TOEFL vs. IELTS Comparison: Which is better for you?

TOEFL vs. IELTS Comparison: Which is better for you?

Table of Contents

  1. Overview: IELTS vs. TOEFL
  2. IELTS vs. TOEFL: Which is easier?
  3. TOEFL vs. IELTS: Exam pattern, syllabus, & questions
  4. TOEFL vs. IELTS: Which is more accepted?
  5. Differences between IELTS and TOEFL
  6. TOEFL vs. IELTS scores & comparison
  7. TOEFL vs. IELTS for different countries
  8. Top universities accepting IELTS or TOEFL
  9. Equivalents of IELTS and TOEFL
  10. Which is better – IELTS or TOEFL?
  11. Frequently Asked Questions

Students aspiring for global education must be excellent in English language skills. That’s why universities abroad demand an English language proficiency certificate, such as the IELTS or TOEFL, to ensure non-native speakers of English won’t struggle once they are admitted to an English-taught program. The scores you will secure reflect your proficiency in the English language. 

To prove their English proficiency, students may feel confused about which test suits better for their academic goals. For fresh test-takers, making a choice between IELTS vs. TOEFL is extremely difficult as both tests are seemingly very similar in structure, content, and goal.  

There’s only one way to decide – Let’s gauge into the TOEFL vs. IELTS battle and figure out which suits you better, by comparing diverse aspects of the tests.

Overview: IELTS vs. TOEFL

Understanding IELTS and TOEFL is crucial before opting for one. Both test your skills in English to study abroad in an English-speaking environment.  


  • IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, an international test of English proficiency for non-native speakers of English, established in 1980.  
  • It is developed and run by the British Council in partnership with IDP Education and Cambridge Assessment English.  
  • IELTS Academic is taken for academic purposes abroad, while IELTS General Training is for other immigration purposes.  
  • It assesses an individual’s skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing English and rates on a band scale of 0 – 9.  
  • 11,500 organizations across 140 countries accept IELTS scores, including universities, companies, government organizations and migration agencies. 


  • TOEFL, or Test of English as a Foreign Language, tests a person’s English language skills in listening, speaking, writing, and reading for university admission abroad.  
  • Although TOEFL was established in 1964, the popular TOEFL iBT was established in 2005.  
  • TOEFL iBT (internet-based) is more popular than pen and paper test 
  • TOEFL is conducted by Educational Testing Service (ETS), an American non-profit organization based in Princeton, New Jersey, with many for-profit subsidiaries in other countries. 
  • The test is assessed on a scale of 120 which is divided into four sections, 30 marks each.  
  • Institutions and visa-issuing authorities in over 160 countries across the world accept TOEFL iBT scores 
Parameters IELTS TOEFL 
Type of Assessment Paper-based Computer-based Computer-based Online 
Duration 2 hours 45 minutes 2 hours 
Scores 0 – 9 bands 0 – 120 marks 
Results Out Within 3 – 13 days 4 – 13 days 
Evaluation Human & Computer evaluation Computer evaluation 
Global Acceptance 11,500 organizations across 140 countries accept IELTS Institutions in over 160 countries accept TOEFL iBT scores 
Test Validity 2 years 2 years 
Application Fee 205 USD (INR 17,000) 205 USD (INR 17,000) 

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Which is easier?

Finding out the easy test among IELTS and TOEFL can be a bit confusing. Both tests look alike and assess your English proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. To find out the easy test option for you, see below the comparison of the exam pattern, syllabus and questions of IELTS and TOEFL. We suggest you go through mock tests and questions to identify your ease with these tests better.

TOEFL vs. IELTS: Exam pattern, syllabus, & questions

Here’s a comparison of IELTS vs. TOEFL test format for an overview:  

Sections IELTS Academic Total Questions TOEFL iBT Total Questions 
Reading 60 minutes 40 54-72 minutes 30-40 
Writing   60 minutes 2 tasks 50 minutes 2 tasks 
Listening 30 minutes 40 41-57 minutes 28-39 
Speaking   11-14 minutes 3 parts 17 minutes 4 tasks 

See the table below for a comparison of the IELTS vs. TOEFL syllabus, test pattern, and questions asked in four sections of the assessment:  

