Exams Know-how

IELTS vs TOEFL: Learn the Complete Differences between IELTS & TOEFL

Yocket Editorial Team
IELTS vs TOEFL: Learn the Complete Differences between IELTS & TOEFL Image

International students from a non-native English-speaking country seeking admission to universities abroad, it is mandatory to provide scores of an English language proficiency test. IELTS and TOEFL are the two most common and widely accepted tests. While the purpose of these exams is the same, they differ on several accounts. So, if you need clarification about which to take, read our guide to understand the difference between IELTS and TOEFL and choose the right one.

Table of Content

An Overview of the IELTS & TOEFL Exams

Before we delve into the head-on collision between the two exams, i.e. TOEFL vs IELTS, let us first take a quick overview of the two.

What is IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a test which measures an applicant’s English language proficiency.  The exam evaluates an individual’s English language skills across four aspects: Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking.

The exam was established in 1989 and is jointly administered by the British Council, IDP Education, and Cambridge Assessment English. The exam is conducted in two modes: Paper-based and Computer-delivered.  

Suggested:TOEFL Scores & Results

What is TOEFL?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a standardized test accepted worldwide and in most foreign universities where the language of instruction is English. The exam is structured and designed to effectively assess a student’s command of the English language.

The exam is conducted by Education Testing Service (ETS), a US-based private non-profit organisation. The exam has two modes:  Internet-Based Test (iBT) and Paper-Delivered Test


Suggested:Complete Guide to IELTS

What is the difference between IELTS and TOEFL: 9 Ways in Which the Exams Differ

Now let us understand the main difference between IELTS and TOEFL exams:

1. Scope 

If we look over to the difference between IELTS and TOEFL, both the tests are meant to assess an individual’s English language ability, there is a change in the scope of the two exams.

IELTS has a wider scope when compared to TOEFL. It is used as an English proficiency test for individuals wishing to study abroad, for occupational purposes and for immigration to English-speaking countries. 

TOEFL is used for academic purposes alone. It is taken by students who wish to enrol in English-speaking universities. 

2. Types

The IELTS exam has two main variations - Academic and General Training. While the IELTS Academic test is to be taken by students planning for higher studies, such as Undergraduate, Masters, and Doctoral levels, the IELTS General Training exam is for individuals planning to take up a vocational training program or to immigrate professionally. 

On the other hand, as discussed already, TOEFL is only used for academic purposes; therefore, it has no major variations.

3. Locations Available

The exams are widely available but differ in terms of availability. 

The IELTS exam can be taken by students in over 140 countries at around 1,600 locations.

TOEFL is very convenient to take. Students can take the exam almost anywhere in the world. Testing centres are available in more than 165 countries at over 4,500 locations.

4. Popularity

Both exams are quite popular when it comes to the number of students taking the exam each year. 

In 2018, IELTS was estimated to be taken by over 3.5 million candidates. The number is higher here because IELTS is not taken by students alone. 

TOEFL is estimated to be taken by over 2.3 million aspirants every year. 

5. Interaction With Examiner 

Another difference lies in IELTS TOEFL, the way the exam is conducted.

For IELTS exams, students are required to communicate directly with the examiner for the IELTS speaking section test.

TOEFL is a completely computer-based exam. Therefore, students do not interact personally with the examiners. For the TOEFL speaking section, students are required to record and send over their speech for checking.  

6. Scoring  

One of the main differences between IELTS and TOEFL is how they are scored.

IELTS is graded on a band system ranging from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest). IELTS exam scoring, overall and section-wise, is done on a scale of 0-9. 

Whereas TOEFL is scored out of 120 points. Each section is graded on a scale of 0-30. 

7. Exam Duration

The IELTS exam takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete.

The Internet-based TOEFL exam duration is 3 hours long, and the paper-delivered exam is 2 and a half hours long. 

8. Frequency 

The TOEFL iBT exam is scheduled over 60 times a year at authorized test centres around the world. The new TOEFL iBT home edition exam can be taken 4 days a week.

The IELTS exam can be taken up to once a week. It is scheduled for test dates 48 days per year.

9. Result Declaration

The TOEFL score is made available to the students anywhere between 6-10 days from the test date. 

