TOEFL vs IELTS: What’s the Difference?

The TOEFL and IELTS are the two most prominent and highly trusted English language proficiency tests for non-native English speakers. Both of these tests provide an accurate and reliable proficiency level interpretation of one’s English language skills. 

Most well-known universities and colleges across the globe trust and accept the TOEFL and IELTS for their admission process. These exams are also widely used in different industries and organizations to assess their employees and applicants’ English proficiency, one of the many requirements for an international company. 

The TOEFL and IELTS exams were created to assess the primary English language skills. Generally, you can choose either from these standardized language proficiency exams, depending on your need and purpose of taking it. However, you might now be confused about what language proficiency exam you should take. 

This article will give a comprehensive comparison between these two well-known and widely accepted language proficiency exams. It may help you choose what works best for you or what is most fitted in your criteria. 

What is TOEFL?

One of the globally accepted and frequently used language proficiency tests is the TOEFL, also known as the Test of English as a Foreign Language. More than 11,000 universities accept the TOEFL test scores in over 150 countries worldwide. The TOEFL test is usually used to provide an accurate and reliable assessment of an individual’s English language proficiency skills for academic purposes. 

Also, this English language proficiency test is recognized and required by many well-known colleges and universities in various countries worldwide.

TOEFL test results are needed whenever you apply for exchange programs in these educational institutions. In addition, TOEFL is favored by nine out of ten universities in the United States. 

And if you are planning to enroll in any top universities and colleges in the United Kingdom, TOEFL must be one of your choices. In that case, you do not have to worry because the TOEFL exam has a 100% acceptance rate, including the well-known Russell Group schools in the UK.

Aside from being an academic requirement, the TOEFL is also used for student visas, and even some companies require it for work requirements here and abroad. 

The TOEFL test assesses all four English communication skills, including reading, listening, speaking, and writing. And also, the TOEFL is a  well-known English language test because it uses a formal English language.

What is IELTS?

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a structured and standardized English language assessment tool that helps measure an individual’s English language skills and abilities. This language proficiency test was created by the British Council to evaluate the primary English writing, speaking, listening, and reading skills. 

The IELTS test provides its test-takers with a standardized and accurate language proficiency certification. Consequently, it is also one of the most prominent and reliable measurement assessment tests of one’s English language effectiveness in any given situation or environment setting.

Therefore, if you choose to take the IELTS exam, you can assure an excellent and reliable test interpretation of your English language proficiency scores. And, this well-known language proficiency exam is also credited and required by multiple local colleges and renowned universities here and abroad. 

Also, the IELTS is recognized, accepted, and regularly used by various multinational institutions, including government offices, migration offices, and other private organizations.

Many foreign nationals who want to migrate to English-speaking countries prefer and choose the IELTS exam compared to the other language proficiency tests available in the market to prove their language proficiency levels. The IELTS test is also used for work applications, global immigration purposes, and educational admissions. 


TOEFL vs. IELTS:  Exam Fees

One of the many factors that affect the TOEFL and IELTS exam fees is the location of the testing centers, which vary per country around the world. 

The IELTS offers different test types to its end users with distinct purposes for each test. The two IELTS test types are the IELTS Academic Test and the IELTS General Test, which cost differently. 

And as for the TOEFL test types, it includes the TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL PBT test types. These two TOEFL test types also differ in their pricing. The TOEFL test is also offered in various countries around the world with different test fees. 

You should also note that aside from the regular exam fees of these English exams, there are additional fees that you need to pay if you want to avail of certain services. 

For example, in the case of the TOEFL exam, if you registered for the exam later than the scheduled test date provided, you will pay for late registration processing. Other than that, if you wish to reschedule your TOEFL exam, there is also an additional fee that you need to pay for the rescheduling process. 

The TOEFL exam releases an official score report for each test you have taken and will be sent to four universities or colleges of your choice free of charge. However, if you prefer to add another score report, you can do so for a specific educational institution or any private organization of your choice. 

