Understanding the Core Differences - Ixorainternational

Understanding the Core Differences

TOEFL Vs IELTS: Understanding the Core Differencesere

The TOEFL and IELTS exams are essential for assessing English proficiency among individuals aiming to pursue studies in English-speaking nations like the USA, Canada, and others. Their importance transcends academia, benefiting professionals aspiring to advance their careers abroad.

Attaining high scores on these standardized tests opens doors to prestigious educational institutions and promising career prospects. However, understanding their contrasting structures and evaluation methods is imperative. If you’re uncertain about which exam aligns best with your needs, reach out to an Ixora counselor today for personalized guidance in making an informed decision.

Understanding TOEFL

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a standardized assessment designed to gauge an individual’s proficiency in the English language, particularly as a secondary language. Recognized globally across 190 countries, TOEFL stands as a prerequisite for admission to numerous international universities where English serves as the primary instructional language.

Administered by the Education Testing Service (ETS), a reputable US-based commercial non-profit organization, TOEFL offers flexibility through three assessment modalities:

1. At a Test Center
2. At home with the Home Edition test
3. On paper with the TOEFL iBT paper edition test

What Does IELTS Entail?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) serves as a benchmark for assessing English language proficiency. It scrutinizes individuals’ abilities across four key domains: reading, listening, writing, and speaking.

Introduced in 1989, the exam offers two administration modes: paper-based and computer-delivered.

How IELTS and TOEFL Differ: 9 Distinctions Between the Examinations

To help you in selecting the most suitable option for your needs, here are nine distinctions between TOEFL and IELTS:

1. Scope
While both TOEFL and IELTS serve as assessments of language proficiency for study and other purposes, IELTS has a broader application. It extends beyond academia to encompass study-abroad, professional, and immigration contexts.

2. Types
IELTS offers two primary variations: academic and general training, catering to different purposes. Conversely, TOEFL is predominantly focused on academic pursuits.

3. Locations Available
IELTS is available in over 140 countries, with approximately 1,600 testing locations globally. TOEFL boasts an extensive reach, spanning over 170 countries and 6,000 test centers.

4. Popularity
In 2018, IELTS had over 3.5 million test-takers, while TOEFL recorded over 2.3 million. However, TOEFL is notably more popular in the USA and Canada.

5. Interaction With Examiner
IELTS features direct communication with examiners in the speaking section, whereas TOEFL employs a computer-based format without direct interaction.

6. Scoring
IELTS uses a band system from 1 to 9, while TOEFL is scored out of 120 points.

7. Exam Duration
IELTS takes 2 hours and 45 minutes, while TOEFL iBT lasts 2 hours. The paper edition extends to 3 hours.

8. Frequency
TOEFL offers over 60 sessions per year, while IELTS has weekly testing opportunities for 48 days annually.

9. Result Declaration
TOEFL results are typically available within 4-6 days, compared to IELTS, which provides online results within a week, and offline results within up to 13 days.

Comparison of IELTS and TOEFL: Test Structure & Content

Here’s a further breakdown of the sections:

Reading Section

In the TOEFL reading section, students are evaluated on their ability to comprehend university-level educational texts. They are required to read 3–4 passages, each followed by approximately 10 questions.

In the IELTS reading section, students typically encounter three passages. These passages form the basis for a range of questions designed to assess the test-taker’s ability to comprehend the author’s main ideas and locate specific information. The primary aim of this section is to evaluate the student’s proficiency in understanding and identifying key concepts within the provided textual material.
Exam Type Number of Questions Duration
TOEFL 20 35 minutes
IELTS 40 60 minutes
Listening Section

In the TOEFL listening section, students demonstrate their ability to comprehend classroom lectures and conversations effectively. They encounter 3–4 lectures or 2-3 conversations, followed by a series of questions. Each lecture or conversation is paired with approximately six questions, while conversations typically entail around five questions each. This section typically spans 30 to 40 minutes.

The IELTS listening section evaluates a student’s proficiency in comprehending conversations and extracting crucial information. It consists of four recorded monologues or conversations, each divided into four distinct sections. The first two sections focus on social contexts, while the latter two relate to educational themes. Importantly, the audio is played only once, and questions are derived from these recordings to assess the test-taker’s attentive listening and ability to extract essential details.
Exam Type Number of Questions Duration
TOEFL 28 36 minutes
IELTS 4 30 minutes
Writing Section

In the TOEFL writing section, students demonstrate their ability to express ideas coherently and thoughtfully. This section comprises two tasks: an integrated task involving reading, listening, and writing within a constrained time frame, and an independent essay task. Students are expected to complete this section in less than 30 minutes.