The  IELTS test results are released within a week (online) or 13 days (offline) after taking the exam.

Suggested:IELTS Exam Preparation

Now you know the difference between IELTS and TOEFL depends on various factors like scope, type, location, popularity, exam duration, result declaration, frequency, and more. TOEFL is could be preferred by aspirants who do not wish to connect with the examiner while giving the test. Whereas, IELTS is preferred by aspirants who are taking tests for occupational purposes, education, or for immigration to English-speaking countries. Further, before taking an exam connect with your university to check for their English proficiency requirements. 

Comparing the Nature of TOEFL & IELTS Exam 

Although the basic method of evaluating skills in English language is the same for both TOEFL and IELTS, they differ in the approach to assessment. Let’s take a closer look at this below:

IELTS Vs TOEFL: Exam Pattern & Syllabus

In both exams a student has to pass four sections- Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing.  However, there are variations in which the exam is conducted. 

  • Reading Section 


The TOEFL reading section tests a student’s reading and comprehension abilities of university-level educational text. You will be required to read 3-4 passages. Based on each of these passages, you will have to answer a set of about 10 questions per passage.


In IELTS reading section a student is generally given three passages. Based on the passages, students are asked to answer different types of questions. The main intent of the section is to assess the student’s ability to understand & identify the author's main ideas, and find specific information.




Total Questions




54-72 minutes

60 minutes 

  • Listening Section 


TOEFL listening section aims to assess how well a student will be able to listen to classroom lectures and conversations.  Students will be asked to answer questions based on 3-4 lectures and 2-3 conversations.  A lecture is followed by 6 questions each and a conversation is followed by around 5 questions each. 

IELTS listening section is designed to evaluate a student’s ability to understand a conversation, and ability to listen for important and specific facts. Students will be provided 4 recorded monologues or conversations divided into four sections. The first two conversations/ monologues deal with social needs, while the last two are related to the area of education. The audio can only be heard once and questions are based on these. 




Total Questions 




41–57 minutes

30 minutes

  • Writing Section 


TOEFL writing section is designed to test student’s ability to present and write their ideas in a clear and well-planned manner. Students will be given two tasks - one integrated task involving reading (3 mins), listening (2 minutes) and then writing (15 mins); and an independent essay writing task. 


IELTS writing section tests the skills of writing a well-organised, clear, and rational essay on the topic provided.  Students will have to write two essays-one short and one long. 




Total Questions 




50 minutes

60 minutes 

  • Speaking Section 


TOEFL speaking section is designed to test student’s efficiency in spoken English. The student is given 4 tasks the results of which are scored by an examiner. In one task a student is required to speak about a familiar topic. In the other 3 integrated Speaking Tasks, students are required to read or listen or both and then speak on the given topic.  


The main aim of the IELTS speaking section is to assess the ability of the candidate to communicate their ideas & opinions in the English language. The student has to undergo a face-to-face interview with the designated examiner. 




Total Parts 




17 minutes

10-15 minutes

Suggested:Types of IELTS Exams

IELTS Vs TOEFL: Questions & Tasks

Both the exams IELTS or TOEFL differ significantly in the nature of tasks and questions being asked. t’s compare the nature of questions and tasks in each section one by one: 





40 Multiple-choice questions based on 

3-4 passages

Questions like Short answer, Matching headings, Multiple choice, Sentence completion, Summary completion, Flow-chart completion, Diagram labelling, identifying writer’s views/claims, etc. based on 3 long passages


40+ Multiple- choice questions based on 

2–3 conversations & 3–4 lectures

Questions like Multiple choice, Sentence completion, Summary completion, Flow-chart completion, Diagram labelling, Matching information, etc. based on recorded monologues or conversations


1 integrated task based on reading a short passage, listening to a short lecture and then writing 

1 Independent Essay Writing task (30 minutes)

1 writing task of writing around 150 words based on the given topic

1 Writing task of a short essay of 250 words on a given topic


1 Independent Speaking task  

3 Integrated tasks – Read or/ and listen and then Speak 

A 3-part face-to-face interview

Part 1: Introduction of the candidate 

Part 2: Speaking on the given topic

Part 3: Discussion

Suggested:How to Prepare for IELTS at Home?

