Posted : 31 Jul 2023 | Last Updated : 31 Jul 2023

Tags : IELTS  

Author: Pragya Mishra

In this comprehensive review, we will dive into the key differences between the IELTS and TOEFL, closely examining the various aspects that set them apart. We will analyze each exam's subtleties, including test formats, scoring procedures, application scope, and testing methodology. You will be better prepared to choose the assessment that most closely matches your academic or professional goals if you thoroughly understand the distinctive features and goals of IELTS and TOEFL. Therefore, follow along with us as we set out on this trip to compare two of the most important language competency tests ever developed. So, let's break down each exam's main structure individually to understand the advantages and disadvantages better.

Conducting body British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English Educational Testing Service (ETS)
Variants Two modules:
1. IELTS Academic
2. IELTS General Training
Does not offer separate modules
Duration 2 hours and 45 minutes approximately 3 hours
Breaks no scheduled breaks 10-minute break after the Listening section
Scoring (Min. to Max.) scale from 1 to 9 scale from 0 to 120
Average Minimum Score Required vary depending on the institution, top universities may require an overall band score of 7 or higher based on the preferences of individual institutions, Competitive programs often require scores above 100
Test Delivery Format Paper-based test computer-based test
Results timeline 13 days after the test date Approximately 10 days after the test date
Cost slightly lower cost than the TOEFL slightly more expensive than the IELTS

Conducting Body:


The IELTS test is jointly managed by three reputable organizations: the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English. Each organization brings its expertise to different aspects of the test, ensuring fairness and reliability. The British Council contributes to test administration, IDP: IELTS Australia handles test centre management and candidate registration, while Cambridge Assessment English oversees the development of the test content and materials.


On the other hand, the TOEFL test is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a well-established nonprofit organization based in the United States. ETS is known for its expertise in educational assessments and has a long history of delivering standardized tests worldwide.

Test Medium:


IELTS offers two modules: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. The Academic module is suitable for students pursuing higher education at universities where English is the medium of instruction. It evaluates academic language skills required for successful university studies, such as understanding complex texts and presenting formal academic writing. On the other hand, the General Training module assesses more practical and workplace-related language skills, catering to individuals applying for work experience or immigration purposes. The General Training module includes writing letters or interpreting information in workplace-related contexts.


TOEFL is designed exclusively for academic English proficiency evaluation. It does not offer separate modules like IELTS. The test focuses on reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills necessary for academic success in an English-speaking environment. The reading and listening sections feature academic passages and lectures, while the speaking and writing sections require candidates to demonstrate their ability to convey complex ideas in an academic context.

Scoring System:


IELTS scores are reported on a scale from 1 to 9, with 9 being the highest attainable score. Each section receives an individual score; an overall band score is calculated as the average of the four section scores. The scoring system is designed to clearly indicate a candidate's proficiency level in each skill area.


TOEFL scores are measured on a scale from 0 to 120, with each section contributing equally to the total score. The scoring system assesses a candidate's ability to coherently integrate their reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills. The total score provides an overall assessment of a candidate's academic English proficiency.

Duration and Breaks:


The total test duration for both IELTS modules is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The Listening, Reading, and Writing sections are completed in one sitting. At the same time, the Speaking test is scheduled separately, usually on the same day or within a week of the other sections. There are no scheduled breaks during the test; candidates must complete all sections consecutively.


The TOEFL test takes approximately 3 hours to complete. All sections, including Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing, are completed in one sitting. The test includes a 10-minute break after the Listening section, allowing candidates to recharge before continuing with the remaining sections.

Test Variants:


The availability of two IELTS modules provides flexibility for test-takers with different purposes. The Academic module is suitable for individuals pursuing higher education, particularly at universities where English is the medium of instruction. Professional organizations for certain professions also recognize it. The General Training module, on the other hand, is more suited for candidates seeking work experience, training programs, or immigration to English-speaking countries.


Unlike IELTS, TOEFL does not offer different modules. The test is designed to assess academic English proficiency for university studies. It is accepted by thousands of institutions worldwide, making it a popular choice for students pursuing higher education in English-speaking countries.

Test Delivery Format:


IELTS incorporates a mix of question types, including multiple-choice, short-answer, and essay writing

  • The Listening and Reading sections consist of various question formats to assess different listening and reading skills.
  • In the Writing section, candidates must complete two writing tasks, one of which may involve describing or summarizing information presented in a graph or chart.
  • The Speaking test is conducted face-to-face with a certified examiner, allowing for natural interaction and personalized assessment of speaking skills.


TOEFL uses a computer-based delivery format, with candidates responding to questions on a computer.

  • The Reading and Listening sections feature multiple-choice questions, drag-and-drop tasks, and other interactive formats.
  • The Speaking section requires candidates to respond to prompts through a microphone and headphones, and their responses are recorded for later evaluation by multiple raters.
  • The Writing section involves typing responses to prompts on the computer.

Average Minimum Score Required:


Minimum score requirements for IELTS vary depending on the institution, program, or country of application. Generally, higher scores are expected for competitive programs or institutions with rigorous language requirements. For instance, top universities may require an overall band score of 7 or higher for the Academic module.


Similarly, TOEFL minimum score requirements differ based on the preferences of individual institutions. Some universities may set specific minimum scores for each section, while others consider the overall total score. Competitive programs often require scores above 100 for the Internet-based TOEFL (iBT).

