IELTS or TOEFL? which one suits you better? This is a question that almost all learners of English as a Foreign Language ask ourselves. Either because we need to prove our language proficiency for studies abroad or for professional purposes. So, if you need to take one of these international exams, and you haven’t decided which one is right for you, this blog post may be of good help.
First, both are internationally accepted and recognized by the most important institutions, ranging from universities to multinational companies of great renown and, of course, immigration authorities of all English-speaking countries. In fact, the official IELTS website states that more than 11,000 private and governmental institutions in more than 140 countries accept this test. So, for many test-takers, it is a good indicator when choosing. However, the TOEFL iBt is not far behind and is even preferred in more universities in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea.(ETS – TOEFL, 2022)
Another important aspect to consider is that these International Exams: IELTS and TOEFL have two popular versions, so it is important to analyze if the one we are picking is accepted for the purposes for which we are seeking to do these tests. For instance, IELTS’s versions are called “Academic” and “General”, the first one is for those students that want to do undergraduate or postgraduate studies in any English-speaking country. The “General” one is either for people who want to emigrate or work abroad. Even so, that version of the IELTS is also accepted in many elite universities internationally, as the only things that varies are the reading and writing tasks.
On the other hand, TOEFL versions are called “iBt” and “ITP”. The first one is accepted in any anglophone university in the world, and it is more reliable since it evaluates all the skills. By contrast, that is not the case with the ITP which does not evaluate the speaking skill. Also, it is only valid if there is an inter-institutional agreement, if this is not your case, this version would not be of much use to you. As not many organizations accept it if we compare it with the numbers of the iBt version. That’s why from now on I will focus on the IELTS (Academic & General) and the TOEFL iBt.
When taking any type of standardized test, it is essential to know its structure very well. This ensures that the test-taker knows exactly what he/she must do, makes the best use of his/her time, and knows the type of questions (and answers) that the test may have. As for the IELTS, it gives two hours and forty-five minutes to complete its 4 parts (listening, reading, writing, and speaking). The Listening contains 4 recordings and for each of these there are 10 questions that can be of different types such as:
- Multiple choice.
- Plan/map/diagram labeling.
- Summary completion.
- Sentence completion.
In the Reading part there are also 40 questions, these can be multiple choice (usually with three options, although there can be questions with up to seven options), identification of information (True, False, Not given), among others. On the other hand, the IELTS Academic includes three long texts, while the IELTS General Training is organized in three sections that include several short texts and one long text.
Furthermore the Writing section consists of two tasks: a description of visual information (Minimum 150 words) and an essay in response to an argument or problem posed (Minimum 250 words). In the IELTS General Training test, the first test consists of writing a letter of at least 150 words, which can be personal or formal. The second test also consists of writing an essay. (Take IELTS – British Council, 2020)
The last section assesses Speaking skills and lasts between 11 and 14 minutes and is organized into three parts:
- Presentation and interview (the candidate introduces himself/herself and talks about familiar topics).
- Monologue (the candidate receives a card on a particular topic).
- Debate (some aspects of the previous task are discussed in more depth).
This exam lasts four hours, 1 hour, and 15 minutes longer than the IELTS and the reason is simple; its tasks are more complex, especially in the reading section.
To begin, the Reading section is divided into three or four passages; each one of them has approximately 700 words in length. At the end of each reading, a 10-question quiz is asked. You will have 54 to 72 minutes to complete this part of the test.
Second, in the Listening section: there will be readings and conversations. These are grouped as follows:
- Readings: Three to four readings, each reading lasts approximately three to five minutes. At the end of each audio, you will have to answer 6 questions.
- Conversations: Two to three conversations between two speakers. Each conversation lasts 3 minutes. At the end of each conversation, you will have to answer 5 questions.
Contrary to popular belief that because it is a U.S. test, all the voices in the Listening section will be with an American accent, this is NOT true, as the different tasks also include voices of people with accents from Britain, Australia, and even New Zealand.
Next, the Speaking section is composed of 4 tasks, which seek to emulate the type of real-life situations you will encounter in or outside the classroom and unlike IELTS, there is no real-time contact with an assessor, but the candidate has to record his/her voice in each of the tasks assigned to him/her. These recordings will then be examined by the Educational Testing Service evaluator.
Finally, the Writing section is divided into two subsections, which are as follows:
Integrated Writing task:
This group of tasks has a duration of 20 minutes; students must review and listen to two excerpts of readings. Both excerpts are accompanied by some questions. The minimum of words should be 150-225
Independent Writing task:
The duration of this task is 50 minutes. In this subsection, people must write an essay and sometimes about a personal experience. It should have at least 300 words.
Now that we are clearer about the structure and duration of these International Exams: IELTS and TOEFL. They are similar in many aspects such as their prestige worldwide, their price and the fact that they expire after 2 years. It will be up to each person to find out which of these exams could give them an advantage regarding what they are applying for, whether it is to study abroad or work. As already mentioned, both are valid, so the key word here would be “preferred” and that is what essentially differentiates these excellent International Exams to certify our English; some of us prefer IELTS and others prefer TOEFL.
If you are interested in preparing for IELTS, TOEFL, and any other international exam to prove your language proficiency or skills for professional development, check our CAC-EUROCENTRES preparation course catalog.
ETS – TOEFL. (2022). The TOEFL Test: Accepted and Preferred (For Test Takers). Www.ets.org. https://www.ets.org/toefl/test-takers/ibt/why/accepted-preferred
Take IELTS – British Council. (2020). IELTS test format explained | Take IELTS. Britishcouncil.org. https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/take-ielts/prepare/test-format