TOEFL & IELTS Comparison

The TOEFL Exam

Ever wonder the difference between these prominent English tests for university admittance? The TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC & the new PTE are the most common English tests administered at this time and prospective test-takers might wonder the differences between them. Here’s a quick 101 on the differences between each.
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): This exam is currently the most common for non-native English speakers. The TOEFL is often a requirement at most colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada and other English-speaking countries. In addition, government agencies, licensing bodies, businesses or scholarship programs might also require the TOEFL. At this time, an individual’s TOEFL score is valid for two years and then subject for re-evaluation after the two-year period.

The TOEFL itself was first administered in 1964 and has been taken by more than 23 million students since then. There are two types of TOEFL tests, the iBT (Internet Based Test) and the PBT (Paper Based test). In February of 2012, ETS announced that they will be phasing out the PBT—in many areas the last PBT was administered May 2012.

The IELTS Exam

IELTS (International English Language Testing System): The IELTS is administered by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council & IDP Education. There are two primary versions of the IELTS: the academic version & the general training version. Basically, the academic version is meant for students who want to enroll in universities and other higher education institutions, as well as for medical professions, such as doctors or nurses who need to work or study in an English-speaking country. The general training version is meant for those looking to gain work experience or for purely immigration purposes.

  • Similar to the TOEFL, an IELTS score is valid for two years.
  • While both the academic version and the general version differ in terms of content, their structure is the same, dividing the test into three parts: Listening (40 minutes), Reading (60 minutes) and Writing (60 minutes). For a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes
  • While the test is about the same difficulty as the TOEFL, there are some conditions that could make it more or less difficult. The test does not focus on US English, but rather all of the regional dialects, which could trip you up if you've only been studying one. In addition, the IELTS exam tends to favor concrete thinking (facts, spelling, grammar) while the TOEFL is more concerned with structure and coherency.
  • Question Types: Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking. No integrated (mixed) questions.
 
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