IELTS or TOEFL? Which Exam Should You Take to Study Abroad?

By Neha Kumari Updated On - Jan 19, 2021 06:22 PM

IELTS and TOEFL are the two popular English Language tests accepted by universities abroad in countries like the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Check the article to know which among the two tests is best for you to take.  

Clearing an English Language Proficiency Test is mandatory for candidates who seek admission to abroad universities in countries including the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and more. The two most popular English language tests are IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). 

Both IELTS  and TOEFL are used to evaluate English reading, writing, speaking and listening skills of the candidates. Conducted at an international level, students can appear for any of these tests at test centres located all around the world.

The scorecards of both TOEFL and IELTS are accepted by thousands of universities and colleges across the world. It depends on the institute and the country if it accepts test scores of both these tests or only one of the two. Both tests serve the same purpose i.e to analyse English language test proficiency of the candidate. It is up to the candidate to decide which among the two tests is the most suitable for them.

This article is a comparative study between IELTS and TOEFL to help students decide which among the two tests they should apply for. 

IELTS Vs TOEFL: A Quick Overview

Here are the highlights/fast facts about both IELTS and TOEFL


IELTS Academic


Conducting Body

British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment

Education Testing Service (ETS)

Mode of Exam

Paper- and Computer-based

Paper- and Internet-based


INR 13,696

INR 13,327


2 hours and 45 minutes

4 hours

Test Sections

- Listening: 30 minutes- Reading: 60 minutes- Writing: 60 minutes- Speaking: 11-14 minutes

- Reading: 60-80 minutes- Listening: 60-90 minutes- Speaking: 20 minutes- Writing: 50 minutes

Speaking Section Format

In-person with an examiner. All speaking tests are recorded.

Computer-based (students speak into a headset microphone)


The listening, reading and writing sections do not allow breaks. However, the speaking section can be completed within a week before or after the rest of the tests.

A 10-minute break between the listening and speaking sections

Where the Test is Offered

More than 1,200 locations in some 140 countries worldwide

4,500 test centres in 165 countries

Where scores are accepted

Accepted by more than 10,000 institutions globally

Accepted by 11,000 institutions across 150+ countries

Results Timeline

Paper-based IELTS results are announced in online mode 13 days after the test date. Computer-based IELTS results are available online within 3-5 days after taking the test.

Results are available online in approximately 6 days after taking the test.

Scoring Scale

1 to 9

0 to 120

Score Validity

2 years

2 years

Also Read: How to Prepare for GMAT Online Exam?

IELTS or TOEFL: Which Should You Take? 

IELTS and TOEFL are conducted by two different organisations. The IELTS exam is managed jointly by IDP: IELTS Australia, the British Council, and Cambridge Assessment English and it started conducting the examination in 1989. On the other hand, TOEFL is conducted by Educational Testing and Assessment Institution, ETS (a non-profit organisation).

Now, to understand which test you should take, check the following points:

Study Abroad Destination

If you are confused about whether to take the IELTS or TOEFL test then the first thing that you must decide is the country and institute to which you want to take admission. TOEFL is widely accepted by universities of the United States. So, if your study abroad destination is the USA then the TOEFL test is a good option for you. On the other hand, most universities in countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc. do not accept TOEFL scorecards. In these universities, the IELTS scorecard is used.

However, there are some universities and countries which accept both IELTS and TOEFL scorecards. So, whether to take IELTS or TOEFL must depend on the university and country you want to take admission in. Also, few countries like Poland do not accept any of these test scorecards. English language of instruction in the qualifying examination is the only criteria to take admission in these countries.

Exam Structure

Both IELTS and TOEFL tests include four sections. These are Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. However, the structure varies for both tests. The difference in the pattern of questions asked in all the four sections in both the test is highlighted in the following table:

Reading and Listening



Contains Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs). Each of these MCQs has one correct answer or multiple correct answers. 

The IELTS test has Fill in the blanks, MCQs as well as short answer questions.  




You will have to attend the speaking section on a microphone in front of a computer. 

You will have to speak in front of a person (interviewer)




The duration of the writing section of TOEFL is 50 minutes. The two tasks in this section shall be answered in 20 minutes and 30 minutes.

In IELTS, there are two writing tasks in this section, each of which needs to be answered within 30 minutes. 

Checked detailed TOEFL and IELTS Exam Pattern by clicking the links given below

TOEFL Exam Pattern 2021

IELTS Exam Pattern 2021


The cost of the TOEFL test depends on the location where you are taking the test. In India, the cost of one TOEFL test is Rs. 13,327. The registration fee of the IELTS test in India is Rs. 13,696. 

Difficulty Level

The difficulty level of both the TOEFL and IELTS is the same. However, most candidates who take the test find the IELTS easier than TOEFL because of the structure, pattern and design of the test. While TOEFL is lengthy and exhaustive, the IELTS test is well structured and organised, as per the feedback of candidates.

Having said that, this may not apply to all candidates. Some may also find the TOEFL test easier than IELTS. The following comparison of the two tests will help individuals decide which among the two test level is easier for them:

  • IELTS reading, wiring and listening sections are conducted on the same day and speaking section can be taken after a gap of 5 to 10 days. So, there is enough time to relax and prepare. On the other hand, all the four sections of TOEFL are conducted on the same day.

  • The IELTS speaking section is a face-to-face interaction between the examiner and the candidate. On the other hand, the TOEFL speaking section is recorded in front of a computer using a microphone. So, the candidate can decide whether they are comfortable taking the test in front of a person or a computer. 

Also Read: Everything You Need to Know About GRE General Test at Home

Hope the above comparison is useful for the reader to decide whether TOEFL or IELTS is useful for them. It is highly recommended for students to confirm the English Language Test eligibility criteria for respective universities before taking either of the two tests. 

Once the decision is made, candidates should start preparing for the test.  Self-preparation is sufficient for students who have a good command over the English language and whose grammar and basics are clear. Apart from this, all that is required is a good understanding of the structure and pattern of the test and sufficient practice. IELTS and TOEFL practice tests are available on their official websites.

Stay tuned for more information on overseas education!

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