writing section of IELTS is different from TOEFL in that IELTS does not provide passages but graphs, charts, maps, and diagrams. Test takers have two tasks to complete. The first task requires them to write an academic essay with a formal tone and factual information in 150 words. The other task is to write a persuasive essay on common themes by giving your views and opinions. The time dedicated to each task is 20 and 40 minutes, respectively.

  IELTS TOEFL
  Duration (minutes) Questions/Tasks Duration (minutes) Questions/Tasks
Reading 60 40 each for 3 parts 54 to 72 10 each for 3 to 4 parts
Listening 40 40 each for 4 parts 41 to 57 6 each for 3 to 4 parts
Speaking 11 to 14 1 each for 3 parts 17 1 + 3 tasks
Writing 60 1 each for 2 parts 50 1 each for 2 parts

TOEFL and IELTS Score Comparison

TOEFL uses a scoring system that ranges from 0 to 120. This is the cumulative result of each skill or section of the test, which ranges from 0 to 30.

IELTS, on the other hand, provides band scores to the examinees. The latter can obtain band scores between 0 and 9 for each skill, and the average of all the band scores is calculated for the total IELTS score.

IELTS band score TOEFL score
0 to 4 0 to 31
4.5 32 to 34
5 35 to 45
5.5 46 to 59
6 60 to 78
6.5 79 to 93
7 94 to 101
7.5 102 to 109
8 110 to 114
8.5 115 to 117
9 118 to 120

TOEFL vs IELTS: Results and Acceptance

TOEFL is a preferred test for visa applications in the United States and Canada, while applicants for Australia, Great Britain, and New Zealand visas tend to choose IELTS.

However, both tests are globally accepted in most English-speaking countries, top universities, and government departments. Students and test takers can choose TOEFL or IELTS based on their comfort level with question types and structures.

TOEFL vs. IELTS: Which is Easier?

There is no straightforward answer to which test between TOEFL and IELTS is easier, as it depends on the students taking the test. Here are the various sides of these tests that affect your preparation:

  1. Format of Tests: Some students feel more comfortable with TOEFL, while others do better with IELTS. Students should take mock tests and orientation classes to understand the test format before starting their preparation.
  2. Accents: IELTS instructors often have British accents, and TOEFL instructors have American accents. The difference in accents can create difficulty following the lessons for some students. So, they can choose the test that is more convenient for them.

TOEFL vs. IELTS: Which is Better?

TOEFL is neither better nor worse than IELTS. The purpose of the English proficiency test and the test takers themselves are the determining factors in choosing either of these tests. Some other aspects to consider are:

  1. University Requirements: Some universities demand specific English proficiency tests from applicants during admission. Students who plan to join foreign universities must check all the requirements set by these universities for foreign languages.
  2. Visa Destination: Departments in certain countries require applicants to fulfill specific criteria regarding the visa. The rules may explicitly dictate the prerequisites for TOEFL or IELTS. In such cases, applicants have no choice but to take that precise test.
  3. Cost of Test: If the conditions for applicants are more lenient, the cost of the tests can be given higher priority. In 2024, the registration fee for TOEFL in Nepal is around NPR 25,000 to NPR 27,000, and it is around NPR 29,000 to NPR 32,000 for IELTS.
    Extra costs may be incurred for late fees, rescheduling, reinstatement of canceled scores, and additional score reports. All that said, students can choose more affordable tests and test centers to save some cash.

Conclusion

TOEFL and IELTS have many similarities and differences between them. Both tests have reading, listening, speaking, and writing components that assess specific skills. Each section is given individual scores and marks, which are combined to calculate a total score. The difference between the TOEFL and IELTS lies in the question format or structure, duration of each task, procedure of tests, test centers, and the cost of tests.

Students and test takers can choose the test they feel most comfortable with. They can check the format of the tests, the focused accent, and the cost of the test. If you still cannot decide between TOEFL and IELTS, consider meeting our expert consultants at AusStudies for proper guidance and informed decision-making.