IELTS vs. TOEFL: Which should you take?

Exploring The Differences: IELTS vs. TOEFL For Students

If you’re considering taking either the IELTS or the TOEFL, you’ve probably heard that these two English language tests are different in important ways. But how exactly do they differ? What question types should you expect? And is one of these tests better suited for your needs than the other?

This article explores the key differences between IELTS and TOEFL, covering topics such as their formats, question types, and frequently asked questions. If you’re looking to learn more about these exams and determine which one is right for you, continue reading!

What Is the Difference Between Ielts and Toefl?

IELTS and TOEFL are both English language proficiency tests designed to assess a student’s ability in reading, writing, listening and speaking. While there are some similarities between the two exams, they also have their own unique characteristics that make them distinct from one another.

The IELTS test is offered by the British Council while TOEFL is managed by ETS (Educational Testing Service). The structure of the exams differs slightly; IELTS consists of four sections: Listening, Reading Writing and Speaking whereas TOEFL has three sections: Reading Comprehension Listening Comprehension & Structure/Written Expression (S&W) plus an additional section for Writing.

In terms of scoring system – both tests use different scales but overall- students who perform well on either exam will obtain similar scores or higher in comparison with each other .

Additionally, it is important to note that if you plan on studying abroad then many universities require applicants to submit scores from either one or both examinations before they can be accepted into their program. Therefore understanding which test better suits your academic goals as well as any requirements dictated by institutions should influence which exam you decide take first hand

Format of Tests

Tests come in various formats, and it’s important for students to understand the differences. There are multiple choice tests, essay tests, short answer tests, true/false questions and more.

Multiple choice exams assess a student’s understanding of a specific concept by providing them with several options from which they must choose the correct answer. Essay tests require students to demonstrate their knowledge on a particular topic by writing an in-depth response that covers all aspects of the question or prompt provided. Short answers enable students to provide concise yet comprehensive responses without taking up too much time; these can be used as part of both online and written assessments. Finally, true/false questions evaluate how well someone understands facts related to certain topics; although simple in nature they can help draw attention away from irrelevant information while assessing comprehension level accurately .

By familiarizing themselves with different types of test formats ahead of time ,students will have a better chance at successfully demonstrating their knowledge during an assessment .

Test Question Types

When studying for an exam, it is essential to understand the different test question formats and how each can be used effectively. Questions come in many forms, from multiple-choice questions to open ended discussion topics. Knowing which type of question you are being asked can help you better prepare for your exams.

Multiple Choice Questions: Multiple choice questions typically involve a set list of options that must be selected as correct answers or choices among other incorrect ones. This format gives students an opportunity to recall knowledge they may have forgotten or overlook when answering more general questions about a topic.

True/False Questions: True/False questions consist solely of two answer choices – true and false – both requiring some degree of critical thinking on behalf of the student before selecting one answer over another as accurate or valid response for the given situation presented by the statement within the assigned text material relevant to that particular course subject matter at hand; this forces them into making logical judgments based upon what was read prior in class lectures or during independent research study sessions completed outside regular classroom hours spent with their teacher assistants (TA’s).

Short Answer Questions: Short answer checks how much understanding has been retained by testing comprehension skills rather than simply memorization capabilities like multiple choice does so well; often times focusing on one concept per query posed leaving room enough only for brief summarizing statements offered up as acceptable summary observations deemed suitable responses leading towards higher grade scores achieved through successfully

To help, here’s an overview of the main similarities and differences between the two tests:


Method Paper and Online Online
Length 2 hours 45 minutes 3 hours 15 minutes
Scores 0-9 0-120
Results 13 days 10 days
Marking Human examiners and automated marking (machine marking) Human examiners and automated marking (machine marking)
Accepted by 11,000 organisations worldwide 11,500 organisations worldwide








Format of tests

Although they both test the four skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking, they do so in different ways:


IELTS Academic Questions TOEFL iBT Questions
Listening 30 mins 40 41-57 mins 28-39
Reading 60 mins 40 54-72 mins 30-40
Writing 60 mins 2 tasks 50 mins 2 tasks
Speaking 11-14 mins 3 parts 17 mins 4 tasks


Test Question types


IELTS has various question types. A mix of these will appear in the Listening and Reading tests:

  • Multiple choice
  • Matching
  • Plan, map, diagram labelling
  • Form, note, table, flow-chart, summary completion
  • Sentence completion
  • Summary completion
  • Short answer questions
  • True/False/Not Given
  • Yes/No/Not Given


TOEFL iBT is made up of multiple choice questions (where you select and answer from options, A, B, C or D).


