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TOEFL or IELTS: Which test to choose?

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a standardized test to measure the English language ability of non-native speakers wishing to enroll in English-speaking universities.

The International English Language Testing System or IELTS is an international standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers.

Both these tests are designed to analyze the English speaking and understanding ability of the non-native speakers.

Though the purpose of both these tests is almost the same, still there are some differences between them in terms of their format and evaluation.


  • IELTS is given for the purpose of Education, Immigration and Occupation.

IELTS is the only Secure English Language Test approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for visa customers applying both outside and inside the UK.

  • TOEFL is for the purpose of communication required for education.


  • IELTS is accepted in 130 countries and 9000 institutions.

  • TOEFL is accepted in 130 countries and 8500 institutions.


  • IELTS is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment.

  • TOEFL is a trademark of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private non-profit organization, which designs and administers the tests. ETS issues official score reports, sent independently to institutions, for two years following the test.


  • The medium of language for IELTS is the standard British English.

  • For TOEFL, the medium of language is the American English.


  • IELTS is more suitable if you are thinking of going to United Kingdom (UK), New Zealand or Australia.

  • Whereas if you are thinking of going to the United States for your higher education, TOEFL is the best option for you.

Now, after knowing some basic differences between the two tests, let us know more about the structure of each test.

IELTS Test Structure

Total Time Duration: 2 hours 45 minutes

Modules: There are two modules of the IELTS:

  • Academic Module: IELTS Academic is intended for those who want to enroll in universities and other institutions of higher education and for professionals such as medical doctors and nurses who want to study or practice in an English-speaking country.

  • General Training Module: IELTS General Training is intended for those planning to undertake non-academic training or to gain work experience, or for immigration purposes.

Parts: The IELTS test has four parts

  • Listening: 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes’ transfer time)

  • Reading: 60 minutes

  • Writing: 60 minutes

  • Speaking: 11–14 minutes

TOEFL Test Structure

In late 2005, the TOEFL was introduced as an Internet-based Test (iBT).

Total Time Duration: 4 hours

Sections: TOEFL consists of 4 sections

  • Reading: 3-5 passages on academic topics

  • Listening: 6 passages, 3-5 mins in length

  • Speaking: 6 tasks – 2 Independent & 4 Integrated

  • Writing: 2 tasks – INTEGRATED & INDEPENDENT

Each section measures one of the basic language skills. All tasks focus on language used in an academic, higher-education environment.

So now that you know all about these standardized tests and the differences between them, it will be easier for you to decide which test is best suited for you. Even though the scores are accepted globally but it is advisable and suitable for you to first understand the university guidelines and admissions requirements before choosing the test. If you are applying to a university which is located in the United States, then chances are that TOEFL is going to be a mandatory test for you whereas if the university you are applying to is located in UK, Australia or New Zealand, then maximum chances are that you will have to give IELTS as it is also required for the immigration purpose as well.

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