IELTS vs TOEFL: Everything You Need to Know to Make the Right Choice

The IELTS exam and the TOEFL exam are two of the most widely recognized and accepted English language proficiency tests in the world. Whether you’re a student looking to study abroad, a professional seeking to work in an English-speaking country, or an academic aiming for international recognition, choosing between the IELTS exam and the TOEFL exam is a critical decision. In this blog, we will compare these two tests in terms of several factors like the skills they assess, content, difficulty levels, student-friendliness, and more
By the end of this blog, you’ll have a clearer understanding of which test suits your needs best.

  1. Skills Tested

Both the IELTS exam and TOEFL exam assess the four essential language skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. However, the way they evaluate these skills varies.

IELTS: IELTS exams employ a face-to-face speaking test, which enables real-time interaction with an examiner. This can be less intimidating for some candidates.

TOEFL: TOEFL exams use a computerized format for the speaking section, where you record your responses. This can be more convenient for some test-takers but lacks the human interaction element.

  1. Content

The content of IELTS exams and TOEFL exams differs in terms of accents, contexts, and themes.

IELTS: IELTS often features a variety of accents in its listening test, reflecting the global nature of English. The reading and writing sections may involve topics related to everyday life and academic subjects.

TOEFL: TOEFL, on the other hand, primarily uses American accents in its listening section. The content often focuses on academic subjects and may be more challenging for some test-takers.

  1. Difficulty Levels

The difficulty levels of IELTS and TOEFL can vary depending on the test-taker’s proficiency and preferences.

IELTS: IELTS is known for its challenging reading passages and complex academic writing tasks. The listening and speaking sections are generally considered more approachable.

TOEFL: TOEFL’s listening and speaking sections are computer-based and can be more familiar to younger test-takers. However, its reading and writing sections may be more challenging, especially if you are not accustomed to the academic context.

  1. Student Friendliness

The student-friendliness of a test can significantly impact your overall experience.

IELTS: The IELTS exam is often preferred by those who appreciate face-to-face speaking exams and are comfortable with diverse accents. The paper-based format of IELTS is also familiar to many candidates.

TOEFL: The TOEFL exam’s computerized format for the speaking section might be more appealing to some test-takers. The test’s consistent structure and question types can provide a sense of security.

  1. Scoring Systems

Both IELTS and TOEFL employ scoring systems to assess test-takers’ proficiency.

IELTS: IELTS scores are reported on a 9-band scale, with half-bands available. This scoring system provides a detailed and accurate evaluation of your English proficiency.

TOEFL: TOEFL uses a scoring system that ranges from 0 to 120, with increments of 1 point. While this system is straightforward, it might be less intuitive for some test-takers.

  1. Test Duration

The duration of the IELTS exam and the TOEFL exam can be an important consideration.

IELTS: The IELTS exam typically takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete. However, the speaking test is conducted on a different day and can last up to 15 minutes.

TOEFL: The TOEFL now takes only 2 hours and 15 minutes, making the TOEFL exam the shortest test of its kind.

  1. Speaking Test Duration

The speaking test duration can be an important factor for some test-takers.

IELTS: In IELTS, the speaking test is conducted separately, lasting for about 11-14 minutes. Some candidates find this less stressful because they can focus solely on speaking during that time.

TOEFL: TOEFL integrates the speaking section into the main test and takes approximately 20 minutes. This can be more convenient for those who prefer to complete all sections in one sitting.

8. Scoring Criteria

The scoring criteria for IELTS and TOEFL’s speaking and writing sections can influence your preparation and performance.

IELTS: IELTS examiners assess speaking and writing using a detailed rubric that considers fluency, coherence, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.

TOEFL: TOEFL’s speaking and writing sections are graded based on automated scoring algorithms. These algorithms analyze factors like fluency, coherence, and grammar.

  1. Test Availability

The availability of IELTS and TOEFL testing centers can impact your decision, especially if you live in a specific region.
IELTS: IELTS has testing centers in many countries, making it widely accessible. However, test dates may be limited in some regions.

TOEFL: TOEFL is also widely available, but the computer-based format means that you can usually find more flexible test dates.

10. Test Fee

The cost of taking the IELTS and TOEFL exams can be a significant factor in your decision.

IELTS: The IELTS exam fee varies by country but generally ranges from $200 to $250.

TOEFL: TOEFL is priced slightly lower, with fees typically ranging from $180 to $300.

  1. Test Delivery

The mode of test delivery can influence your choice, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when remote testing became more prevalent.

IELTS: IELTS introduced an online version called IELTS Indicator, allowing test-takers to take the test at home. However, this may not be available in all regions.

TOEFL: TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test) has been administered online for years, making it more accessible to those who prefer online testing.

  1. Validity Period

The validity period of your test scores can be essential if you plan to apply for educational programs or jobs in the future.

IELTS: IELTS scores are generally valid for two years from the test date.

TOEFL: TOEFL scores are also valid for two years, offering a similar timeframe for your applications.

  1. Retake Policy

Your ability to retake the exam may be a crucial consideration, especially if you want to improve your score.

IELTS: You can retake the IELTS exam as many times as you wish. However, you need to consider test availability and fees for each attempt. IELTS has a single band retake, a feature that is not there in the TOEFL.

TOEFL: TOEFL has a waiting period of 12 days between attempts, and you can take the test as many times as you like within a 21-day period. This flexibility can be advantageous for some test-takers.

  1. Test Preparation Resources

The availability of test preparation resources can influence your decision on which exam to take.

IELTS: IELTS provides official preparation materials, including practice tests and study guides. Additionally, there are numerous third-party books, courses, and online resources to aid in your preparation.

TOEFL: TOEFL offers official preparation materials, practice tests, and a free online course. Like IELTS, there are various third-party resources available for test preparation.

  1. Acceptance and Recognition

The recognition and acceptance of IELTS and TOEFL scores vary among institutions and countries.

IELTS: IELTS is widely accepted in the United Kingdom, Australia, and many European countries. It is also recognized by numerous universities and institutions in North America.

TOEFL: TOEFL is more commonly accepted in the United States and Canada, with many American universities preferring it. However, it is also recognized worldwide.


In IELTS vs. TOEFL comparison, both exams have their unique features and advantages. Your choice should align with your specific goals, preferences, and circumstances. If you are comfortable with face-to-face speaking tests, value a diverse range of accents, and prefer a more human approach, IELTS might be the right choice for you.

On the other hand, if you prefer computer-based speaking tests, a standardized format, and a straightforward scoring system, TOEFL might better suit your needs. Ultimately, it’s essential to conduct thorough research, consider the factors mentioned above, and make an informed decision based on your individual requirements and circumstances.

Whichever exam you choose, remember that both IELTS and TOEFL are valuable tools to help you achieve your academic and professional aspirations in an English-speaking world.