Vandana Kirat Jan 25, 2024
Entrance Tips

What’s the difference between TOEFL and IELTS?

The TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are two of the most widely accepted rigorous tests that assess your English proficiency.  It is widely accepted and available at a variety of locations around the world. While TOEFL and IELTS have many similarities, there are some major differences as well. Every non-native English speaker needs to take either of the tests to apply to a foreign university. If you ask the question ‘Which test is the best to take - TOEFL or IELTS ?’ It depends on which university and the country you are going to. Most American schools and colleges opt for TOEFL scores, whereas IELTS is widely accepted all over the world, especially in the UK, Australia, and Canada. 

Before moving on to identify the key differences between IELTS and TOEFL, let me give you an overview of TOEFL and IELTS. 

TOEFL is an English proficiency test that was developed by an American company, Educational Testing Service (ETS) that measures an individual’s skill in American English. It is accepted in over 900 universities and over 130 countries.

Whereas, IELTS is also an English proficiency test that assesses an individual’s proficiency in the English language. It was developed by the British Council, IDP, and the Cambridge English Language Assessment and is accepted by thousands of universities in over 140 countries. 

Besides the tests having the same four-section (reading, listening, speaking, and writing) and with a validity of 2 years, it possesses many differences in various sectors. Let’s dive into the distinctive parameters of IELTS and TOEFL.






2 hours and 45 minutes

4 hours


0 - 9 band scale

0 - 120 points





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


48 test dates per year

More than 50 test dates per year.

Read also IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE-Which English Test Should I Take?

1. Difficulty Level Of The Tests

There are mixed views on which of the two is easier. When TOEFL gives you multiple choice base questions, interacting with a computer, IELTS on the other hand allows you to write your essay answer. It is more inclined towards the UK or Australian English whereas, TOEFL leans to American English. 

Unlike TOEFL’s computer assessment for all the sections, IELTS requires interview-like speaking selection, where the examiner is also the rater. The difficulty lies in each individual’s aspect. TOEFL will be considered simple to those who have experience in the American English and MCQ-based (Multiple Choice Question) questions. If you have experience in British English or any other dialect and are comfortable with a detailed in-person interview than speaking into a microphone, TOEFL will seem a little strange.    

2. Length Of The Tests

They say TOEFL to be the longest English proficiency test with a duration of 4 hours. Some section’s duration varies from IELTS, and it depends on the ability of the test taker. It segregates the sections with reading for 60-80 minutes, listening for 60-90 minutes, speaking for 20 minutes, and writing for 50 minutes.

IELTS on the other hand is a shorter exam lasting for about 2 hours and 45 minutes. However, it may take more than a day to complete the exam because the speaking test is with an examiner separate from the other sections. It separates the various sections such as listening for 30 minutes, reading for 60 minutes, writing for 60 minutes, and speaking for 11-14 minutes.   

3. Scoring Methods Of The Tests

The IELTS is graded on a band scale system from 1 to 9, where your overall score will be rounded up to the nearest half band. For example, if your score is 6.25, it will be rounded up to 6.5. They grade it on individual criteria such as grammar, logic, cohesion, and fluency. 

With each section receiving a score of 0-30 points totalling it to 120 points, they grade TOEFL with computer-based administration and both automated and human-based scoring. 

4. Exam Structure


There is a big difference between the tests in the speaking section. IELTS put forth a face-to-face interview-like test with an examiner that lasts for about 11 to 14 minutes. They conduct it as a normal conversation recorded on tape, where the examiner asks general questions about your family and studies. Then you will be handed a card with a topic that will be discussed briefly. In the TOEFL exam, they will ask you 6 questions which you will answer into a microphone. It takes about 20 minutes where your answer will be recorded. 

Read also 7 IELTS Speaking Tips to get band 8+ score


The writing section of both tests is divided into 2 parts. In TOEFL, the first part requires you to construct an essay of 300-350 words regarding the topic. In the second part, you need to put together another essay of 150-225 words. Whereas in IELTS, they will give you a graph or chart in the first part, where you are required to write a short essay of 150 words in 20 minutes regarding that information. In the second part of IELTS, you will be handed an argument or statement and they will require you to write a 200-250 words response in 40 minutes. 


Both the tests will be academic where questions will test how well you understood the context. The TOEFL reading test is made of 3 to 5 sections, each with multiple-choice questions to be completed in 20 minutes. In the IELTS, this section comprises 3 parts holding question types like fill in the blanks and short answers, to be completed in 20 minutes per section. 


For the IELTS listening part of the test, you will be given different questions like fill in the blanks, true or false, or completing the sentence. You require answering 10 questions while listening to the audio. Whereas for TOEFL, you will have to take notes while listening to the audio and then answer a series of multiple-choice questions.  


Both TOEFL and IELTS are rigorous, widely accepted English proficiency tests available at a variety of locations. While deciding which test to take, consult the university you wish to apply to and make sure which test scores they accept there. After deciding on which test to take, check the availability of exam centers in your area. To perform remarkably, prepare yourselves by obtaining study materials and taking practice tests. You will find official test prep materials online, but you can also prepare by listening to news, podcasts, and ted-talks and reading academic study materials. Once you choose your exam, get yourself registered for a test date early enough to get the results before the application deadline. Now you can enrol on NIOS Classes to pursue your higher secondary education.

See also : Planning to take your IELTS test in Dubai?.Book your test at an official IELTS test centre. For more details check out our IELTS Exam Booking Page. 

Vandana is a highly qualified IELTS (British Council trained), and TESOL holder, with over 15 years of experience. She is a proactive professional with a progressive approach to teaching and lesson planning. She has the sound ability to maintain curriculum development. She is a science graduate, Six Sigma and PMP trained individual who has also worked with multinational companies in the Training & Quality domain for more than a decade. Right now, Vandana is working as an IELTS Trainer with Edoxi Training Institute, Dubai.