Should You Use American or British English on the TOEFL Test?

The English language is the universal language mainly used by most people around the globe. It is also the most widely spoken language in various countries, with over 375 million native English speakers and more than 1.35 billion speakers in total compared to other available languages worldwide. 

And based on these statistics, the English language can be spoken by anyone, either native or non-native speakers. As a result, there are many English language varieties such as British English, Canadian English, Australian English, Indian English, South African English, and more. 

Moreover, many educational institutions and other organizations require an English language proficiency assessment for admission. And the TOEFL exam is one of the major language proficiency exams widely used for this purpose. 

Many TOEFL test-takers are either from an English-speaking country or a non-native language speaker. The language exam assesses the English language abilities of an individual, including listening, reading, speaking, and writing. 

Consequently, many are confused on whether to use American, British, Canadian, Australian or any English language the test-taker knows of. Does the TOEFL exam require American English is taking the exam? Or it also accepts British English?

To ease your confusion on whether to use American or British English in taking the TOEFL exam, this article will enlighten you and help you with this dilemma. 

What is the TOEFL Exam?

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardized English language assessment test. And also, it is a highly recognized and preferred language exam by educational institutions because of its academic test structure. 

Moreover, this language exam is created by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), an American organization. Generally, the TOEFL exam uses American English in its vocabulary, spelling, and passages. In addition, the Speaking test and Listening test sections use American English in their contents. 

And this is also the concern of many test-takers, should they learn American English to pass the TOEFL exam? Since not all of the examinees are American English speakers can they use British English if they are more used to it? 

Difference Between American and British Language

Among the many varieties of English, American and British English are the two most highly used and widely taught in different universities and colleges worldwide. And it is also taught mostly in ESL (English as a Second Language) and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) programs. 

Two Most Common English Variation: 

  • American English
  • British English

What is British English?

American and British English is one of the many distinctions of the English language. Moreover, British English is the common language that is spoken and written in the United Kingdom. And also, it is considered the oldest version of the English language among the other variation of the language. 

What is American English?

On the other hand, American English is also known as U.S. English and it is the native language in the United States. And also, American English has many varieties in its different states in the U.S. Most of these varieties significantly differ in terms of accents and vocabulary terms. 

However, these two English languages are generally the same in most cases, but they differ in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling, and grammatical differences. 

Note that if you decide to use American or British English in answering the TOEFL exam, it is advisable to be consistent in the areas mentioned above. In addition, you should also be mindful of the major differences between these two languages so you can avoid mixing them together. 

Below are some of the major differences between British English and American English. 

1. Pronunciation

Is how one says or speaks a word. And it also involves the proper use of word stress, which emphasizes a certain syllable in a word wherein the stressed word is higher in pitch and generally longer in duration than the unstressed syllables.  

In addition, pronunciation is also concerned with sentence stress, wherein you emphasize a word in a sentence. Consequently, it also involves the proper use of intonation which indicates the correct way accuracy, and pitch of saying words. And also involves the use of linking words or phrases to present the relationship between ideas when saying a word or sentence. 

Main Features of Pronunciation:

  • Word Stress
  • Sentence Stress
  • Intonation
  • Linking Words

The pronunciation of British English and American English clearly sound different.

For example, you can obviously spot the how British pronounces the letter R, they do not put stress on it and they also do not say it in a word. On the other hand, the American give emphasis or stresses the letter R in any word. 

Here are some of the pronunciation differences between British and American English.

British English
WordAmerican English

2. Vocabulary

In terms of vocabulary, British and American English has a significant difference. However, they share the same meaning generally. Here are some of the common everyday words in British and American English equivalents. 

Vocabulary Difference Between British and American English. 

British EnglishAmerican English
cinemamovie theater
ground floorfirst-floor
lift elevator
car parkparking lot
postcodezip code
skipping ropejumping rope
state schoolpublic school 

3. Spelling

These two variations of the English language also have a significant difference in terms of spelling. For example, in British English, most words are ending in -our such as behaviour, colour, humour, flavour, neighbour, and more. 

On the contrary, American English words only end in -or without u which is used in British English. For example, behavior, color, flavor, neighbor, and more. 

Aside from the -our in British English, they also have words ending in -re such as centre, fibre, litre, theatre, manoeuvre, metre, and the likes. While in American English, it is spelled with -er such as center, liter, manouver, meter, and more. 

In addition, British English also uses words ending in -ise which are commonly spelled with -ize in American English. For example, the word realise is spelled realize in American English. 

Here are some examples of the spelling difference between British and American English. 

British English SpellingAmerican English Spelling 

4. Grammatical Differences

Moreover, British and American English also have certain grammatical differences. For example, British English generally uses formal speech and adds the word “shall” in sentences. On the contrary, American English prefers informal speech and uses “will” and “should” in sentences. 

British English uses the preposition “at” which corresponds to time and place. While American English prefers the preposition “on” in relation to time and “in” for the preposition of place. 