Section IELTS Academic TOEFL 
Reading 60 minutes long. There will be 3 lengthy texts taken from authentic sources such as magazines, journals, books, or newspapers. You need to answer 40 questions based on the texts.   Your ability to skim the text & understand the crucial points is mainly assessed.  35 minutes long. You will be asked 20 questions based on 2 passages, each around 700 words long. There is a glossy feature in case you need help with words not commonly used.  Areas of questions:  Information Inference & Rhetorical purpose   Vocabulary Sentence simplification Insert text question Prose summary  
Writing 60 minutes long. There will be 2 tasks you need to write in formal tone.  
Task 1 – Report writing. You will be given data, diagram, flow chart, or table showing some information and asked to explain or summarize it. You may be required to describe how something works, what are the stages of a process, or write how an event takes place.
Task 2 – Essay writing. You need to draft an essay responding to an issue, argument, or viewpoint.  
29 minutes long. You have 2 tasks to perform. This section analyzes your skills to present ideas in an organized form.   
Task 1 – Integrated writing – 19 – 20 minutes long. Read a passage, listen to a recording, & type your response to those. You need to summarize the lecture & answer on how it connects with the passage.  
Task 2 – Writing for an Academic Discussion – 9 – 10 minutes long. You need to state & support your opinion in an online discussion.  
Listening 30 minutes long. Four speeches by native speakers will be presented & you need to answer questions based on what you hear. Your ability to assess the main ideas is evaluated.   
Section 1: An everyday social situation & conversation between two persons  
Section 2: A monologue on a simple, social subject  
Section 3: Conversation of four people in an academic environment  
Section 4: A monologue on an academic subject 
36 minutes long. You will be asked to answer questions based on lectures or classroom discussions. English accents from native speakers in North America, the U.K., New Zealand, or Australia are included to represent the diverse accents you come across abroad.     3 lectures of each 3 – 5 minutes long & 6 questions follow for each lecture.   2 conversations of each 3 minutes long, followed by 5 questions per conversation.  
Speaking 11 – 14 minutes long. This section is recorded for assessment.  
Part 1: General questions concerning yourself, your family, or personal interests.   
Part 2: Genral topic – You need to speak about a topic for 2 minutes. You will get 1 minute for preparation.   
Part 3: Speech-based questions – The examiner will ask a few questions after your speech. You can discuss more abstract issues and ideas. 
16 minutes long. It tests your English-speaking skills in and out of a classroom. You get 15 – 30 seconds prep time for each session and the answers can be 45 – 60 seconds long.   
Task 1 – Independent speaking – You need to respond based on your ideas, viewpoints, and experiences.  
Tasks 2 to 4 – Integrated speaking – You need to combine your speaking, reading, and listening skills to respond effectively.   

The gist of differences is given below, based on the comparison of the syllabus, test pattern, and questions asked in IELTS and TOEFL:  

  • IELTS: The writing test has a shorter word limit than TOEFL. The reading and listening sections are of diverse questions, allowing varied responses that can be subjective. The speaking test involves a short assessment that is done by a real human being, not a computer.  
  • TOEFL: The reading section is organized for diverse skills. The writing section is like that of IELTS. The TOEFL listening section is long and involves diverse accents. The speaking section is less personal and more academic, compared to the IELTS speaking section.  

Refer to the table carefully to see which is easier for you based on your skills, priorities, and choices.   

TOEFL vs. IELTS: Which is more accepted?

 IELTS scores are accepted for admissions and immigration in 140+ countries, while TOEFL is accepted in 160+ countries. Note that TOEFL is yet to be recognized by many foreign visa officials, whereas IELTS has been accepted in many countries for student visas. This is because of its popularity over the years, compared to TOEFL. 

Conclusion: IELTS has a higher reputation and acceptance in more institutions abroad, including universities, government organizations, and professional spaces. TOEFL is accepted in more countries than IELTS and is gaining acceptance in more institutions every year. 

Differences between IELTS and TOEFL

Both IELTS and TOEFL assess the English skills of a non-native speaker. Despite similarities, the major differences between the two tests are given below:  

  • Score pattern: IELTS is assessed on a scale of 0 – 9 bands and TOEFL relies on a scale of 0 – 120 marks.  
  • Test duration: IELTS is 2 hours 45 minutes long, whereas TOEFL is only 2 hours long.  
  • Global acceptance: 11,500 organizations across 140 countries accept IELTS, while institutions and government organizations in over 160 countries accept TOEFL iBT scores.  
  • Human assessment: IELTS computer-based test involves a human evaluator for the speaking section, while TOEFL iBT relies on a complete computer-based evaluation.  
  • Accents accepted: IELTS focuses on the British, American, or Australian accent, while TOEFL incorporates diverse accents such as the British, American, Australian, or New Zealand’s.  
  • Taking the test at home: IELTS doesn’t offer a home version, while TOEFL offers a home edition test that you can take at your home.
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TOEFL vs. IELTS scores & comparison

In IELTS, the scores range from 0 – 9 bands. Generally. A minimum score of 6.0 – 6.5 bands is mandatory for university admission abroad.  

TOEFL scores range from 0 – 120. Typically, you need a minimum of 90 – 100 for study abroad purposes. 

However, remember that the minimum score requirement for IELTS and TOEFL is decided by individual universities abroad. It can vary from university to university or for different course levels.  