Moreover, you need to pay an extra fee for that service for around USD 20 for each additional score report. There are also additional fees for specific services that you want to avail of from the TOEFL exam. Also note, that these additional fees are subject to change without prior notice and may include tax fees. 

As for the IELTS exam, there are also additional fees for other services that they offer, such as exam cancellation, exam rescheduling processing, and more. In addition, the IELTS grants a refund for exam cancellation and rescheduling of exam schedules following their terms and conditions. 

For example, the IELTS gives a 75% refund of your payment if you happen to cancel your test schedule before 14 days of the given period.  However, the IELTS will not refund those test cancellations made on the day of the test schedule. 

The IELTS exam fee also differs in various locations around the world. Check out the table below for a comprehensive list of the exam fees and other additional services fees for the TOEFL and IELTS exams.

Below is the table of comparison in terms of exam fees between the TOEFL and IELTS exams. 

Exam FeesTOEFLIELTS
Registration Fees: 
  • TOEFL iBT Fee USD 185
  • TOEFL PBT USD 180
  • USD 130 to USD 310
  • AUD 340 
  • EUR 220
  • GBP 196
  • INR 15, 750 
  • PHP 13, 211
Additional Fees:
  • Late Registration  USD 40
  • Rescheduling  USD 60
  • Reinstatement of Canceled Scores  USD 20 each
  • Additional Score Report  USD 20 each
  • Speaking or Writing Test Section Score Review  USD 80 each
  • Speaking and Writing Test Section Score Review USD 120 each
  • Returned Personal Check (Paper or Electronic) USD 20
  • Rescheduling Fee USD 47 or INR 3, 500


IELTS vs. TOEFL:  Exam Structure

Both  TOEFL and IELTS significantly differ in test versions, length of the exam, delivery mode, and other areas. 

TOEFL test-takers can choose from the two types for the TOEFL test: 

  • the TOEFL iBT 
  • TOEFL PBT. 

However, most test-takers prefer the TOEFL iBT to the TOEFL PBT. 

Note that the TOEFL PBT does not assess the speaking skill, unlike the TOEFL iBT, which tests all the four primary English skills, including speaking, listening, writing, and reading.

The TOEFL test uses high-level vocabulary and an advanced level of English contexts in its test materials rather than casual or conversational English used in other English language proficiency tests. It is also why most test-takers and educational institutions prefer the TOEFL Test among the other English language proficiency tests available. 

In addition, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) highly recommended that those who plan to take the TOEFL exam should be at least 17 years old above or at least in the 11th grade. 

Most test-takers below 17 years old or under the 11th grade are not yet exposed to complex English language structures and vocabulary. And they might find the TOEFL test very difficult and not appropriate for their level. In some instances, they may struggle to read such complex contexts presented in the test and have difficulty understanding complicated passages. 

The IELTS exam has two versions of its test: 

  • IELTS General Test
  • IELTS Academic Test. 

The IELTS Academic Test is recommended to those professionals who want to pursue higher education, including a doctorate, master’s degree, and graduate schools. 

And suppose you are planning to apply for a below degree educational level in any international universities and colleges of your choice. In that case, you can take the IELTS General Test.

This version of the IELTS test is perfect for those who want to take a below degree program or educational level. And the IELTS General Test is also commonly used for industry settings, and it is also required for employment training activities by some private companies. 

Moreover, this test uses conversational English language skills in its test questions and contents, and it is also anchored on day-to-day social setup and workplace type of environment. 

Below is the table of exam structure comparison for the TOEFL and IELTS exams. 

