Many people need to take a language proficiency exam for various reasons. One of the most common questions is which test to take. Many universities and colleges offer their own tests, yet the IELTS and TOEFL are generally accepted everywhere and are the most popular and have the most practice material available.

If your choice comes down to these two tests, here are some of the major differences that might help you decide which test is right for you. Keep in mind that much of the decision depends on your personal strengths and weaknesses. For example, if spelling is a trouble area for you, then the TOEFL might be a better choice. If you type very slowly and with many mistakes, IELTS might be the better choice. Know yourself as a test taker when looking at the following information.

Based on research conducted by ETS (, comparative scores are as follows:

5.5 46-59
6 60-78
6.5 79-93
7 94-101
7.5 102-109
8 110-114
Pen and paper test: requires neat handwriting Computer-based test: requires good typing skills and basic computer knowledge
Listening section involves different accents (UK, Australia, North America) Listening section is mostly North American accents
Four standard components: listening, reading, writing, speaking All four components, yet they are integrated: listening and reading and writing (writing section); reading and listening and speaking (speaking section)
Test is about 3 hours long. However, once the written section is completed, you will have to wait from 10 minutes to 4 hours to do the speaking section. In some test centers you may need to return the following day to complete the speaking section Test is about 4 hours long. Once the test is completed, you are done
Every test taker writes for the same length of time, and answers the same number of questions TOEFL experiments with future questions on the test takers. Some students will have longer listening or reading sections than others
IELTS Listening TOEFL Listening
You will be required to listen and complete tasks at the same time. There are four parts: dialogue, monologue, dialogue, monologue. There are various question types that include reading. At the end of the section you will be given 10 minutes to transfer your answers to an answer sheet. SPELLING COUNTS! You will listen to lectures and conversations. You must take notes as you listen because the listening is not repeated. After the listening is done, you will be given questions to answer about what you heard. The questions will be mostly multiple choice.
Approximately 40 minutes long 60-90 minutes, depending on whether you get the experimental questions.
Mostly formal language Academic as well as informal language
IELTS Reading TOEFL Reading
Three 20-minute passages (60 mins) Three to four 20-minute passages (60-80 mins)
High level of vocabulary is necessary High level of vocabulary is necessary
Variety of question types Variety of question types
On paper: flip back and forth On screen: navigate with mouse
IELTS Writing TOEFL Writing
wo tasks: short a summary of an infographic (convert visual information into structured report/summary) 150-175 words, 20 minutes
Essay respond to a prompt. 4-5 paragraphs, minimum 250 words, 40 minutes
Two tasks: short read a short passage, then listen to a lecture on same topic, then write a short summary relating the reading and listening. 20 minutes to write, 150-225 words
Essay respond to a prompt. 4-5 paragraphs, minimum 300 words, 30 minutes
Handwritten Typed
IELTS speaking TOEFL speaking
12-14 minutes 20 minutes
3 parts 2 are interview based, 1 is solo 6 parts personal, informal, academic
Interview with real person, answers recorded on recorder placed on table peak into microphone, answer recorded online then scored
Question response, monologue Integrated listening and reading