Difference Between TOEFL and IELTS


In order to choose between TOEFL and IELTS, one needs to know the difference between TOEFL and IELTS first. You have to choose between these two tests when you are planning on going abroad for higher education or for employment. This applies to you if you are a non-native English speaker. Now, TOEFL and IELTS are two international standardized tests that assess a person’s proficiency in English. These are tests required to be taken if one wishes to go to English speaking countries such as UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, etc. The scores of these tests are accepted by most higher education institutes in these countries and those not qualifying either of these exams cannot seek admission in Universities in English speaking countries. While both look similar, there are differences between the two tests which are necessary to comprehend so that those aspiring to go to these countries can take the correct test.

What is TOEFL?

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. TOEFL exam started in 1964. TOEFL result is valid till two years. Also, TOEFL is offered as a paper based test (PBT) as well as an internet based test (iBT). iBT is offered more than 50 times a year. It can be taken only once in any 12-day period.

Difference Between TOEFL and IELTS

What is IELTS?

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. IELTS result is valid till two years. IELTS test is also offered multiple times a year. There is no online version of IELTS as TOEFL has.

What is the difference between TOEFL and IELTS?

• While TOEFL is conducted by ETS, a nonprofit organization in US, IELTS is jointly managed by the British Council, University of Cambridge, and IELTS Australia.

• While IELTS scores are valid in US also, Universities in US and Canada prefer TOEFL over IELTS.

• One of the biggest differences between IELTS and TOEFL is that while IELTS assesses proficiency in British English, TOEFL measures proficiency in US English.

• Though both assess abilities in reading, writing, speaking, and listening, formats of the two tests are quite different.

• TOEFL has more multiple choice questions while in IELTS candidates have to copy words after listening to a conversation.

• For some, it is easier to prepare for TOEFL as the format remains constant, while format in IELTS keeps changing.

• Marking is also different in both the tests. While, in TOEFL, small grammatical mistakes are generally ignored if the topic has been handled well by the candidate, in IELTS, a candidate cannot hope to be marked leniently.

• One major difference between IELTS and TOEFL lies in the fact that IELTS also has a General version for those who are immigrating to English speaking countries and would be working in environments that are not academic in nature. TOEFL does not make any difference between candidates.

• While TOEFL focuses on North America, IELTS has been designed to take into account various accents and situations. So unless you are trying to go to a specific North American region, it is better to take IELTS.

• While scores are given in a band of 0-9 in IELTS, scores in TOEFL are between 310 and 677. There is also an online version of TOEFL where scores are provided with a highest possible score of 120.

• While the duration of IELTS is 2hr 45min, TOEFL, internet based test is longer and has a duration of about 4 hours. TOEFL paper based test is about 2 hours and 30 minutes.



IELTS and TOEFL are international level tests of English that are used to assess proficiency of candidates in English. Both IELTS and TOEFL scores are accepted by Universities in English speaking countries. While TOEFL has a focus on North American countries, IELTS is broader in nature. Also, IELTS has a general version that is for people not going to English speaking countries for higher studies, while TOEFL makes no difference between different categories of candidates. Unless you are going to North America, you can take IELTS.

Images Courtesy: TOEFL logo via Wikicommons (Public Domain)