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IELTS or TOEFL – Which Is Better?

IELTS or TOEFL – Which Is Better?

If you are applying to a university in an English-speaking country and English is not your first language, your institution may require you to take a standardized test. There are two main English language tests accepted by universities around the world, IELTS  (International English Language Testing Service) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). But the big question that students face is “which one is better?”

Both, TOFEL and IELTS are English language tests aimed at pre-university students planning to make the step to higher education. Both systems evaluate how well you can combine your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills.

Some differences exist in their approach, scoring methods and the modalities involved in giving the tests. Although both tests ostensibly focus on the same thing, they do so in different ways, which is why so many students want to know which is better and even more commonly, which is easier.

Differences between TOFEL and IELTS:

The primary difference:

For IELTS you are required to take the speaking part of the test with an IELTS examiner face to face, while for TOEFL the speaking test consists of six questions which you answer into a microphone. These are recorded and sent to an examiner to mark.

Scoring system:

Each IELTS module you complete (reading, writing, etc.) will be assessed on a “band scale” of 1 to 9. For instance, 1 stands for non-user, 5 for modest user and 9 implies an expert user of the language. The band scores for all modules are calculated and their average is the score that proclaims your overall skill level.

With TOEFL, each module has a numerical score and the total score determines your level of proficiency. Its computerized scoring leaves no scope for inaccuracies.

The Test:

TOEFL is administered by the Educational Testing Service, a non-profit US-based organization, and its content prepared according to US English. IELTS is administered jointly by the British Council, the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia, and its content prepared according to UK English.

The entire TOFEL test is for 4 hours and 30 minutes and is taken in one sitting. As for IELTS, the test duration is 2 hours and 45 minutes, with the interview taking place within a day of the written test.


TOEFL’s computerized scoring leaves no scope for inaccuracies.

IELTS, which sticks by manual correction, however, claims that its markers are highly trained and regularly go through refresher courses, leaving little margin for error.

So which is better?

TOEFLhas an extremely simple format and the parameters for judging skills of self-expression are spelt out clearly. On the other hand, it is felt that IELTS is not so clear. The IELTS assessment of speaking skills, in an interview format, is felt to be more intimidating.

TOEFL may tend to favor more abstract learners as many of the questions come with multiple choices to choose a response from, whereas IELTS may be more suited to concrete learners as it involves memory recall.

The IELTS reading and listening modules often feature tricky questions. Also, in the listening module, answers have to be written down while listening. In the process, a candidate making errors in spelling and grammar stands to lose marks.

Most candidates feel both the exams are equally good to measure your English language skills. Since no university prescribes one particular test to be taken, students have the freedom to make the choice. As for which exam is easier or better, it is all about your perception of the exam.

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