TOEFL Vs IELTS: Mode of Exam

TOEFL: The TOEFL exam is conducted in two modes:

  • PBT - Paper-based Test: It is conducted in offline mode in locations where the internet is not available. It has 3 sections - reading, writing and listening. 
  • iBT - Internet-based Test: The exam replaced the computer-based test in 2006. It consists of four sections-reading, listening, speaking and writing. It is one of the preferred types of TOEFL exams.

Due to the COVID pandemic, ETS has also launched a Home Edition for test takers. The TOEFL Home Edition test can be taken on your own computer from home. It is monitored by a human proctor online

IELTS: The IELTS exam is conducted in two modes: 

  • Computer-Delivered IELTS Exam: In 2017, the Computer Based exam was introduced. On the paper-based IELTS test, you need to write the exam on an answer sheet. 
  • Paper-based IELTS Exam: In the computer-delivered IELTS, candidates need to type their answers in the given boxes.

Suggested:Best IELTS Books 

IELTS Vs TOEFL: Result and Acceptance

Both TOEFL and IELTS scores are widely accepted as proof of English proficiency across the globe. 

IELTS exam scores are accepted by over 9000 institutions in more than 140 countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

TOEFL scores are accepted by more than 11,000 universities in 150 countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Germany.

Between the two exams, TOEFL is preferred in the US, while IELTS is preferred in other countries.

Suggested:IELTS Fees

Which is Better: TOEFL or IELTS?

While comparing the two exams TOEFL vs IELTS the question that comes to mind is which exam is easy.

The choice between the two exams and their level of ease is quite subjective. It is dependent on several factors such as:

  • Score Accepted by your University/ School 

Although both scores are accepted worldwide for admissions to undergraduate and graduate programs, you need to be sure.  Always check whether the university/ school has any preferences when it comes to accepting English language proficiency tests.  

  • Preferred Choice of Question Type

Both the IELTS and TOEFL test the same skills - reading, listening, speaking and writing. However, the way they do it is quite different.  Get acquainted with the exam pattern and the kind of questions asked for both exams before taking the final call. For example, if you are more comfortable with answering MCQs, you might want to choose the TOEFL exam over IELTS. 

  • Your Comfort Level with the Exam Pattern

A major difference between the TOEFL vs IELTS exams is the pattern of the Speaking section. The IELTS speaking test is conducted face-to-face with an examiner, and she/he determines your speaking score.  Also, the IELTS speaking test may not be on the same day as the rest of the exam.

In the case of TOEFL, you have to answer the given questions using a microphone. These are then recorded and later sent to the reviewers.

So, choose the exam type and pattern you will be most comfortable with.  

  • Cost of the Exam 

Cost can also be a deciding factor in choosing between IELTS and TOEFL. The cost of both exams generally varies between 200 USD to 250 USD. However, these costs vary depending on the country from where you take the exam. So, if cost is one of your major concerns, check the price of the exams in your country before deciding.

  • Availability 

Your choice of the exam also depends on the availability of the test centre near you. You can choose the exam for which the exam centre is easily accessible, and dates are also easily available.   

Suggested:IELTS Coaching in Hyderabad

TOEFL score vs IELTS score: Conversion & Comparison

The scoring for both TOEFL and IELTS exams vary. While IELTS is scored on a band scale of 0-9, the TOEFL score range is 0-120.  So, if you have been taking a practice test for one exam, you can roughly estimate how well you would perform on the other with the help of this TOEFL to IELTS conversion table provided by ETS.

TOEFL Score 
























Suggested:IELTS Coaching in Kolkata

In conclusion if we compare IELTS and TOEFL we will find that although the aim of both the exams is the same, both vary on a lot of aspects. If you are planning to take one of these exams, make sure you understand these differences before making your final pick. 

Further, once you achieve your IELTS or TOEFL scores, connect with our well-trained counsellors by subscribing to Yocket Premium and initiate your study-abroad process. Our experts will surely help you select the right university, apply for a visa, arrange loans, and more. 

Also Read:



Secured vs Unsecured Education Loans

GRE Home vs Test Centre

IELTS Academic vs IELTS General Exam



Related Hashtags

Related Discussion

Ask, post and discuss!

Have a question? Ask and discuss with your fellow aspirants!

Create Post

Articles you might like