IELTS vs. TOEFL: Which English Language Proficiency Test Is Right for You?

When it comes to proving your English language proficiency for academic or professional purposes, two major standardized tests stand out: the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Both tests have their own unique features and are widely accepted by universities, employers, and immigration authorities around the world. In this blog, we’ll compare and contrast IELTS and TOEFL to help you determine which one is the right fit for your needs.

Test Format:

IELTS: IELTS offers two formats – Academic and General Training. The Academic test is tailored for individuals planning to pursue higher education, while the General Training test is for those seeking employment or immigration. Both formats have the same Listening and Speaking sections, but they differ in the Reading and Writing components. For instance, in the IELTS Academic test, the reading materials are more academically oriented, whereas in the General Training test, they are focused on everyday scenarios.

TOEFL: TOEFL primarily provides an internet-based test (iBT). However, it also offers a paper-based test (PBT) and a computer-based test (CBT) in areas where the internet-based version is not available. The TOEFL iBT is designed to assess academic English skills and is commonly used for university admissions.

Test Sections:

IELTS: IELTS comprises four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Each of these sections is designed to evaluate different language skills. For example, the Listening and Speaking sections test your ability to comprehend spoken English and communicate verbally. The Reading and Writing sections assess your reading comprehension and writing skills.

TOEFL: The TOEFL iBT also has four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. One notable feature of TOEFL is its emphasis on integrated skills. In TOEFL, you often encounter tasks that combine multiple language skills. For instance, you might read a passage, listen to a related lecture, and then provide written and spoken responses.


IELTS: IELTS uses a 9-band scoring system for each section, and your overall performance is calculated as an average of these scores. This means that your overall Band Score can range from 0 to 9, with half-band increments, providing a more detailed evaluation of your proficiency.

TOEFL: TOEFL iBT scores on a scale of 0 to 120, with each section worth 30 points. Scores are based on the number of correct answers and are converted into this scale. While TOEFL provides a single, cumulative score, IELTS gives you a more comprehensive breakdown of your language abilities.

Test Duration:

IELTS: The total test duration for IELTS is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes for both Academic and General Training tests. The Speaking section is conducted in a separate session, often on the same day or within a week of the main test.

TOEFL: The TOEFL iBT takes about 3 hours to complete. Like IELTS, TOEFL also schedules the Speaking section separately.

Test Accessibility:

IELTS: IELTS is available in over 140 countries and is administered by the British Council, IDP (International Development Program), and Cambridge Assessment English. This widespread availability makes it accessible to a broad range of test-takers.

TOEFL: TOEFL iBT is offered in more than 160 countries and is administered by ETS (Educational Testing Service), the same organization that administers GRE and other standardized tests. This broad global presence ensures that TOEFL is widely accessible as well.


IELTS: IELTS is recognized and accepted by universities in English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. It is also accepted by immigration authorities in many countries, including Canada.

TOEFL: TOEFL is often preferred by universities in the United States, although it is recognized in other countries as well. If you plan to study in the U.S., TOEFL may be the more common requirement.

Speaking Assessment:

IELTS: In the IELTS Speaking section, you have a face-to-face interview with an examiner. While this personal interaction can be more engaging, it may also feel intimidating for some candidates.

TOEFL: TOEFL Speaking tasks are recorded responses to prompts. Test-takers provide spoken responses to questions or tasks presented through headphones. This format can be less intimidating but lacks the personal interaction that IELTS offers.

Reading and Listening Materials:

IELTS: IELTS uses a range of accents and English varieties in its listening tests. This is designed to prepare test-takers for life in English-speaking countries with diverse linguistic backgrounds. If you plan to live in an English-speaking country, this exposure can be beneficial.

TOEFL: TOEFL primarily employs American accents in its listening sections. While this is beneficial if you intend to study in the United States, it may be a preference or disadvantage based on your goals.

Choosing between IELTS and TOEFL depends on several factors, including the format, scoring, duration, accessibility, acceptance by your desired institutions, and your personal comfort with the test format. The location where you plan to study or work also plays a crucial role in your decision.

In either case, thorough preparation is essential. Regardless of the test you choose, diligent practice and familiarity with the test format will greatly improve your chances of success. Both IELTS and TOEFL are valuable tools for demonstrating your English language proficiency and unlocking numerous opportunities in English-speaking countries around the world.