Comparing IELTS and TOEFL: Which English Proficiency Test is Right for You?


For international students aspiring to study in English-speaking countries, proving their proficiency in the English language is a crucial step in the admissions process. Two of the most widely recognized and accepted tests for this purpose are the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). While both tests assess English language skills, they have distinct differences that make them suitable for different needs and preferences. In this article, we will explore the key differences between IELTS and TOEFL to help you determine which one is right for you.

  1. Test Format:

    • IELTS: IELTS offers two versions – Academic and General Training. The Academic version is tailored for university admissions, while the General Training version is used for immigration and work purposes. IELTS consists of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

    • TOEFL: TOEFL has a single format focused on academic English proficiency. It comprises four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing.

  2. Scoring System:

    • IELTS: IELTS employs a 9-band scoring system, ranging from 1 (non-user) to 9 (expert user). Each section (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking) receives an individual band score, and an overall band score is also provided.

    • TOEFL: TOEFL uses a scoring scale of 0 to 120. Each section (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing) is scored on a scale of 0 to 30 points.

  3. Accent and Pronunciation:

    • IELTS: IELTS takes an international approach to accents and pronunciation. Examiners are trained to understand a variety of accents, and test-takers are encouraged to use their natural accent during the Speaking test.

    • TOEFL: TOEFL predominantly employs American English as the standard accent. Test-takers are expected to understand and use American English accents during the test.

  4. Test Delivery:

    • IELTS: The Speaking test in IELTS is conducted face-to-face with a trained examiner. Other sections may be paper-based or computer-based, depending on the test center.

    • TOEFL: TOEFL is primarily offered as a computer-based test. The Speaking section is recorded and evaluated by human scorers at a later stage.

  5. Test Duration:

    • IELTS: The total duration for IELTS varies depending on the format and version but typically takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes.

    • TOEFL: TOEFL takes approximately 3 hours to complete.

  6. Validity:

    • Both IELTS and TOEFL scores are generally valid for two years from the test date.


When deciding between IELTS and TOEFL, consider your individual preferences, the requirements of the universities or programs you are applying to, and your comfort with the test format. If you prefer face-to-face speaking assessments and appreciate an international approach to English accents, IELTS might be the better choice. On the other hand, if you are comfortable with American English and prefer a computer-based format, TOEFL could be the test for you. Ultimately, both tests are respected and widely accepted, so you can confidently choose the one that aligns with your goals and abilities. Whichever you choose, thorough preparation is key to achieving your desired scores and advancing your academic journey in an English-speaking environment.

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