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TOEFL Vs IELTS Which Does One Pick?


If you are planning an MS abroad, an additional requirement apart from the GRE will be an English Language Test. The most popular ones are the IELTS and TOEFL. Understand that both TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing Services) are intended for students planning to do their higher education at a foreign country. Typically, a student whose first language isn’t English will be required to take one of these English Language Tests. Both these tests evaluate students on four functional areas: Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking. How they do this though, varies.

Which of these tests do you write?

Short answer: Find out which test the universities you’ve shortlisted accept. Write that test!

But of late, universities have begun accepting either of the test scores. In this case making a decision on which to write can be difficult. To make a decision let’s figure out how these tests are different. The obvious difference is that IELTS is a paper based test, TOEFL is a iBT, which expands to internet Based Test. The TOEFL is taken on a computer. Beyond this let’s take a closer look at the tests section wise.


While writing is done on-screen on TOEFL, responses are to be handwritten on the IELTS. This could be a factor for those who have either very slow typing speeds or those who have an aversion to writing on paper!


IELTS conducts its speaking module separate from the other sections. It is either done right after the written test is completed or perhaps a day or two after. One is required to speak to an examiner, luckily the kind of questions that the examiner can ask is highly structured. TOEFL on the other hand requires you to speak into a microphone (that is recorded on the computer). Your responses will be recorded and there will be a stipulated amount of time for preparing and speaking (not unlike IELTS). For example you will be given a 15 second window to prepare a response and a period of 30 seconds to speak during. There will be an onscreen timer that tells you the time you have remaining. Of course this will be a concern only if either speaking face-to-face with an examiner seems extremely daunting or you are completely incapable of speaking to a computer as a timer ticks away!


Listening on the IELTS is straightforward,you’ll have to listen to the respective tracks, you’ll have some questions on your test sheet which you will have to answer! How it gets tricky is that you’ll be required to make sense of pictographic data and relate it to what you are listening to. Students find one thing about the IELTS very frustrating: the recordings of people speaking with accents that could range across the whole of Europe. This is a big problem with a lot of people who have difficulty perceiving foreign accents! TOEFL on the other hand integrates listening with reading and you will have to respond either by writing a response or speaking out your response (this links back to Speaking and Writing) Listening should be a point of concern to make a decision on if foreign accents baffle you – god forbid you are played a lecture given by a Scottish man!


Reading on the TOEFL will have a very similar look and feel as does the GRE reading. It will obviously not be as mind wrenching though. Reading on both and TOELF and IELTS are more or less comparable except for the fact that one is done on a computer and the other on paper. There are many other pivotal differences between the IELTS and the TOEFL could help you make a decision between the two. The best way to figure this out is by taking an official mock test of each of these tests and getting a feel of the test first hand.

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