IELTS vs TOEFL: Which Is Preferable?

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A lot of candidates have been asking IELTS vs TOEFL: Which Is preferable? In this article, I will quickly explain the difference between IELTS and TOEFL.

It is no longer news that many developed English speaking institutions have set an English standard for any foreign student wishing to be offered admission into their university.

Their aim is to be sure that the students seeking admission in their higher institutions of learning posses the required English skill to study with them.

This standard is only for candidates who are non-English native speakers. The ways to make certain that candidates meet this English standard is for them to be tested.

There are 2 major types of tests that are usually conducted for these candidates: TOEFL and IELTS.

TOEFL which is the acronym for Test of English as a Foreign Language, and IELTS which means International English Language Testing System are 2 major 2 approved testing standards in the world today.

One great confusion that many candidates are facing today is the problem of deciding which among these 2 to take.

I am pretty much sure that if you were at liberty to choose between these 2, you would likely go for the one you would have more success rate in passing, wouldn’t you?

For the start, you must understand that though these 2 English testing systems differ from each other, they, however, have some similarities among them.

For instance, it is worthy to note that both of them have 4 basic sections that test the basic skills of the candidate. These 4 sections are:

  1. Reading
  2. Listening
  3. Speaking, and
  4. Writing

Hence, why it is important for you to understand these 2 tests and carefully decide which to take, you should also know that most times, some schools specify the one they require from prospective international students.

That being said, I feel I should stronger advise you to note carefully the requirements of the school you are applying to before choosing any of these tests.

Also have it at the back of your mind that even though TOEFL and IELTS seem to be performing the same function of testing the individual English lever, they, however, differ in approach, structure and scoring criteria.

How Are TOEFL and IELTS Different from Each Other?

TOEFL exam questions are almost entirely multiple-choice, while IELTS requires you to respond to a range of different question types such as short answer, gap-filling, and short essay tasks.

The IELTS takes approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes to complete while the TOEFL exam takes four hours to complete.

There is only one type of TOEFL exam that is done entirely on the computer, whereas there are two types of IELTS that are both completed on paper.

Students applying for English-speaking tertiary programmes will need to sit the Academic IELTS exam, whereas the General Training exam is used to meet immigration and some occupational requirements.

IELTS and TOEFL support different modes of thought and problem-solving. If you are strong in analytical thinking, then the TOEFL exam will be your best bet.

On the other hand, IELTS requires more use of memory and draws on broader comprehension skills as students are faced with different question styles.

Differences in the Exam Formats

Speaking Test

Both IELTS and TOEFL have speaking tests. IELTS speaking test is taken face-to-face with a single examiner who singlehandedly determines your score, while in the TOEFL exam, you’ll answer six questions into a microphone which are recorded and later sent to a group of six reviewers.

The IELTS speaking test will take between 11-14 minutes and may not necessarily be on the same day as the other exam components, whilst the TOEFL will take about 20 minutes and is always on the same day as the rest of the exam.

Reading Test

For TOEFL you will be given 3 – 5 reading selections of twenty minutes each. The reading materials are academic in nature, hence, the questions are multiple-choice.

While for IELTS, you will have 3 reading selections of twenty minutes each. Just like in TOEFL, the materials are academic with multiple type questions (gap fill, matching, etc.)

Listening Test

Now, this is where there is a great difference between TOEFL and IELTS. In TOEFL, you will be given a 40 to 60 minutes of lectures or campus conversations to listen to. You will be required to take notes and respond to multiple-choice questions at the end of listening.

In the case of IELTS, you will have wider range o questions and exercises of different lengths. You are required to be answering the questions as you move through the listening section of the test.

Writing Test

Two written tasks are required on the TOEFL and all writing is done on the computer. Task one involves writing a five-paragraph essay of 300 to 350 words.

The second task asks you to take notes from a reading selection in a textbook and then a lecture on the same topic.

You are then asked to respond using notes by writing a 150 – 225-word selection integrating both the reading and listening selection.

Also, the IELTS writing test has two tasks: the first one is a short essay of 200 – 250 words and the second writing task asks you to look at an infographic such as a graph or chart and summarize the information presented.

Scoring System

IELTS gives scores between 0 and 9, with halfway points in between but TOEFL gives a more numerical SAT-type grade, totalling your scores from all the different sections of the exam.

TOEFL is administered by the  Educational Testing Service, a non-profit US-based organization, and conducts its test according to US English.

Also See: Pass IELTS Exams In One Attempt

IELTS is administered jointly by the  British Council, the  University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia, and conducts its test in UK English.

If you still need help making this decision, below are some questions you can ask yourself to help you make a decision.

Your answers to the following questions are pointers to the best exam of the two for you:

Question 1: Are you more comfortable with North American or British accents?

If you are more comfortable with British English (or  Australian English), take the IELTS as their vocabulary and accents tend more towards British English.

If however, you like US idiomatic language, choose the TOEFL as it reflects American English. It’s important to note that neither test will penalize you for using one or the other dialect, as long as your answers are fluent, clear, and, of course, correct.

Do you want to finish the test as quickly as possible?

If you are extremely nervous during a test and want it to end as quickly as possible, then making a decision is easy.

The TOEFL is almost twice as long as the IELTS! But remember that shorter does not necessarily mean easier!

Do you feel comfortable with a wide range of question types?

The TOEFL exam is made up of almost entirely multiple-choice questions. The IELTS, on the other hand, has a much wider range of question types including multiple-choice, gap fill, matching exercises, etc.

If you do NOT feel comfortable with multiple-choice questions, the TOEFL is not the test for you.

Are you proficient at taking notes?

Note-taking is important for both the IELTS and the TOEFL. However, it is much more critical on the TOEFL exam.

The TOEFL listening section depends on note-taking skills as you answer questions after you have listened to a longer selection. The IELTS asks you to answer questions as you listen to the exam.

Also See: Pass ICAN Exams at First Sitting

Whichever test you decide to take, note that the scores expire 2 years after the test date. Hence, If what you need the test for didn’t work out, you will be required to take another test after 2 years, if you still need it.

Okay guys, that is all for IELTS vs TOEFL: Which Is Preferable. I hope this article helps?

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