Exam StructureTOEFLIELTS
Test Duration3 to 4 hours with additional 30 minutes check-in period2 hours and 45 minutes 
Test Version Single version
  • IELTS General Test
  • IELTS Academic Test 
Test Delivery Mode
  • TOEFL iBT
  • TOEFL PBT
  • Paper-based IELTS Test
  • Computer-based IELTS Test
English Skills that are assessed / Test StructureTOEFL PBT Test Sections:
  • Listening Structure and Written ExpressionReadingWriting
TOEFL iBT Test Sections:
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Listening
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Speaking
Test Scores Validity Two yearsTwo years 

TOEFL vs. IELTS: Exam Frequency

There are 60 pre-scheduled test dates for the TOEFL exam across over 4,500 testing centers globally. However, due to the pandemic, the TOEFL testing centers are open in limited areas only in various countries where the cases of the COVID-19 are low. 

And also, some of these testing centers are open and functional only in those areas that are not severely affected by the pandemic. Therefore, it is also strongly recommended and best to check in first with your nearest TOEFL testing center’s if they cater or they now accept test-takers. 

 The IELTS exam is also widely available in 140 countries worldwide. Moreover, it also offers the test in 1,200 available testing centers scattered in different locations here and abroad. 

In summary, the TOEFL is far more accessible than the IELTS exam in terms of exam frequency, available testing centers, and the availability of the test in various countries worldwide.

Below is the table comparison in terms of exam frequency between the TOEFL and IELTS exams. 

Exam FrequencyTOEFL IELTS 
Test days per year6048
Testing Centers (worldwide)45001200
Countries where the test is available1901490

TOEFL vs. IELTS:  Scoring Difference

A centralized scoring network does the TOEFL test scoring. The overall scoring used by the TOEFL exam is between 120 to 31 points with corresponding proficiency level descriptors. 

The Reading and Listening TOEFL test sections are also scored by the centralized scoring network in the computer. The writing and speaking TOEFL test sections are scored using a combination of automated AI scoring and highly-trained professional TOEFL test raters. 

Given this unique centralized scoring network of the TOEFL exam, you are sure that you will receive a  complete and accurate proficiency rating of your English language skills. Moreover, it also helps minimize the test rater’s bias in rating your performance during face-to-face interviews. And also, it ensures the highest quality and consistency of test scores.

The IELTS test uses a band scoring system with scores that range from 9 to 0 for every subtest of the exam — Reading, Speaking, Listening, and Writing. 

The highest score possible for the IELTS exam is the band score of 9, which denotes expertise in using the English language. A band score of 0 points in the IELTS exam indicates super low to non-user English language. 

Below is a comparison table of exam scoring for the TOEFL iBT and IELTS exams. 

TOEFL Overall Score ConversionIELTS Exam Band ScoringIELTS Scoring Description
118 to 1209Expert User
115 to 1178.5Very Good User
110 to 1148Good User
102 to 1097.5Good User
94 to 1017Competent User
79 to 936.5Competent User
60 to 786Modest User
46 to 595.5Limited User
35 to 455Extremely Limited User
32 to 344.5Extremely Limited User
0 to 310 to 4.0Intermittent to Non- User

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Eligibility Requirements Comparison

In this section, we will present the different test requirements between the TOEFL and IELTS exams. They differ in terms of age requirement, valid documents needed, and other registration requirements. 

Below is the comparison table in terms of test requirements between the IELTS and TOEFL exams.

Test RequirementsTOEFLIELTS
Minimum Age
  • No age requirement for test-takers. However, the ETS recommends ages 17 or those in 11th grade to take the TOEFL exam. 
  • For those test-takers who are 15 years old and younger, it is advised to be accompanied by an adult or guardian to sign the release form. 
Minimum age of 16 years old
Profession
  • Any profession
  • Any profession 
Things needed to register
  • A valid passport
  • Any national ID with name, photograph, and signature
  • Any Government-issued driver’s license
  • Any national/state/province identity card
  • A valid passport
  • Active debit or credit card 
Where to registerYou can register for the TOEFL iBT by walk-in at their official testing centers. 
Or you may register online through their official website by creating an ETS account. 
You may also register by phone and by mail
You can register for the IELTS through the IELTS Online Registration Platform.


