TOEFL vs IELTS: English Language Proficiency Tests

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: January 13, 2022  •  5 min read  •  Education
Approved Course is reader-supported. If you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small commission.

When you’re looking for the right English proficiency test, a comparison between TOEFL vs IELTS is important. These are two of the most popular options for English proficiency tests. Both offer options for non-native speakers to complete their university applications.

TOEFL and IELTS will assess reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills for candidates. However, they do it in a different format. Before you make your decision between TOEFL vs. IELTS, let’s look at what both tests offer.

What is the TOEFL?

The Test of English Language at a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a rather popular English language proficiency test. It’s known as one of the top choices and will test your ability to communicate in a classroom setting. It’s accepted in 130 countries.

What is the IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is known as an esteemed English language proficiency test. It’s taken by non-native speakers of English for educational and occupational purposes. This test is accepted in 140 countries and it has two variants, which are:

Regardless of which IELTS format you need, it’s important to understand the format of this test before you choose.

TOEFL vs. IELTS: Format Differences

The format of these two tests is quite different. The TOEFL is based on a specific number of questions, while the IELTS is based on a time limit and an amount of tasks/activities. The two test formats include:

TOEFL

IELTS

The TOEFL takes about four hours to complete, while the IELTS takes around two hours and 45 minutes to complete.

The TOEFL is a computer-based test only. If you take the IELTS, you can choose between a written test and a computer-based option.

TOEFL vs. IELTS: The Cost

While the cost should never be your final factor when choosing an English proficiency test, it’s important to look at the cost. It’s pretty similar, in most countries, when comparing the TOEFL and the IELTS.

The TOEFL costs $185, which can vary from one country to another. The IELTS will cost $190, and it can also vary from one country to another.

A Few More Differences Between the TOEFL and the IELTS

There are several differences between these two tests outside of the format and the cost. The TOEFL is offered in about 140 countries and at about 1,100 testing centers. However, the IELTS is offered in 165 different countries with about 4,500 testing locations.

Both tests are widely accepted, but the TOEFL is accepted by more universities and educational institutions. More than 10,000 universities and educational institutions accept the TOEFL, while more than 9,000 accept the IELTS.

The way the two tests are scored is also quite different. The TOEFL will give you a score ranging from 0 to 120. It will take about ten days after taking the test to receive your score. If you take the IELTS, you will be given a score in the form of bands ranging from 0 to 9. It takes up to 13 days to receive your results.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between the TOEFL and the IELTS

1. Which Exam does Your School Accept?

The most important factor you want to consider when choosing between the TOEFL and the IELTS is which one is accepted by the school you plan to apply to. This factor is the first one you need to worry about. If both are accepted, it changes things, but your decision might be made simply by the test accepted by the school you want to attend.

The TOEFL tends to be widely accepted by American institutions, while the IELTS is accepted more commonly overseas. It’s not uncommon to find schools that will accept both, however. If your preferred school accepts both, find out if they have a preference between the TOEFL and the IELTS.

2. Which Format Seems Easiest to You?

Study the format of both the TOEFL and the IELTS before you decide. One format may fit better with what you prefer for a test than the other. You can also take a practice test with both to figure out which one you feel most comfortable with.

If you prefer multiple-choice questions, the TOEFL is the better choice for you. While not all sections are multiple-choice, many will be. However, the IELTS will mainly be a short-answer type of test.

3. Can you Access One Test Easier than the Other?

Maybe the TOEFL has a testing location closer to you than the IELTS, or vice versa. The one you can access the easiest is likely the one you should take. This is especially true if one of the two tests is only offered many miles from you, while the other one is close by.

4. Are You Better with North American English or British/UK English?

The accent will make a difference and the IELTS will use more British English, while the TOEFL will use North American English. The one you’re most comfortable with may help to decide which test is best for you.

There are many things to consider when comparing the TOEFL and the IELTS. When you need to take an English language proficiency test, you need to make the right decision. Both of these tests are widely accepted, but not all universities and educational institutions will accept both.

Make sure you consider the four factors above and the differences between the TOEFL and the IELTS before you choose. The right test will likely be easier for you and will help you get the results you desire.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!