Which English Proficiency Test: TOEFL or IETLS?

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    These two tests differ slightly. Both TOEFL and IELTS have paper-based and computer-based formats. Currently, ETS is temporarily offering the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition that can be taken at home due to public health concerns.

    Getting accepted to school abroad requires many different processes and examinations. One of those is taking a proficiency test of the official language of that country. In the USA, Canada, and the UK and many other countries, that would be English. The two most common English proficiency tests are TOEFL and IELTS. TOEFL is the Test of English as a Foreign Language administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). IELTS is the International English Language Testing System and is the only proficiency test accepted in the UK. Which test then should you take?

    These two tests differ slightly. Both TOEFL and IELTS have paper-based and computer-based formats. Currently, ETS is temporarily offering the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition that can be taken at home due to public health concerns.

    Both English proficiency tests have four sections including speaking, writing, listening, and reading. The IELTS speaking section is done in person for both formats but TOEFL is done via recording test takers voice through the microphone for the computer based. There is no speaking section for the TOEFL paper-based The length of the IELTS exam is 2 hours 45 minutes and 4 hours for the TOEFL. The cost for TOEFL varies by country between 160 to over 200 USD and the IELTS cost also varies depending on country at around 215 to 240 USD. TOEFL iBT is scored on a scale of 0-120 whereas the IELTS is on a 0-9 band of 0.5. The minimum score for ranked US universities is 78 and 6.0 for TOEFL and IELTS respectively.

    With all the numbers asides, if you are intending to go to the UK then IELTS UKVI is your only choice. IELTS also has an IELTS general test which is less difficult and for immigration, secondary education, work experience, or training program purposes. If you prefer to take the speaking section in person with an examiner rather than a microphone, IELTS is also your only choice between the two. The IELTS speaking section is 11-14 minutes and is more like a conversation. On the other hand, the TOEFL is about expressing opinions on everyday topics and building a response to a passage or a recording. The IELTS speaking can also be taken on a separate day than the rest of the tests. The TOEFL is also based on American English accent while IELTS is based on British English accent.

    The three other sections on the TOEFL consist of multiple choices while IELTS has both short answers and essay questions. The listening section of the TOEFL consists of four to six recordings of conversation of lecture types while the IELTS consists of 4 parts with increasing difficulty. You only get to hear the recording only once in the IELTS and answer follow-up questions.

    The reading sections on the IELTS consists of 3 to 4 reading passages and 40 questions with increasing difficulty. Similarly, the TOEFL has 3 to 4 reading passages with 10 questions per passage. The writing sections of both IELTS and TOEFL consists of two parts. The similarity ends here. IELTS’s first part is a short essay based on a graph/chart and the second part is a short essay based on the information given. TOEFL’s first writing part is based on a short passage and a short lecture and the second writing is based on a personal experience on a topic.

    While the format may differ between the two tests, the most important determinant is the acceptance of scores with schools. If the institution you are applying to accepts both tests, assessing which tests to take depends on your preferences of test taking style (computer or paper), English accent, speaking in person or into a microphone, question types, test availability, and cost.

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