TOEFL vs. IELTS: Practice Tests Offers

There are many free online test practices and online courses offered by the TOEFL and IELTS exams. Both these English tests also have various test preparation materials for sale that you can purchase, which you can use for your self-review and test preparation. 

Below is the comparison table of the practice test offered by the TOEFL and IELTS to its test-takers. 

Available ResourcesTOEFLIELTS
Free Sample Practice Tests
  • Offers free online test prep courses wherein you can easily access through the TOEFL website
TOELF iBT Free Practice Sets:
  • Offers free online sample tests where you can access through their official website. 
  • IELTS free courses: IELTS Academic and General Training; Practice Zone; Sample Videos; Teacher Tutorials; Timed Practice Tests; “My Progress” Section; “Resource Bank” Section 

Preparation Courses, Guides, and BooksTOEFL Test Practice Products:
  • TOEFL Value Pack Prep Plus
  • TOEFL Value Pack Prep
  • TOEFL Practice Online – Complete Practice Tests
  • TOEFL Practice Online Speaking Series
  • TOEFL Practice Online Speaking and Writing Test
  • TOEFL Practice Online Reading and Listening Test

TOEFL Preparation Books: 
  • The Official TOEFL Test Savings BundleThe Ultimate TOEFL iBT Test Prep Savings Bundle
Additional Resources (Free and Paid)

Which Is Easier, the TOEFL or the IELTS Exam?

Both the TOEFL and IELTS have different scoring methods, tests coverage, duration, and test purposes. However, these two aims to measure an individual’s language skills and provide an accurate and reliable proficiency level.

Most test-takers find the TOEFL exam more complex and challenging compared to the IELTS. 

The TOEFL exam has two different delivery modes, and these are the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT. You can freely choose which of the two TOEFL you would like to take depending on your needs and purpose. 

Also, the IELTS exam offers two versions of the test to its test-takers. So it all depends on which version of the exam you would like to take, and it can either be the IELTS Academic Test or the IELTS General Test. 

The IELTS test versions are accepted by different universities and colleges’ admission requirements in various countries worldwide. Also, these two versions of the IELTS are widely used for immigration requirements and other career-related requirements, especially for international employers to verify their language proficiency levels.

Equally, these two language proficiency exams have their distinct features and level of difficulty. 


TOEFL vs. IELTS Exam: Test Recognition

The TOEFL exam is widely recognized and trusted by all prominent universities in the United States. Plus, it is also considered by around 10,000 educational institutions in 150 countries internationally.

Moreover, this language proficiency exam is also accepted in Canada, the UK, Australia, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates, and other countries. For example, the TOEFL exam has an acceptance rate of 100% in the United Kingdom universities. 

Notable companies, prominent organizations, and government offices in various countries prefer and recognize the IELTS exam results. For example, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Canadian Embassy, the UK Trade and Investment, and many more. 

The IELTS exam is also accepted and trusted by over 140 countries, with over 1,200 official testing centers worldwide. In addition, this language proficiency exam is also highly required in many universities and colleges in various countries. 

The TOEFL and IELTS exams are duly recognized and accepted in almost all educational institutions and different private organizations and companies here and abroad. So you do not have to worry whether or not your preferred institution accepts the test scores of these language proficiency exams. 


Summary Table of Comparison for the TOEFL and IELTS Exams 

Below is a comprehensive comparison table for the TOEFL and IELTS exams. 