Results Timeline:


IELTS results are typically available online within 13 days after the test date. This relatively quick turnaround time allows candidates to plan their next steps promptly, whether submitting university applications, preparing for interviews, or proceeding with immigration processes.


TOEFL scores are accessible online approximately 10 days after the test date. This quick release of scores ensures that candidates have timely access to their results, enabling them to take necessary actions based on their performance.

IELTS Vs TOEFL Listening Section:

IELTS Listening:

This section consists of four recorded audio clips, including conversations and monologues. Candidates answer questions based on the content they hear.

TOEFL Listening:

The TOEFL listening section features academic lectures and conversations. Test-takers respond to questions that assess their comprehension skills.

IELTS Vs TOEFL Reading Section:

IELTS Reading:

In the IELTS reading section, candidates encounter diverse texts, ranging from descriptive to analytical. They answer questions based on the information presented in the passages.

TOEFL Reading:

TOEFL reading focuses on academic passages from textbooks and articles. Test-takers must comprehend the material and answer related questions.

IELTS Vs TOEFL Writing Section:

IELTS Writing:

IELTS writing includes two tasks.

  • Task 1 requires candidates to describe visual information, such as charts or graphs.
  • Task 2 involves writing an essay on a given topic to evaluate their writing style and coherence.

TOEFL Writing:

The TOEFL writing section requires candidates to write essay responses based on reading and listening tasks. Essays are evaluated for clarity, coherence, and the development of ideas.

IELTS Vs TOEFL Speaking Section:

IELTS Speaking:

The IELTS speaking section is a face-to-face interview with a certified examiner. It comprises three parts:

  • Introduction and interview
  • Short speech
  • Discussion

TOEFL Speaking:

In the TOEFL speaking section, candidates record responses to six tasks, which include expressing opinions and summarizing information.

Key Elements for Choosing Between TOEFL and IELTS:

  • Purpose:
    Determine the purpose of taking the test—academic or immigration—and check if your desired institution accepts one over the other.
  • Text Format:
    Consider whether you prefer a paper-based test (IELTS) or a computer-based test (TOEFL).
  • Speaking Preference:
    Decide, if you are comfortable with a face-to-face interview (IELTS) or recorded responses (TOEFL).
  • Test Availability:
    Check the test dates and availability of test centers in your region for both exams.
  • Scoring System:
    Familiarize yourself with the scoring systems of both tests to understand how your performance will be evaluated.

IELTS Vs TOEFL Score Comparison:

For the IELTS test, the scoring scale ranges from 0 to 9, with increments of 0.5. Each section of the exam (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking) is individually scored, and the overall band score is calculated as the average of these four section scores. For example, if a test-taker scores 7.5 in Listening, 7.0 in Reading, 8.0 in Writing, and 7.5 in Speaking, their overall IELTS band score would be 7.5

On the other hand, the TOEFL uses a scoring scale of 0 to 120, with each section (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing) being scored from 0 to 30. The total TOEFL score is the sum of the scores from the four sections. The TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test) is the most common format nowadays.

IELTS Vs TOEFL Cost Comparison:

When comparing the cost of the IELTS and TOEFL exams, it's essential to consider several factors that contribute to the overall expenses. While the cost may vary based on the country and testing location, certain patterns can be observed.
The TOEFL is slightly more expensive than the IELTS. This is due to several reasons, including the different structures of the tests and how they are administered.
The TOEFL is primarily administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is commonly taken as an Internet-based Test (iBT). The iBT version of the TOEFL typically includes additional features like integrated tasks, contributing to its higher cost. Furthermore, the TOEFL iBT is often delivered in specialized testing centres equipped with the necessary technology and infrastructure, adding to the overall expenses.
On the other hand, the IELTS is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English. It is offered in two formats: the IELTS Academic for educational purposes and the IELTS General Training for immigration and work-related applications. IELTS test centres can be found in various locations, including schools, language centres, and cultural institutions, which might contribute to its slightly lower cost than the TOEFL.

Pros and Cons of IELTS and TOEFL:


Pros: Cons:
Personalized face-to-face speaking test, providing a more interactive experience. Limited test dates in some regions require early registration.
Offers two variants (Academic and General Training) catering to different purposes. Writing answers on paper might be less familiar to some test-takers accustomed to digital writing.
Widely accepted in English-speaking countries, including the UK, Australia, and Canada.


Pros: Cons:
All sections are conducted on the same day, reducing the test duration. No face-to-face speaking test, which may not fully reflect candidates' speaking abilities.
Offers a well-structured computerized format, which may be preferred by candidates comfortable with digital testing. Only one variant (Academic) is available, limiting options for those seeking general or immigration purposes.
Recognized by many universities and institutions in the USA and Canada.


IELTS or TOEFL should be chosen based on your needs and comprehension of your situation rather than being a one-size-fits-all selection. You can make an informed decision that increases your chances of success by taking into account your tastes, the exam format that works best for you, and the particular requirements of the educational or professional institutions you want to attend. IELTS and TOEFL are well-known internationally and are essential resources for pursuing opportunities abroad. It is essential to carefully research their forms, contents, and score requirements because they have strengths and disadvantages.

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