Differences between IELTS and TOEFL. All you need to know

Along with the GRE and GMAT exams, English proficiency exams like IELTS and TOEFL are essential for university applications to English speaking countries.  

Usually, all applicants having non-English speaking backgrounds have to report their IELTS/TOEFL scores to the university they apply to.  

Difference between IELTS and TOEFL


IELTS and TOEFL test format

IELTS and TOEFL test format

Let us now analyse the section-wise difference between the exams of IELTS and TOEFL

Writing section

In IELTS, students have to answer two writing questions

  • First question requires students to examine and explain a picture or a chart.
  • Second question, the student has to write 200-250 words on a given argument.  

For the TOEFL,

  • First question’s answer is a 5-paragraph essay.
  • In the second question, the students have to write notes (150-225 words) from a given text. 

Speaking section

The IELTS test is conducted face to face, for 10 – 15 minutes students need to talk at length about a familiar topic and answer questions.  

In TOEFL, the duration of the section is 20 minutes the speaking assessment is recorded through a microphone, then sent to the examiners. 

Reading section

IELTS test includes three questions in this section, and the students have to answer questions in different formats like gap fillings, short answers, etc., after reading three long passages.  

For TOEFL, the reading consists of 36-56 tasks based on reading academic texts and answering them through your lens of understanding. 

Listening section

In the listening section of IELTS, students will have to answer questions based on four monologues that will be played for them, whereas the TOEFL test will be on classroom lectures and applicants taking notes while listening to the audio.  

Students have to solve MCQs in a given duration of 40-60 minutes in the TOEFL listening component.


Which exam should you take? 

The above question’s answer depends on the country and the institute you want to study in. Some universities accept either of these tests with individual score requirements.  

However, we recommend you to think closely about the question types and formats that suit you and then decide. After the university’s requirement, it boils down to your needs.

Need more help? Consult a career counsellor to make the best choices for you!

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