The IELTS writing section evaluates a student’s proficiency in crafting well-organized, clear, and logical essays.Test-takers are required to write two essays—one concise and one more extensive—showcasing their ability to convey ideas effectively within the test format.
Exam Type Number of Tasks Duration
TOEFL 2 29 minutes
IELTS 2 60 minutes
Speaking Section

The TOEFL speaking section assesses a student’s spoken English proficiency through four tasks, each evaluated by an examiner. In three integrated speaking tasks, students read, listen, or both before expressing their thoughts on the topic. This section typically lasts around 15 minutes.

The IELTS speaking section aims to evaluate a candidate’s ability to communicate ideas and opinions in English. This assessment involves a face-to-face interview with an examiner, offering a direct evaluation of the candidate’s spoken English skills.
Exam Type Number of Tasks Duration
TOEFL 4 16 minutes
IELTS 3 11-14 minutes
Comparison of IELTS and TOEFL: Question Types and Tasks



You’ll encounter 20 questions where you need to read passages and provide responses.
There are 40 questions derived from 4 lengthy passages.

28 questions necessitate responses based on short lectures or classroom discussions.
You’ll receive four recorded texts and must respond to a set of questions designed to evaluate your comprehension of the main ideas, detailed information, opinions, and attitudes conveyed by the speakers.

There are two assignments where you read a passage, listen to a recording, and type your response. Additionally, you’ll need to articulate and justify an opinion during an online classroom discussion. There are two tasks in which test-takers are presented with graphs, diagrams, etc., and are required to describe or summarize the data.

There are four tasks, during which you’ll need to discuss a familiar topic and talk about material you’ve read and heard.
There is one assessment divided into three sections, with questions covering general topics.

TOEFL vs IELTS: Examination Formats

The TOEFL examination is available in two formats:

1. Paper-Based Test (PBT): This mode is conducted offline in areas where internet access is limited. It consists of four sections covering reading, writing, and listening, while the speaking section is completed remotely.

2. Internet-Based Test (iBT): Introduced in 2006, this format replaced the computer-based test. It includes four sections: listening, speaking, and writing. The iBT TOEFL exam is a popular choice and can be taken at authorized test centers or remotely from home.

The IELTS examination offers two modes:

1. Computer-Delivered IELTS Exam: Introduced in 2017, this version of the IELTS test is conducted via computer. Conversely, the paper-based IELTS test necessitates candidates to provide their responses by handwriting them on an answer sheet.

2. Paper-based IELTS Exam: In the computer-delivered IELTS, candidates are instructed to input their answers by typing them into designated areas on the screen.

Comparison of IELTS and TOEFL: Results and Recognition

Both TOEFL and IELTS scores serve as widely recognized evidence of English proficiency globally. IELTS exam scores are accepted by over 9,000 institutions in more than 140 countries, encompassing the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

On the other hand, TOEFL scores are acknowledged by over 11,000 universities in 160 countries, with full acceptance in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Germany. While TOEFL is the preferred option in the US, IELTS tends to be favored in other nations.

Determining the Superior Option: TOEFL or IELTS?

When comparing TOEFL and IELTS, the question often arises: which exam is easier? The answer to this question is subjective and depends on various factors, including:

1. Acceptance by Educational Institutions:

Test-takers need to verify the specific requirements of the universities or schools they are applying to. While both TOEFL and IELTS scores are widely accepted globally, individual institutions may have preferences or specific requirements. Consulting the admission guidelines of the target educational institution ensures a smoother application process.

2. Preference for Question Types:

TOEFL and IELTS employ different methodologies in assessing language skills. Prospective test-takers should familiarize themselves with the exam patterns and question types to determine which suits them better. For instance, those comfortable with multiple-choice questions may find TOEFL more suitable.

3. Comfort Level with Exam Pattern:

IELTS involves a face-to-face speaking test with an examiner, typically scheduled separately from the other sections. In contrast, TOEFL integrates the speaking session on the same day as the rest of the exam, using recorded responses for evaluation. Personal comfort levels with interaction styles and exam schedules should be considered.

4. Cost Considerations:

Financial factors play a crucial role in exam selection. Exam costs vary based on the country of administration. For example, in India, the TOEFL test costs USD 203 (INR 16,900), while IELTS costs USD 195 (INR 16,250).

5. Availability of Test Centers:

The convenience of test center availability influences the decision. Opting for the exam with easily accessible test centers ensures alignment with personal schedules.

TOEFL vs IELTS: Scoring Comparison

Scoring in TOEFL and IELTS follows different scales: IELTS uses a band scale from 0 to 9, while TOEFL scores range from 0 to 120. ETS provides conversion tables for estimating performance on one exam based on practice test results for the other, aiding test-takers in decision-making.
0-4 0-31
4.5 32-34
5 35-45
5.5 45-59
6 60-78
6.5 79-93
7 94-101
7.5 102-109
8 110-114
8.5 115-117
9 118-120
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