TOEFL vs IELTS: Which Test is Better? Some Factors to Consider

11 April, 2024
parthiva mewawala

Study abroad aspirants from all around the world need to display a college-level understanding of the English language to get admission to colleges. To prove their prowess, students can choose from multiple tests – TOEFL, IELTS, Pearson’s, and Duolingo. Out of the many options, TOEFL and IELTS are by far the most popular ones. Accepted by thousands of institutions worldwide, these tests are popular admission pathways to top schools. But a common question that confuses many students is which test is better: TOEFL vs. IELTS? 


Which test is easier? More suitable for your program? 

Which one will help you land better scholarships? 


In this blog, we’ll answer all these questions and more.


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TOEFL vs IELTS – What is TOEFL? 


The ETS, a leading testing service provider, conducts the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). It is held all over India in several cities and hundreds of centres multiple times a month. Students can easily register for the test online and give it at the centre. ETS has also begun to serve a home edition of the test that students can provide at their own homes on their own devices as long as they meet the device and environment regulations of TOEFL. While there is also a paper-based test on offer, in this blog, we’ll focus on the iBT or internet version since it is by far the most popular one.


What is the format of the TOEFL?


The TOEFL recently updated its format to make it more relevant to the testing needs of today’s world and make it more accessible across a broad swathe of regions. Instead of the three-and-a-half-hour-long test, the newer version is designed to last for less than two hours. There are four sections – reading, listening, speaking, and writing – each scored between 0 and 30. The total score will be awarded out of 120 points. Most colleges consider 100+ good enough for admission.

Read more about What Are The Top Colleges Accepting IELTS Scores?

SectionNo. of QuestionsTime Limit
(In Minutes)


TOEFL Reading


This section assesses your reading and comprehension skills at the level required to succeed in college. It has two reading passages followed by a range of different questions. The passages are around 700 words long and chosen from university-grade textbooks. You aren’t expected to know anything about the topic beforehand, and all the necessary information to answer the questions will be encapsulated in the 700 words.


TOEFL Listening


The listening section will examine how well you can comprehend spoken English in different accents. There’ll be three lectures followed by six questions each and two conversations between multiple speakers followed by five questions each. The questions will be in the MCQ format and revolve around rearranging sentences, filling in the blanks, or matching different sets.


TOEFL Speaking


Divided into four tasks, you will wear headphones and speak into the attached microphone. Your responses will be recorded and graded by computers as well as human reviewers. The first task will be about yourself, your ideas, and your opinions, while the remaining will involve listening, reading, and formulating an intelligent response within the time frame. You’ll be judged primarily on grammar, diction, fluency, and pronunciation.


TOEFL Writing


The two writing tasks will test your ability to formulate arguments, give opinions, and convey ideas. The first task is integrated with reading and writing; you’ll read a short passage, listen to a small conversation and then formulate your written response. In the second task, you’ll be asked to write an essay on the topic given to you. You’ll have a total of 30 minutes to finish this section.

Read more about Top 6 Tips To Get Band 8 In IELTS Writing Task 2




The International English Language Testing System or IELTS is a leading English proficiency test conducted by the British Council and IDP Australia in conjunction. The British Council regularly holds the IELTS test in centres across the country. You can quickly sign up for it online. It has two official versions – The academic one and the general one. While both the tests have the same format and scoring pattern, the academic one focuses mainly on assessing English skills concerning academia, and the other is for working professionals seeking jobs abroad.


What is the format of the IELTS?


Much like the TOEFL test, IELTS also has four sections, albeit tested in a different order. The test lasts for a little under three hours and is scored on a scale of 0 to 9. Each section is graded on that scale, and the overall score reflects the average of all the sections.


Unlike TOEFL, you can schedule the speaking test separately from the rest of the exam up to a week before or after the actual test. You will also be talking to a real person as opposed to the microphone in TOEFL.


SectionNo. of QuestionsTime Limit (In Minutes)


IELTS Listening


There will be four tasks in this section that will assess your listening skills with a variety of different questions – fill in the blanks, complete the sentences, match the following, etc. The first two tasks will be set in everyday settings, the third will have an educational context, and the last will be a university lecture. Ten questions will follow each recording.

IELTS Reading


You’ll be dealt a combination of three passages, each around 2000 words, followed by ten to fifteen questions. The passages will be picked up from a variety of sources, including literary, academic, educational, and journalistic. At least one of the passages will be a logical argument, while the rest can be argumentative and descriptive. 

IELTS Writing


There will be two tasks for you to address. The first one will have a visual cue – graph, charts, diagrams – and you’ll be expected to respond in 150 words within 20 minutes. In the second task, you’ll have much more time to frame your essay on the topic given clearly. You’ll be expected to craft an argument, give your opinion, or have a discussion.

IELTS Speaking


With three parts, this is the shortest section in the IELTS test. The first part will have the oral examiner bringing up questions you’ll be familiar with – about yourself, your family, and your hobbies. In the second part, the examiner will introduce a topic and give you a minute to prepare a two-minute-long discussion. After a couple of follow-up questions, the examiner will continue the debate on the same subject for another 5 minutes.


TOEFL vs IELTS – Which one should you give?


There is a very slim difference between the two tests. Most people who score well on the IELTS will also score well on the TOEFL test. But if you’re still worried, you can compare the two tests on these three factors to get your answer to the debate about TOEFL vs IELTS.


Which test does your target school accept?


Even though most institutions accept both scores, it is still advisable to check your target school’s website and confirm if they have a preference.


Which test plays to your strengths?


There are a few fundamental differences between the two tests, which can create minor differences in scores.


First, the TOEFL is entirely MCQ-based, while the IELTS has several short answer questions. If you’re better at writing answers than picking the right one out of many, go for the IELTS.


Second, the IELTS features a mix of academic and general content passages in the reading section, while the TOEFL exclusively has academic passages, which can translate to harder vocabulary for some. If your vocabulary isn’t that great, it’s better to go for the IELTS.


Last, the speaking test will be held with a real-life person during IELTS, while you’ll be expected to speak into a mic in the TOEFL. If you tend to get nervous speaking in front of people, go for TOEFL.


Which one has a centre nearer to you?


Both tests have centres across the length and breadth of India, but it’d be wise to check which one is nearest to you. If one of the test centres is too far away, it’ll be much more logical to go the other way.


As you can see, both tests are evenly poised in terms of accessibility and difficulty. It is a very subjective decision to pick one and will depend on each individual’s circumstances. Pick the right one between TOEFL vs IELTS and put in your study abroad applications today.