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TOEFL® vs. IELTS™ - Which Language Test Should I Take?

Studying abroad can involve overcoming a few obstacles — some of which arise before you even begin sending out applications.

As a non-native English speaker applying for a program that is either delivered in English or taught in an English-speaking country, your institute is likely to require you to prove your English language proficiency through a standardized test score.

If they don't have a preference as to which test they'd like you to take, you might find yourself wondering which is right for you – the TOEFL® test or IELTS™. 

Both are accepted by thousands of institutes worldwide, with millions of prospective students opting for one or the other each year — but which one comes out on top where it really matters?

What are they?


  • Founded in 1964 by ETS, the world’s largest educational assessment and research organization.
  • Renowned for its high standards of quality and fairness.
  • Accepted by more than 10,000 universities and other institutions worldwide, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., the United States, and all across Europe and Asia.


  • Founded in 1989 by the British Council, Cambridge English Language Assessment, and IDP.
  • Accepted by a range of academic institutions in the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

How and where do I register?


Book online or via the TOEFL® official app, and take the exam from wherever you are in the world.

  • There are 4,500 TOEFL testing locations in 165 countries.
  • Find a test easily with an online test-center search powered by Google Maps.
  • The price of the TOEFL iBT® test varies by country from $180 to $300. In most countries it's available for under $200.
  • The TOEFL iBT® test is offered more than 50 times each year.


Apply online, over the phone or in the mail.

  • There are 1,200 IELTS testing locations in up to 140 countries.
  • Tests are offered up to 4 times per month, up to 48 times a year.
  • IELTS typically costs around $225, though price can vary depending on the location of your testing center.

How is the exam formatted?


The TOEFL iBT® test is entirely computer-based.

  • Test questions combine reading, listening, speaking and writing skills just as students will do in an actual classroom. This approach:
  1. Replicates academic English as used in university and classroom life
  2. Prepares you to begin your academic studies
  3. Proves you possess the English-language skills needed to succeed 
  • Taking the test on a computer allows you save time writing and focus on attaining a higher score.  


IELTS is paper-based, with a computer-based test available in some countries.

  • IELTS requires participants to respond to a range of different question types such as short answer, gap-filling and essay tasks.
  • The speaking portion of IELTS incorporates an actual face-to-face conversation with an examiner.
  • Depending on your preference, this can be a much more stressful experience or a much more natural one compared to an exclusively computer-based exam.

How long do the tests last?


You can complete the TOEFL Test iBT® test in 3 hours, in only one session.

  • Reading (52-74 minutes)
  • Listening (41-57 minutes)
  • Speaking (17 minutes)
  • Writing (50 minutes)
  • You can retake the test an unlimited number of times, but not more than once in a 12-day period.


You can take the IELTS in 2 hours & 45 minutes - but the speaking test happens on a different day.

  • Writing (60 minutes)
  • Reading (60 minutes)
  • Listening (30 minutes)
  • Speaking (14 minutes)

How does scoring work?


The TOEFL test optimizes scoring by combining artificial intelligence (AI) and human raters.

  • All scoring is done through a centralized online scoring network to ensure accuracy and fairness.
  • The combination of AI and human raters’ evaluation of speaking and writing responses provides unmatched accuracy and reliability.
  • The crucial speaking section uses multiple raters who aren’t aware of the student’s identity, removing the bias that can occur in a face-to-face interview with a single rater.


The paper-based test is scored by a human examiner. Most of the computer-based test is scored digitally.

  • If you take the paper-based exam, you must ensure that your handwritten answers are legible and easily understood.
  • Unclear handwriting may be misunderstood by the examiner.
  • On both the paper and computer-based test, the speaking section is scored by a single examiner only, so your score might be dependent on whether the they can fully understand your accent.

Where can they take me? 


Accepted by more than 10,000 organizations globally, including more than 5,000 U.S. institutions

  • 90% of TOEFL test takers surveyed got into their 1st or 2nd choice university.
  • Because of the TOEFL test’s reputation and high standards, TOEFL test scores help students stand out and show schools they have that extra special something that it takes to be great. Universities notice. 


Accepted by thousands of organizations globally, including over 3,000 U.S. institutions

  • IELTS is recognized by universities and employers in many countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. It is also recognized by professional bodies, immigration authorities and other government agencies.

Ready to take the test?

Learn more and book your TOEFL® test today!

Book now

ETS, TOEFL and TOEFL iBT are registered trademarks of Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States and other countries.

Last update: 21 Nov 2019

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