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IELTS vs TOEFL: What’s The Difference?

If you are planning to study abroad and English isn’t your native language, you will be required to take an English language proficiency test. Currently, there are two main options: 


The International English Language Testing System is an exam designed by the University of Cambridge. Made in the United Kingdom, it is accepted in the United Kingdom and in other universities in the world that offer courses in English or that request proof of proficiency in this language.


This acronym stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language, and it is an exam that has been developed in the United States to assess the English proficiency of foreign students who wish to enter schools or universities in the US. Therefore, the TOEFL has a more academic focus and is the most popular test in the United States.

Both exams evaluate your skills in four different areas: speaking, writing, listening and reading.


Which test should I choose?

To choose which of these exams is the right option for you, first, you should check which test the schools you are interested in accept. In recent years, schools have been accepting both as valid scores, so chances are you are the one who gets to decide which to take.

However, each test evaluates your skills differently, so let’s take a look.



In the IELTS, you will have an interview with an examiner, either the same day as the other sections of the test or on a different date. 

The TOEFL requires you to record your answers through a microphone. You will be given 15 seconds to prepare your response and then 30 seconds to record your answer. A timer will show up on the screen to let you know how much time you have left to speak. 

Some people might prefer to talk to a person, while other people might prefer to talk to a microphone.



The listening section on the IELTS is pretty standard: you listen to 4 recordings and answer some questions on your sheet. You will need to make sure you are marking your answer in the correct question. The tricky thing about this section is that the accents of the speakers could be from anywhere in Europe, which could add a bit of difficulty in some cases.

TOEFL integrates the listening section with reading, and your answers will be written or oral (recorded through the microphone as in the speaking section). During the test, you can deal with the different accents (British, Australian, American) as well.



The TOEFL is usually longer, so it takes an average of 3 hours. The IELTS has a total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes.


If you are not sure which test is the best fit for you, you can take official mocks tests and get a better idea of each of them.


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