Key FeaturesIELTS ExamTOEFL Exam 
Test UsageIt is primarily used for English exam admission in universities and colleges.It is primarily used for English exam admission in universities and colleges.
Test Fee
  • USD 130 to USD 310
  • AUD 340
  • EUR 220
  • GBP 196
  • INR 15, 750 
  • PHP 13, 211
  • TOEFL iBT Fee USD 185
  • TOEFL PBT USD 180
Age Requirement for Test TakersMinimum of 16 years old
  • No age requirement.
  • However, 15 years old and below test-takers need to be accompanied by parents or guardians. 
Who can take the testAny professionAny profession 
Test Registration Requirements
  • A valid passport
  • Active debit or credit card 
  • A valid passport
  • Any national ID with name, photograph, and signature
  • Any Government-issued driver’s license
  • Any national/state/province identity card
Exam Frequency48 scheduled test days per year 60 scheduled test days per year
Number of Testing Centers Worldwide1,200 Testing Centers 4, 500 Testing Centers
Number of Countries Where Both Exams are Available 140 countries190 countries
Test Scores Validity Two years Two years
Scoring MethodIt uses a band scoring that ranges from 9 as the highest proficiency level to 0 as the lowest. 
  • It varies the scoring method for the two TOEFL exams. 
  • The overall scoring of the TOEFL uses a score range of 120 to 0 points.
  • The TOEFL iBT uses a scoring range of 0 to 30 points for each test section.
  • The TOEFL PBT uses a scoring range of  310 to 677 points in all test sections. 
A centralized scoring network does the test scoring for all TOEFL exams.
Test Delivery Mode
  • TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test)
  • TOEFL PBT (Paper-based Test)
English Skills that are assessed / Test Structure
  • Listening
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Speaking
TOEFL PBT Test Sections:
  • Listening Structure and Written ExpressionReadingWriting

TOEFL iBT Test Sections:
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing
Test Duration2 hours and 45 minutes 3 to 4 hours with additional 30 minutes check-in period
Test Version 2 IELTS Versions:
  • IELTS General Test
  • IELTS Academic Test 
Single version
Accepted by Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and General Medical Council (GMC)YesYes
Accepted By Immigration OfficesYesYes
Accepted By the IRCCYesYes
Supports Express Entry Application for Nurses and other Skilled Profession in CanadaYesYes

Additional FAQs: IELTS vs. TOEFL

Is IELTS Easier than TOEFL?

Generally, many people who have already taken the IELTS found it easier than the TOEFL exam. The TOEFL uses a complex and high English context and vocabulary in its test contents compared to the IELTS. However, you should also consider that both of these tests differ in test structures and length, which can affect the level of difficulty for each. In addition, these two language proficiency exams assess the English language skills of an individual. Therefore, they are equally challenging. 

Is it Better to Take IELTS or TOEFL?

Whether you choose the IELTS or the TOEFL exam, both of these language proficiency tests are widely accepted and trusted by thousands of universities and colleges in different countries worldwide. These two proficiency tests are also widely used and accepted by immigration offices, government bodies, and private organizations. That is why you can either choose the IELTS or the TOEFL exam to prove your English language proficiency level.

Do Universities Prefer TOEFL or IELTS?

Both TOEFL and IELTS exams are preferred and trusted by prestigious universities here and abroad. For example, in the United Kingdom, the TOEFL has a 100% acceptance rate in most universities, including the prominent Russells School group. However, it is still best to check in first with your desired university or colleges on what language proficiency exams they require for school admissions.  

What is IELTS 7 Equal to TOEFL?

The IELTS score band of 7 is equivalent to a TOEFL score of 94 to 101. This proficiency level indicates that the individual is a competent user of the English language. Moreover, the individual can produce sufficient and average English words with enough understanding of the contexts and distinguish grammatical errors in sentences and paragraphs. Has also the ability to communicate using the English language with minimal mistakes. 

Does Canada Prefer TOEFL or IELTS?

Most test-takers from Canada prefer the IELTS exam among other English language proficiency exams available in the market. However, Canada also accepts the TOEFL exam, and it is also widely used in over 400 Canadian universities and colleges in the country. In addition, it also recognizes and trusts those other language proficiency tests, such as CELPIP, Duolingo English Test, CAEL, etc. 

Leave a Comment