See the IELTS vs. TOEFL score comparison below:  

IELTS Band Scores TOEFL Scores 
0 – 4 0 – 31 
4.5 32 – 34 
35 – 45 
5.5 46 – 59 
60 – 78 
6.5 79 – 93 
94 – 101 
7.5 102 – 109 
110 – 114 
8.5 115 – 117 
117 – 120 

How will you test and find out the suitable test option for you? For that, take help from the table that compares IELS and TOEFL scores. Take IELTS and TOEFL mock tests and compare your scores using the table below to find out which suits better for you.  

TOEFL vs. IELTS for different countries

The minimum IELTS or TOEFL scores required can vary significantly with universities and courses. Generally, the following range of scores are required for university admission to different countries abroad.  

Country Minimum IELTS Score Required Minimum TOEFL Score Required 
US 6.0 – 6.5 90 – 110 
UK 6.0 – 7.0 92 – 100 
Australia 5.5 – 6.5 80 – 95 
New Zealand 6.0 – 6.5 80 – 90 
France 6.5 – 7.0 82 – 90 

Top universities accepting IELTS or TOEFL

University World Rankings 2024 IELTS/TOEFL Acceptance 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) IELTS & TOEFL accepted 
University of Cambridge IELTS & TOEFL accepted  
University of Oxford IELTS & TOEFL accepted 
Harvard University IELTS & TOEFL accepted 
Stanford University IELTS & TOEFL accepted 
Imperial College London IELTS & TOEFL accepted 
ETH Zurich IELTS & TOEFL accepted 
National University of Singapore (NUS) IELTS & TOEFL accepted 
University College London IELTS & TOEFL accepted 
University of California, Berkeley (UCB) 10 IELTS & TOEFL accepted 

Equivalents of IELTS and TOEFL

Over the course of time, various English proficiency tests have evolved to serve the study abroad needs globally. Among them, prominent equivalents of the IELTS and TOEFL are listed below:  

  • PTE (Pearson Test of English)
  • Duolingo
  • Cambridge English tests

The syllabus and pattern for these tests share similarities and variations with IELTS and TOEFL. You may consider any of these tests in case you are looking for an option other than IELTS or TOEFL.  

Which is better – IELTS or TOEFL?

Here comes the crucial question – which test is better for you, IELTS or TOEFL? The answer is highly personal as it depends on various factors, such as the choice of your institution abroad, the format you are comfortable with, the syllabus to cover, nearby test centers, and other personal preferences. Scrutinize those factors and decide your choice. 

Here are some valuable suggestions to decide your choice among IELTS or TOEFL:

  • Check which test is accepted by your university abroad 
  • Carefully go through the exam pattern, syllabus, and questions 
  • Work out maximum questions as possible in IELTS and TOEFL to decide better, according to your abilities 
  • Look for test centers near you and choose IELTS or TOEFL accordingly 

Still confused to decide? Here’s the easy solution – talk to our expert counselors and make informed decisions for your study abroad goals. Enjoy a hassle-free journey at zero cost. Connect now with Nomad Credit.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the IELTS vs. TOEFL scores for the USA?

The minimum scores for IELTS or TOEFL in the USA vary with university and course selection. Generally, you need a minimum of 6.0 – 6.5 in IELTS and 90 – 110 in TOEFL for US universities and colleges.  

Is TOEFL harder than IELTS?

Answering TOEFL is harder than IELTS is subjective. It depends on your individual skills, perspective, and choice to judge TOEFL harder than IELTS.  

Is IELTS harder than TOEFL? 

Determining the ease and difficulty of IELTS against TOEFL is personal, and one must consider their skills and personal preferences to take the decision.  

Is TOEFL an easy choice for Indian students? 

The difficulty of TOEFL can vary from one to another. In general, TOEFL is not a hard nut to crack for the average Indian student who has learned in English in the past years.  

Is one month enough to prepare for TOEFL?  

It may take one month, three months, six months, one year, or more to prepare for TOEFL, depending how skilled a person is.  

How much time is required to prepare for IELTS? 

The time required to prepare for IELTS varies from person to person, depending on their skills. It can be 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, or more.  

Is 80 – 90 a bad score in TOEFL?  

The good score in TOEFL is decided by the universities abroad for your course. Typically, 80 – 90 is considered a good score in TOEFL.  

Can I request a re-evaluation of my IELTS or TOEFL scores? 

Yes. You can request a remark (revaluation) of your sectional or overall IELTS score within 6 weeks of your result. There will be a fee, refunded if your band score changes. For TOEFL revaluation (rescore) you must apply within 30 days.  

What is a good IELTS score?  

A good IELTS score is decided by universities abroad, based on their requirements. 6.0 – 9.0 is generally considered a good score in IELTS. 

Is there a pass or fail in TOEFL or IELTS? 

There is no pass or fail in IELTS or TOEFL, but only scores that show your English proficiency skills.

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