TOEFL or IELTS? Which Test Should I Choose in 2024

TOEFL or IELTS? It’s the perennial question for international students aiming to study at English-speaking universities. As you navigate the admissions process, you’ll inevitably encounter the requirement for an English proficiency exam. These tests assess your speaking, writing, and reading skills, providing universities with a benchmark of your language proficiency. Among the most prominent options are the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). But how do you decide between the two?

Choosing between the TOEFL and IELTS can feel as daunting as deciding whether to hang your toilet paper over or under, or what to binge-watch next. But fear not! In this article, we’ll break down the differences between these two exams and help you determine which one aligns best with your unique circumstances and preferences.

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What is the TOEFL?

Short for the Test of English as a Foreign Language, TOEFL (pronounced toe-full) is an assessment administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). It’s an internet-based test (iBT) widely recognized by over 12,500 institutions worldwide. Whether you prefer the comfort of home or a nearby testing center, you have the flexibility to choose where to take the test.

Scores from the TOEFL are typically available swiftly, within eight days for the Home Edition and thirteen days for the Paper Edition. The cost varies by country, ranging from $180 to $325. With the convenience of taking the TOEFL from home, you have the freedom to select a test date that suits your schedule. However, we recommend planning ahead and scheduling your test a few months in advance to allow ample time for preparation.

TOEFL Format

The TOEFL comprises four main sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Each section is meticulously crafted to replicate the scenarios and dialogues you may encounter while pursuing studies at an English-speaking university.

TOEFL Changes as of 2023

As of July 26, 2023, significant alterations were made to the TOEFL format. The revised test is now shorter, with an approximate duration of 2 hours. Notable modifications include:

  • Reading Section: Reduced from four articles to two, each featuring ten questions.
  • Listening Section: Condensed to twenty-eight questions.
  • Speaking Section: Unchanged, with four questions requiring verbal responses via a microphone.
  • Writing Section: Introduces a new component, the academic discussion question, alongside the existing integrated writing question.

The streamlined format offers a quicker testing experience, catering to the preferences of test-takers seeking efficiency.

Who Accepts TOEFL

The TOEFL is widely accepted by educational institutions in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland. While US-based schools have historically favored the TOEFL over the IELTS, many institutions now accept both exams. To explore specific admissions criteria and international acceptance rates at American universities, refer to our comprehensive table consolidating data from over 200 schools. Additionally, we delve into the application process for Asian-American students and address potential biases in our article on applying to top US universities.

What is the IELTS

The IELTS, or International English Language Testing System, is a standardized test designed to assess the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. Administered by the British Council, the IELTS is recognized and accepted by more than 12,000 institutions globally.

Test Options

Similar to the TOEFL, the IELTS provides flexibility in test-taking methods. Test takers can opt to complete the exam at a designated test center, either on a computer or by hand. Additionally, the IELTS offers an online test option, allowing candidates to take the test from the comfort of their own home. However, it’s important to note that if you intend to take the IELTS General Training test or require an IELTS score for visa purposes, you must complete the test at an authorized testing center.

Cost and Accessibility

The cost of the IELTS varies depending on your location, ranging from $215 to $310 USD. This fee covers the administration of the test and the issuance of your score report. Despite the cost, the IELTS remains accessible to individuals worldwide, offering a pathway for non-native English speakers to demonstrate their language proficiency and pursue academic or professional opportunities in English-speaking environments.

What is the IELTS Format

Similar to the TOEFL, the IELTS test is structured into four sections: Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking. Let’s delve into each section to understand what to expect.

Reading Section

The Reading section of the IELTS consists of 40 questions spread across three sections. Test takers are presented with academic texts, including excerpts from books, newspapers, and magazines. At least one text involves a logical argument, followed by questions assessing comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Listening Section

In the Listening section, test takers are required to complete four parts. The first two parts involve listening to social conversations, while the remaining parts feature educational discussions similar to those found in a university setting.

