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IELTS vs. TOEFL - How are They Different?

Anyone who wishes to study, work or live in an English-speaking country needs to demonstrate their English language proficiency skills to the institution or employer concerned. While IELTS (International English Language Testing System is the most popular choice of all candidates, in this article, we’ll also talk about the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the main differences between both.

What are IELTS and TOEFL?

IELTS stands for, the International English Language Testing System, and TOEFL stands for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. These both are English language testing systems and well accepted international standardised tests of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers.

Colleges across the globe accept scores of both these tests, however, they differ significantly in terms of test design and format. To select which test you should take, and which one is best for you, continue reading to learn more about each of these tests.

Difference between IELTS and TOEFL

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a globally accepted language competency exam, which is recognised in over 140 countries. It is available in two formats – Academic (for education purposes), and General Training (for working professionals and immigration needs).

On the other hand, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is also taken by students planning to study overseas and is recognised in about 130 countries.

Both these exams evaluate candidates' abilities in Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking and, but in different ways.

Module Computer-delivered and Paper based Computer-based
Length 2 hours 45 minutes 3 hours 15 minutes
Score 0-9 0-120
Difference in how IELTS and PTE are marked? Reading and Speaking tests are marked by experts who understand different cultural nuances. Marked by AI
Results  3-5 working days for Computer-delivered test and 13 days for Paper-based test 10 days

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Fee structure 

  • Computer-delivered IELTS: 16,250
  • Computer-delivered IELTS for UKVI: 16,500
  • Paper-based IELTS: INR 16,250
  • IELTS Life Skills (A1 and B1): 15,350
  • IELTS for UK Visas and Immigration: 16,500
  • $195 (INR 15,997)

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Test format

Even though both tests the four skills of the English language – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking, the formats offered are different. Here are some quick pointers for you to differentiate:

IELTS Test Format IELTS Academic No. of Questions  TOEFL iBT No. of Questions 
Listening  30 minutes 40 41-57 minutes 28-39
Reading  60 minutes 40 54-72 minutes 30-40
Writing   60 minutes 2 tasks 50 minutes 2 tasks
Speaking   11-14 minutes 3 parts 17 minutes 4 tasks

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Section-wise comparison and question types

For computer-delivered IELTS, the test dates are available up to 3 times a day, 7 days a week, while for Paper-based IELTS, there are 48 test dates across the year. TOEFL offers 50+ dates per year.

  • 3 long passages
  • The total number of questions is 40
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • 3-4 passages of approx. 700 words
  • Number of questions: 30-40 (9-10 from each passage)
  • Time: 54-72 minutes
  • 4 recordings
  • The total number of questions is 40
  • Time: 30 minutes + 10 minutes to transfer the answers to the sheet
  • 3-4 lectures with a length of 3-5 minutes each, 6 questions from each lecture
  • 2-3 conversations (2 speakers) 3 minutes each and 5 questions from each conversation
  • The total number of questions is 39
  • Time: 41-57 minutes
  • 1 independent speaking task (speak for 1 minute)
  • 3 parts
  • Time: 11-14 minutes
  • 1 independent speaking task
  • 3 integrated speaking tasks (speak for 1.5-2 minutes after reading a passage/article and listening to a lecture)
  • Time: 17 minutes
  • IELTS Writing task 2- write 250 words by responding to an argument or a problem or a viewpoint in 40 minutes
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • TOEFL independent writing task (300-350 words) write an essay based on a prompt in 30 minutes
  • Time: 50 minutes

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Scoring system

For the IELTS exam, you receive a band score ranging from 0 to 9 for each of the skills, as well as an overall band score. For the TOEFL iBT, you receive a total score between 0 and 120 and a score between 0 and 30 for each skill.

The requirements of English language tests for various courses at different levels in universities around the world differ from each other. Here’s a quick table that outlines the minimum IELTS and TOEFL iBT requirements for each course level.

Degree level IELTS TOEFL
Foundation 5 35-45
Undergraduate 6 60-78
Postgraduate 7 94-101

The score comparison between IELTS and TOEFL

IELTS band score TOEFL iBT score
0-4 0-31
4.5 32-34
5 35-45
5.5 46-59
6 60-78
6.5 79-93
7 94-101
7.5 102-109
8 110-114
8.5 115-117
9 118-120

Hope you have a clear idea now of how IELTS differs from TOEFL and vice versa. If you need to know anything more, do not hesitate to reach out to your nearest IDP IELTS centre.