IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) are the two popularly accepted English language proficiency tests worldwide. Universities in English-speaking countries require international applicants to submit their IELTS or TOEFL scores as evidence of their English language skills. Countries where English is the native language include U.K, U.S, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Selecting which English language proficiency test to take depends on various factors such as the school to which the aspiring student is applying, the difficulty level of the exams, feasibility and accessibility, as well as exam pattern. Both TOEFL and IELTS cover the same skills as a part of their test structure, which is reading, writing, speaking and listening.
IELTS is offered in two test types: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. The IELTS Academic is for students who plan to pursue higher education abroad, whereas IELTS General Training is taken by applicants aiming for a career in or immigration to an English-speaking country.
TOEFL is offered through TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials, and candidates can choose which TOEFL test to take out of the two based on their requirements. While TOEFL iBT assesses communicative skills in the academic context, TOEFL Essentials evaluates language proficiency in both academic and general everyday settings.
As per the IELTS exam pattern, the exam is of 2 hours and 45 minutes duration, whereas the duration of TOEFL iBT is 3 hours with 10 minutes break. In IELTS exam, the listening section is of 30 minutes with 40 questions where students are required to listen to 4 recordings of native English speakers. The reading section lasts for 60 minutes and consists of 40 questions which examine skills such as reading for detail, reading for main ideas, understanding logical arguments and skimming.
The 60-minute long writing section of the IELTS exam consists of 2 questions, which are, describing visual information in your own words and writing an essay in academic or semi-formal style. The speaking section of the exam comprises an oral interview between test taker and examiner that is recorded. The speaking test lasts for 11 – 14 minutes.
According to the TOEFL iBT exam pattern, the reading section consists of 3 – 4 reading passages and last for 54 – 72 minutes. There are 10 questions for each passage. The listening section is of 41 to 57 minutes in duration and consists of 2-3 conversations and 3-4 lectures. The lectures are of 3-5 minutes each and the conversations are of 3 minutes duration each.
The speaking section in TOEFL lasts for 17 minutes and is based on real-life contexts, both academic and general everyday settings. Candidates get 15 – 30 seconds of preparation time before responding and their response needs to be 45 – 60 seconds long. In contrast to IELTS, the TOEFL speaking test is not conducted with an examiner and instead requires test takers to speak into the microphone for their responses to be recorded.
The writing section of TOEFL is of 50 minutes duration and comprises 2 types of questions – writing a response to a passage or a recording and writing an essay based on a given topic.
The TOEFL iBT score ranges from 0 – 30 and the total score ranges from 0 – 120. Each skill falls into various levels of proficiency categorized as advanced, high-intermediate, low-intermediate, and below low-intermediate. Top universities need a TOEFL score of around 100 for admissions.
IELTS scores are reported on a 9-band scale from 1 (lowest) to 9 (highest). Most high-ranking universities need a minimum band score of 7 for admission to their programs. Candidates scoring 7 and above are categorized as proficient users as per the CEFR framework.
The TOEFL iBT registration fee is INR 16,900 and the IELTS registration fee is INR 16,250. There is not much difference in the application fee for the two tests, however, the fee is subject to fluctuation.