Writing Section

The Writing section comprises two tasks. The first task involves describing visual information, such as graphs or charts, in at least 150 words. The second task requires test takers to express a viewpoint or argument, constructing a response of at least 250 words. This section allows candidates to demonstrate their ability to articulate ideas clearly and cohesively.

Speaking Section

The Speaking section involves a face-to-face interview between the test taker and an examiner. It consists of three parts: discussing familiar topics, presenting on a specialized topic provided by the examiner, and responding to follow-up questions related to the topic. The interview is recorded and assessed to evaluate speaking proficiency.

Test Duration

In total, the IELTS takes approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete, with varying time allocations for each section. The Listening section lasts 30 minutes, the Reading section 60 minutes, the Writing section 60 minutes, and the Speaking section 11-14 minutes.

Preparation Resources

For those preparing to take the IELTS, numerous resources are available, including courses, videos, and webinars tailored to help candidates excel in each section of the exam. These resources offer valuable guidance and practice opportunities to enhance test performance.

Who Accepts IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is widely recognized and accepted by numerous schools, organizations, and employers worldwide. Here’s how you can verify if your desired institution acknowledges IELTS scores.

To determine if a specific institution accepts IELTS scores, visit the official IELTS website and utilize their search feature. Simply input the name of the institution you’re interested in and explore the results to confirm their IELTS score acceptance policy.

Many universities, colleges, and educational institutions across various countries recognize the IELTS as proof of English language proficiency for international applicants. Additionally, numerous government agencies, professional associations, and employers in diverse industries acknowledge IELTS scores as part of their admission or recruitment processes.

With its widespread acceptance, the IELTS opens doors to educational and career opportunities worldwide. Whether you’re applying to study abroad, seeking employment overseas, or pursuing professional certification, having a strong IELTS score can enhance your prospects and demonstrate your English language proficiency to prospective institutions and employers.

Before registering for the IELTS exam, it’s essential to verify the acceptance of IELTS scores by your target institutions or organizations. By conducting thorough research and consulting official sources, you can ensure that your IELTS results meet the requirements of your desired academic or professional pursuits.

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What’s the Difference Between TOEFL and IELTS?

Both the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) assessments encompass four key sections: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. While the fundamental skills evaluated in these exams remain consistent, there are notable disparities in their content and scoring methodologies. Let’s delve into the differences between these two examinations:

Content Variances

  • TOEFL Emphasizes Academic Context: The TOEFL predominantly assesses language proficiency within an academic framework. Its reading materials are sourced from university textbooks, and the listening section primarily features lecture-style content commonly encountered in academic environments.
  • IELTS Focuses on Real-World Examples: In contrast, the IELTS places greater emphasis on practical, real-world scenarios. Its reading passages may encompass various sources, including newspapers and websites, reflecting everyday language usage and diverse contexts.

Scoring Models

  • IELTS Scoring: IELTS evaluates all sections equally on a scale of 0 to 9, with increments of 0.25. The overall score is calculated by averaging the scores from each section and rounding to the nearest whole or half band.
  • TOEFL Scoring: TOEFL is scored on a scale of 0 to 120, with each section receiving a score between 0 and 30. These individual scores are then aggregated to determine the test taker’s overall score.

Choosing the Right Test

Deciding between the TOEFL and IELTS hinges on various factors, including your academic or professional objectives, familiarity with each exam format, and the specific requirements of your target institutions or organizations. Exploring free practice tests provided by both the TOEFL and IELTS can offer invaluable insights into the content and structure of each assessment, aiding you in making an informed decision.


Whether you opt for the TOEFL or IELTS depends on various factors, including your academic or professional goals and the specific requirements of your target institutions. While both assessments assess English language proficiency, they differ in content emphasis and scoring methodologies.

By thoroughly understanding the distinctions between the TOEFL and IELTS, as outlined in this article, you can make a well-informed decision that aligns with your needs and maximizes your chances of success. Remember to explore practice tests provided by both exams to familiarize yourself with their formats and content, ultimately empowering you to showcase your language skills effectively and pursue your desired educational or professional endeavors with confidence.