TOEFL vs IELTS: Which One Should You Take?

TOEFL vs IELTS: Which One Should You Take?

If you are planning to study abroad or looking for a job in an English-speaking country, you will likely need to prove your English proficiency by taking a standardized test. Two of the most commonly recognized tests are the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). But which one is easier, and how much time is required for preparation? In this article, we will explore the differences between these two tests and help you make an informed decision.


The IELTS test is administered by the British Councils, the University of Cambridge, and IELTS Australia. It is associated with the British government and traditionally was used by British universities, as well as New Zealand and Australian universities, to determine the language capability of foreign students. TOEFL, on the other hand, is administered by ETS, a US-based non-profit, and is used widely by American and Canadian universities.

However, these days, universities all over the world accept both TOEFL and IELTS scores. So, it’s essential to check with the specific university you want to apply to. In general, any school in the US, the UK, Australia, or New Zealand will take either test score. Therefore, you can pick the test you think will be easier for you to complete.

Structure of TOEFL

As of last year, official TOEFL is almost universally given in the iBT (Internet-Based Testing) format. It consists of four sections:


The TOEFL Reading section asks you to read 4-6 passages of university level and to answer multiple-choice questions about them. The questions test you on comprehension of the text, main ideas, important details, vocabulary, inferring, rhetorical devices, and style.


The Listening Section presents long 2-3 conversations and 4-6 lectures. The situations are always related to university life, such as a conversation between a student and a librarian about finding research materials, or a lecture from a history class. The questions are multiple choice and ask you about important details, inferences, tone, and vocabulary. The conversations and lectures are very natural and include informal English, interruptions, filler noises like “uh” or “Uhm.”


The Speaking section is recorded. You will speak into a microphone, and a grader will listen to your answers at a later date and grade you. Two questions will be on familiar topics and ask you to give your opinion and/or describe something familiar to you, like your town or your favorite teacher. Two questions will ask you to summarize information from a text and a conversation–and may ask your opinion as well. Two questions will ask you to summarize information from a short conversation. Again, the topics of the conversations are always university-related.


Finally, there are two short essays on the TOEFL. One will ask you to write your opinion on a broad topic, such as whether it is better to live in the country or the city. One will ask you to summarize information from a text and a lecture–often the two will disagree with each other, and you will need to either compare and contrast, or synthesize conflicting information.

Structure of IELTS

The IELTS contains the same four sections, Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing, but the format is very different.


The reading section of the IELTS gives you three texts, which may be from academic textbooks or from a newspaper or magazine, but all at the level of a university student. One will always be an opinion piece, in an editorial, and the other two will be factual. You will have to answer a variety of question types, including multiple choice, matching, and sentence completion.


The Listening section is similar to that of TOEFL, with four recordings. However, they may include a wider variety of accents and will be played only once. There will also be a mix of question types, including multiple choice, note completion, and diagram labeling.


The Speaking section of the IELTS is also recorded and consists of three parts. In Part 1, you will answer general questions about yourself and your life. In Part 2, you will be given a card with a topic on it and have one minute to prepare a response, then two minutes to speak. In Part 3, you will have a longer discussion with the examiner about more abstract issues related to the topic in Part 2.


The Writing section of the IELTS also has two tasks, but they are different from those in the TOEFL. Task 1 requires you to describe a graph, chart, or diagram, while Task 2 asks you to write an essay in response to a prompt.

Difficulty and Preparation Time

There is no clear answer to the question of which test is easier. It depends on your individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as the types of questions you feel most comfortable answering.

However, the TOEFL is generally considered more academic in nature, with passages and questions that may be more challenging for some test-takers. It also places a heavier emphasis on grammar and vocabulary. The IELTS, on the other hand, may be seen as more practical, with questions that are more similar to real-life situations and less emphasis on formal grammar.

In terms of preparation time, both tests require a significant amount of studying, especially if you are not already highly proficient in English. However, the TOEFL may require more time to prepare for due to its academic focus and the need to practice reading and writing at a high level.


In conclusion, the choice between the TOEFL and the IELTS ultimately depends on your individual needs and preferences. If you are applying to schools or jobs in the US or Canada, the TOEFL may be the better choice, while the IELTS may be more suitable for those looking to study or work in the UK, Australia, or New Zealand. However, both tests are recognized globally, and many universities and employers accept either score.

Ultimately, the best way to prepare for either test is to practice and study consistently, focusing on your individual areas of weakness. With dedication and hard work, you can achieve success on either test and open up new opportunities for yourself in the English-speaking world.

Here are some links to resources that can help you improve your English skills: : full of free tips to improve your English

Duolingo: Duolingo is a popular language learning app that can help you improve your English proficiency. It offers a range of activities and exercises to help you learn and practice English.

BBC Learning English: BBC Learning English provides free English language learning resources, including videos, audio lessons, quizzes, and vocabulary exercises.

English Central: English Central is an online English language learning platform that offers video lessons and interactive quizzes to help you improve your speaking, listening, and comprehension skills.

English Grammar Online: This website provides free grammar lessons and exercises to help you improve your English grammar skills.

English Pronunciation: This website offers a range of resources to help you improve your English pronunciation, including videos, audio recordings, and pronunciation exercises.

TED Talks: Watching TED Talks can be an excellent way to improve your English listening and comprehension skills. The talks cover a wide range of topics and are available with English subtitles.

The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University: The OWL provides free writing resources and instructional materials to help you improve your writing skills, including grammar, punctuation, and citation style.

Quizlet: Quizlet is an online learning tool that offers flashcards, quizzes, and games to help you improve your English vocabulary and spelling.

Grammarly: Grammarly is an online grammar and writing checker that can help you improve your writing skills by identifying errors and suggesting corrections.

I hope these resources are helpful to you in improving your English skills!

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