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TOEFL vs. IELTS: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 9, 2023
TOEFL is a standardized English proficiency test primarily used in North America; IELTS is a UK-based English proficiency test recognized globally.

Key Differences

TOEFL, or Test of English as a Foreign Language, is a test primarily utilized by North American universities to assess the English proficiency of non-native speakers. IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, is based in the UK and is recognized by institutions worldwide.
The TOEFL is computer-based and primarily offers multiple-choice questions. IELTS, on the other hand, is available in both computer-based and paper-based formats, incorporating a mix of question styles, including short answers.
For the speaking component, TOEFL examinees respond to tasks on a computer, recording their voice. In contrast, IELTS test-takers have a face-to-face interview with an examiner, making the experience more like a real conversation.
Both tests evaluate four main language skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. However, the TOEFL is known for its academic context, while IELTS offers two versions – Academic and General Training – catering to both academic and general contexts.
While both TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid for two years, institutions might have preferences for one over the other. Some North American schools may favor TOEFL results, while UK, Australian, and Canadian entities might lean towards IELTS.

Comparison Chart


North America

Test Format

Both computer and paper-based

Speaking Component

Respond on a computer
Face-to-face interview


Both academic (Academic version) and general (GT version)

Preferred by

Primarily North American institutions
UK, Australian, Canadian, and other global institutions

TOEFL and IELTS Definitions


An exam administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
You can register for the TOEFL on the ETS website.


A test offering both academic and general versions.
For university applications, he'll take the Academic IELTS.


A measure of listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in English.
TOEFL provides a comprehensive assessment of all four major language skills.


An exam assessing listening, reading, writing, and speaking in English.
IELTS ensures that test-takers are proficient in all aspects of English.


A computer-based English evaluation.
He prefers the TOEFL because it's entirely computer-based.


A test often favored by UK, Australian, and Canadian institutions.
Many British universities have specific IELTS score requirements.


A standardized test assessing English proficiency for non-native speakers.
She's studying hard for the TOEFL to get into an American university.


A globally recognized English language proficiency test.
She took the IELTS to prove her English skills for immigration.


A test often required for academic purposes in North America.
Many U.S. colleges request TOEFL scores from international applicants.


A test with a face-to-face speaking component.
He appreciated the personal interaction during the IELTS speaking test.


Which is easier, TOEFL or IELTS?

It's subjective. Some find TOEFL's format easier, while others prefer IELTS, especially the face-to-face speaking component.

How long are TOEFL and IELTS scores valid?

Both scores are typically valid for two years.

Is TOEFL computer-based only?

Primarily, yes. But there are limited paper-based TOEFL tests in areas without internet access.

Is there a significant price difference between TOEFL and IELTS?

Costs can vary by region, but they're generally in the same range.

How long does it take to get TOEFL or IELTS results?

TOEFL scores usually come within 10 days, while IELTS results are often available in 13 days.

Can I choose between computer and paper for IELTS?

Yes, IELTS is available in both formats.

Which is more widely accepted, TOEFL or IELTS?

Both are widely accepted, but IELTS is recognized globally while TOEFL is favored by North American institutions.

Do TOEFL and IELTS have similar scoring systems?

No, TOEFL scores range from 0 to 120, while IELTS is graded on a band system from 0 to 9.

Is it mandatory to take TOEFL or IELTS for studying abroad?

It depends on the institution and country, but many universities require one of these tests for non-native English speakers.

Are there different versions of IELTS?

Yes, there's IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

Can I use IELTS scores for immigration purposes?

Yes, the IELTS General Training version is often used for immigration.

Where can I find preparation resources for TOEFL and IELTS?

Both the ETS (for TOEFL) and British Council, IDP, and Cambridge Assessment English (for IELTS) offer resources.

How often can I retake TOEFL or IELTS?

Both can be retaken as often as desired, but it's advisable to prepare well before retaking.

Who administers the TOEFL?

The Educational Testing Service (ETS).

What's the main difference in the IELTS speaking section?

IELTS involves a face-to-face interview with an examiner.

How long are the TOEFL and IELTS tests?

TOEFL takes about 3.5 to 4 hours, while IELTS is around 2 hours 45 minutes.

Which test is more focused on academic English?

While both have academic components, TOEFL is more geared towards academic English.

How is the speaking section conducted in TOEFL?

It's done via computer, with test-takers recording their responses.

Are there any specific health precautions for test-takers due to recent global events?

Test centers follow local health guidelines, so it's best to check with the specific center before your test date.

Do all universities accept both TOEFL and IELTS?

Most do, but it's essential to check specific university requirements.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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