If you are planning on applying to a university or job abroad in an English speaking country, you will most probably need to submit either an IELTS or TOEFL score depending on the country or university. You may have the option to choose either test; IELTS vs TOEFL. So, how do you know which test is a better fit for you? Keep reading to find out.

Firstly, it is essential to know the details of each test.


IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. There are two formats of the test; IELTS Academic and IELTS General. 

The Academic format focuses on higher-level English and is usually taken when applying for university. The General format tests your knowledge of social and workplace content. You should take it if you are applying for work or citizenship to an English speaking country.

The IELTS test checks your knowledge of English while testing your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. 


TOEFL is an abbreviation for the Test Of English as a Foreign Language. There are two methods of taking the test; paper-based and internet-based. The IBT (Internet-Based Test) is more common.

Similar to the IELTS, the TOEFL tests your understanding of reading, writing, listening, and speaking in the English language.

Difference between IELTS and TOEFL

Both the IELTS and TOEFL exams test the proficiency of English. IELTS is a British test and is more based on British English, while TOEFL is an American test based on American English. Anyway, either the use of British or American English is accepted for both tests.

The length of the IELTS test is two hours and forty-five minutes while the TOEFL is four hours long. For the IELTS test, the reading and writing sections are 60 minutes each, the listening section is 30 minutes, and the speaking section is between 11 and 14 minutes.

For the TOEFL test, the reading section is 60 to 80 minutes, the writing section is 50 minutes, and the listening section is 60 to 90 minutes, and the speaking section is 20 minutes.

Cost-wise, the TOEFL test tends to stay under $200 for most countries. The IELTS test is on the more expensive side as it costs between $215 and $275 depending on the country.

IELTS vs TOEFL: Reading Section

Both the IELTS and TOEFL reading sections check reading comprehension of academic texts. The test will be divided into three parts for the IELTS academic and three to five parts for the TOEFL. You will be allotted 20 minutes for each part of the reading section. You may divide the total time in any way you choose between the sections.

The IELTS reading section consists of three parts, with a total of 40 questions. The questions can be in short answer, fill-in-the-gap format, true or false and etc.

In the TOEFL reading section, you will typically get ten questions for each part. The number of parts can be between 3 and 5.

Writing Section

For both the IELTS and the TOEFL test, the writing section consists of two parts. Both parts will ask you to answer a question in the form of a short essay. 

In the IELTS academic writing section, the first part will ask you to analyze a graph or chart in 150 words. In the IELTS General Writing Task 1 you have to write a letter. The second part will ask you to write an essay with 250+ words for both academic and general tests.

The TOEFL writing section consists of two essays. The first will ask you to read a text and listen to a lecture, after which you have to write a 300 to 350-word response to a question. The second part will ask you to write another short essay. The suggestion is to write 350-400 words, but you may write more if you choose.

Listening Section

The IELTS listening section consists of 40 questions. You will have to answer these questions while you listen to an audio recording. There are many different types of questions. They may be fill-in-the-blank, completing the sentence, and more.

The TOEFL listening section will have two different types of recording; conversational and lecture. You will have to answer between 28 and 39 questions while listening to four to six recordings.

Speaking Section

The IELTS speaking section requires you to have a face-to-face conversation with a person in order to test your English speaking level. It is conducted like a normal conversation. You will be recorded while speaking.

The TOEFL speaking section consists of six sections. You will be given a question, a topic, or a lecture and asked to answer or give your opinion. You will be given time to prepare your answer. After, you will have to record your answers into a microphone.

IELTS vs TOEFL: Scoring

The scoring test differs for each test. The IELTS test is scored on a scale of 0 to 9. The average minimum score required by regularly ranked universities is usually a score of 6 or above. However, there are some universities that accept scores of 5.5.

The TOEFL scores are on a scale of 0 to 120. The average minimum TOEFL score required is a 78. Although, the mentioned scores do not guarantee or prohibit your university or company entrance, those are just global average scores.

Now that you know the details of each test, it will be easier for you to choose the right one to take. Good luck on your test!

ALISTAIR BROWN: As a writing and speaking examiner for more than 10 years, I bring a lot of experience. I have seen the frustrations that students have with IELTS from a career where I have actively guided and corrected students’ studies. I am looking for the most effective ways to teach IELTS as I understand students’ needs.