Consequently, British English speakers use the present perfect tense for a past action that is relevant to the present moment. In relation, American English only uses the simple past tense of an action. 

The singular or plural verb is used in British English if it refers to a group of people or things. And in American English, it only uses the singular form of the verb for any collective nouns. 

Here are some examples showing the grammatical differences between British and American English. 

Grammatical DifferencesBritish EnglishAmerican English 
Present Perfect and Past Simple Form
  • “I have already seen that film two years ago.”
  • “Have you done your homework yet? 
  • “I already saw that movie yesterday.” 
  • “Did you finish your homework yet?”
Verb forms with Collective Nouns
  • “My team is/are on the way to the gym.” 
  • “My family is/are going to Disneyland.” 
  • “My team is on the way to the gym.”
  • “My family is going to Disneyland. “
Using “got” and “gotten
  • “You’ve got to check out.” 
  • “Maria has got a lot of gifts from her mom. “
  • “You gotta check this out.”
  • “Maria has gotten a lot of gifts from her mom. “
Using “have” and “take
  • “I’m going to have/take a shower after breakfast.”
  • “She is going to have/take a long holiday with her family.” 
  • “I’m going to take a shower after breakfast.”
  • “She is going to take a long vacation with her family.” 
Using “shall
  • “It is very cold in here. Shall we go inside?”
  • “Shall we meet in the resto at 6?”
  • “It is very cold in here. Should we go inside?”
  • “Do you want to meet in the resto at 6?”

Is it possible to use both American and British English on the TOEFL Test?

We have presented above the differences between British and American English in terms of pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, and grammatical differences. Did you notice the significant differences between the two? 

Using both American and British English on the TOEFL Test is not recommended. These two languages have major differences, even if they are both English languages. That is why it is not advisable to mix British and American English in answering the TOEFL exam, especially in the Speaking and Writing tasks

It will confuse the reader or listener, especially the TOEFL exam rater. That is why you should only stick to one English language and learn to use the proper spelling and grammar. In addition, the TOEFL exam accepts both British and American English, and there is no bias whether you will choose American English over British and vice versa. 

In addition, the TOEFL Speaking test section will not only use American English in the recordings. Different accents are used in the Speaking test section, such as British English. You should also familiarize yourself with the various English accents, which will help you gear up with the TOEFL exam. 

Does using British or American English Affect Your Score? 

Using British or American English in the TOEFL exam will not affect your score and language proficiency level. Note that the TOEFL exam assesses your language abilities and not solely on what English language variation you will use. 

Your overall TOEFL test results will deliver a reliable and quality assessment of your English language proficiency. And the English language you will use will never affect it, and you do not need to use it to get a high score in the TOEFL exam. 

The exam focuses on your reading, listening, writing, and speaking skills.

Consequently, the TOEFL exam does not care what accent or English language you will be using when taking the exam. It concerns how you can use the English language correctly, the proper grammar rules, and how well you can communicate using it. 

In connection, this language exam accepts both British and American English. Thus, you can use either of these English languages to answer the exam. However, you should also keep in mind that you can only choose one, and you are not allowed to mix the British and American English terms in your answers. 

The TOEFL test does not also require you to have an American or British accent or speak like a native English speaker for you to ace the exam. You just need to follow the correct pronunciation and other important English grammar rules, wherein the accent is the least of the concern. 

Additional FAQ’s 

Is British English Accepted in TOEFL?

The TOEFL exam accepts British English, and they are not very particular on which English language you will use when answering the exam. What is important is that you can write, read, and speak English clearly and correctly

In addition, the TOEFL exam will not penalize or discredit your test result depending on what English you will use during the test. You can freely choose which English language you will use to be consistent with it throughout the exam. 

Can You Use British English in TOEFL?

Yes, you can use British English even if the TOEFL exam was designed and administered by an American institution. The ETS also considered that this language proficiency exam is globally used to measure English in general, including British English. 

Using different English languages will not affect your proficiency level. You only need to be consistent on what English language you will use. If you prefer and are comfortable using British English when taking the TOEFL exam, you can use it. In addition, there is no significant difference when you use British English in the TOEFL exam. 

Which is Better, IELTS or TOEFL?

The IELTS and TOEFL are both standardized English language proficiency exams. It measures the individual’s primary language skills. And also, both of these exams are trusted and accepted by most educational institutions around the world. 

However, many test-takers prefer the IELTS over the TOEFL exam because it is much easier than the latter, mainly focusing on academic contexts. But it does not mean that the IELTS is better than the TOEFL.

On the contrary, you can either take the IELTS or TOEFL exam, whichever you prefer or most accessible to you, and it still delivers quality and reliable test results. 

Which Country is Best for TOEFL?

The TOEFL is highly recognized and accepted by various countries worldwide. The top countries include the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, etc.

Moreover, about 11,000 universities and colleges acknowledge this language exam and include it as one of their admission requirements. And this standardized language proficiency exam is widely accepted in any English-speaking country, so you do not need to worry about it. It also makes you confident in taking the TOEFL exam.