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IELTS or TOEFL – Major differences explained

When it comes to testing for English proficiency, the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are regarded as two of the most popular and widely accepted tests. While other testing systems, such as the Duolingo English test have gained popularity, the main point of this article is to discuss the differences between the IELTS and TOEFL exams.

At a glance, the basic differences between both the exams can be summarised in a table –

The TOEFL exam is mainly an academic English proficiency testing platform, and therefore it does not offer a general section, such as that offered by the IELTS. The IELTS general tends to be easier than the academic test, mainly because the IELTS General test is meant for immigration purposes other than under the student visa, to Canada and the UK.

Another point that should be noted is that the IELTS is offered jointly by the British Council and the IDP. There is no difference between these two in terms of their testing difficulty or marking criteria. The only difference is the availability of test centres; for example, if an IDP IELTS test centre is situated close to where you live, then go for the IDP one.

Getting down to the crux of the matter, which is tougher? This will depend on the exam-taker. While the IELTS has a more real-world feel to it, because of its conversation style speaking components, it will come down to what you are comfortable with. Both tests have similar sections; however, they vary in their patterns and methods. The TOEFL has a speaking component which is administered through a recorder.

Both tests are offered very frequently, with each test being conducted about 48+ times a year, so you will not have difficulty in finding a suitable testing date. Most students average the 6-7 bands in IELTS or a score of 75-85 in the TOEFL. Both tests are widely accepted throughout the world; however, the TOEFL might be more prominent in the USA, while the IELTS in other parts of the world. However, this wholly depends upon your university, so it makes sense to first check your university’s requirements before appearing for either.

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