IELTS vs TOEFL – Listening


A common myth is that IELTS is British English and TOEFL is US English but the fact is that both tests have a range of English accents: North American, British, Australian and New Zealand accents.


There are four parts to the IELTS Listening test, with ten questions each. Parts 1 and 2 are in a general English context. Parts 3 and 4 are in an academic context. Parts 1 and 3 involve more than one speaker whereas Parts 2 and 4 are monologues (only one person speaks).


There are 2 types of listening items in the TOEFL iBT test: lectures and conversations, both of which use the language you would be expected to hear and use at university. The test is made up of:

  • 3 to 4 lectures with six questions each
  • 2 to 3 conversations with two speakers with five questions per conversation.



IELTS vs TOEFL – Reading


There are three passages (texts) in the IELTS Academic Reading test with a total of about 2,750 words. Passage one and two have thirteen questions each. Passage three has fourteen questions. Remember that these questions will cover a range of question types (see above). The reading texts come from books, journals, magazines, newspapers or websites. You are not expected to know the subject matter well. You will be able to answer the questions based on the content of the text.


TOEFL iBT has three or four reading passages with a total of 700 words each. Each passage has ten multiple-choice questions. As with IELTS, you aren’t expected to know the subject matter and will be able to answer the questions based on the content.


IELTS vs TOEFL – Writing


There are two tasks in both the IELTS and TOEFL Writing tests. Task one of the IELTS Academic Writing test has information presented in a graph, chart, table or diagram. You have 20 minutes to complete the task and to write a minimum of 150 words. In task two you have 40 minutes to write a minimum of 250 words answering a discussion question. Task two is worth double the marks of task one. If you’re taking the paper-based IELTS test, both tasks will have to be handwritten.


TOEFL iBT task one is very different. This task is integrated with both reading and listening. You have to read a short passage and listen to a short lecture. You then have to write a response based on what you have read and listened to.  Task two is writing an essay based on your personal experience or opinion on a given topic. You have a total of 50 minutes for the writing test.


IELTS vs TOEFL – Speaking


The main difference between the two tests is that the IELTS Speaking test is done with an examiner either face-to-face or on a video call. The test is recorded for training and verification purposes. Your test is marked by the examiner and verified by other examiners if necessary.


In the TOEFL iBT test, you listen to questions, and you then speak your answers into a microphone. Your answers are marked by a combination of AI (computer-rated) and human reviewers.


The IELTS test may or may not be taken on the same day as the other parts of the test whereas TOEFL iBT is taken on the same day as the other parts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Students often have questions about the differences between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). While they are closely related, there are important distinctions to be aware of. AI is a broad term that encompasses many disciplines such as computer vision, natural language processing, and robotics. On the other hand, ML is an application of AI specifically designed to improve performance through experience-based learning algorithms.

In essence, while AI can automate decision making processes on its own without being explicitly programmed by humans this way; ML learns from data in order to make predictions or recommendations based on what it has learned. Put another way: with AI you get something out of nothing – a set result generated completely autonomously – whereas with ML you use existing data sets in order to build models which can then generate results more accurately than one program alone could do so on its own merits.

Final Conclusion

In conclusion, the IELTS and TOEFL are both valid tests for students who wish to prove their English proficiency. The decision on which one to take should be based on your needs, goals and resources so decide wisely! It is important to do research in order to get a better understanding of what each test entails and how it can benefit you. With this knowledge in hand, we hope that you will be able make an informed choice about which test is best for you.