If you are trying to decide which English language exam you should take to show your competency, you’ve come to the right place. Traditionally, these tests are used for academic or business purposes, as well as immigration. The most common exams, the TOEFL and the IELTS, seem similar, so it can be confusing to know which test you should take. Ultimately, both tests are used to determine if the test taker can understand and use English.
While we can provide you all the information you need to compare the two exams, it is important that you consider your personal situation. For example, if you plan to take an English language exam for admission to a certain English-speaking university, then you should check with the university to see which exam’s scores they will accept.
To help you have a better understanding of the two different exams, let’s break them down.
An Overview of the TOEFL iBT
The Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based test (TOEFL iBT) is an exam used to test the test taker’s English proficiency at the university level. It is a product of ETS (Educational Testing Service). This test is thought to be used more often for students interested in attending English speaking universities because the questions are all academic. However, the scores from the exam may also be used by students and workers applying for visas.
Over 30 million people worldwide have taken the TOEFL, which is accepted at more than 10,000 organizations and institutions and in over 130 countries. The TOEFL iBT is taken on a computer through the internet. The exam measures the candidate’s English competency in reading, listening, speaking, and writing.
An Overview of the IELTS
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an English proficiency exam that is offered in two formats: academic or general training. The IELTS is used both for candidates hoping to attend English-speaking universities as well as those who hope to work in or immigrate to English-speaking countries.
According to IETLS, the IELTS Academic test is “for people applying for higher education or professional registration in an English speaking environment,” whereas the IELTS General Training test is “for those who are going to English speaking countries for secondary education, work experience or training programs. It is also a requirement for migration to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK.”
2.4 million people take the IELTS exam each year, which is accepted by more than 140 countries and by more than 8,000 organizations and institutions. The IELTS is taken in-person at the testing center. This exam also measures the candidate’s English competency in reading, listening, speaking, and writing.
A Comparison of the Test Formats
While both exams test the candidate’s ability to use English for reading, listening, speaking, and writing, the tests have different formats. The TOEFL focuses on academic areas for all four sections; however, the IELTS offers a combination of academic and general questions.
A major difference between the two exams is how they are given. The TOEFL iBT is taken on a computer, which may make it easier for students who are comfortable typing responses. On the opposite end, the IELTS is given in person, where the candidate will take a paper exam and will need to write responses – so good handwriting is also necessary. Additionally, the speaking section is different. The TOEFL test takers will use a microphone to record their responses to questions while the IELTS test takers will give a speech in person and participate in a conversation.
Additionally, the writing section of the two exams varies. The TOEFL iBT requires candidates to write essays supporting their opinions based on reading and listening tasks. The IELTS includes two writing tasks that vary depending on which IELTS test the candidate is taking. For example, the IELTS academic test requires candidates to summarize the information presented in a graph or chart, but the IELTS general training test requires candidates to write a letter.
A Comparison of the Lengths
The TOEFL iBT is four hours in length with one ten-minute break. It is broken down into four sections.
- Reading: 60-80 minutes
- Listening: 60-90 minutes
- Speaking: 20 minutes
- Writing: 50 minutes
The IELTS is 2 hours and 45 minutes total without any breaks between the reading, listening, and writing sections. However, the speaking section may be taken within a week before or a week after the exam.
- Reading: 60 minutes
- Listening: 30 minutes
- Speaking: 11-14 minutes
- Writing: 30 minutes
A Comparison of the Scoring Methods
The way the two exams are scored is also different. Plus, the average required scores vary by the institution or organization. The TOEFL is scored out of 120 points total, with each exam section being worth 30 points. The IELTS, on the other hand, is scored on a 9-band scale from 1 – 9. A score of 1 represents a non-English user, a score of 5 represents a modest English user, and a score of 9 represents an expert English user.
Why You Should Take Test Prep Courses
If you want to earn a passing score on either the TOEFL or the IELTS, you should take classes. For example, students who study English in Washington DC have access to the largest IELTS test center in the US at the Washington language school inlingua. Before you can begin official test prep courses, you should start by taking English courses in Washington DC. Language schools in DC, such as inlingua, offer students from all over the world the opportunity to learn English through immersion.
Once you have become proficient at speaking, listening, reading, and writing in English, you should then take one of inlingua’s 3-week test prep courses that are specially designed to prepare you for these English language exams. After taking the test prep course, you will feel much more prepared to take the exam. Plus, inlingua students have the choice between taking the TOEFL or the IELTS through this language school, which is an authorized English test center.
Think you are ready to take an English language exam? Test your English today!