IELTS vs TOEFL - Which is better for you?

To move abroad to an English-speaking country for study, work, or any other purpose, you need to appear for tests like IELTS or TOEFL. These tests evaluate your proficiency in the English language by testing your writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills. Both tests are accepted by major universities around the world so the foremost questions are what is the difference between these tests and which test is better suited for you? Let’s first understand the major differences between these tests to get an answer!

Comparison between IELTS and TOEFL

IELTS or the International English Language Testing System is a UK-based test jointly owned by The British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English. 

TOEFL iBT or the Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test is owned by ETS (Educational Testing Service) which is a US-based institution.

IELTS is of two types - General Training and Academic. General Training is for people who want to migrate for work or related reasons and Academic is for people who want to pursue higher education. TOEFL iBT is a purely academic test.

IELTS and TOEFL both have four sections - Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. IELTS can be given online or offline and from the comfort of your home or in a test center. Similarly, TOEFL can be given online or offline and either in a test center or at your home. The major difference between giving these tests is that the Reading and Listening sections of the online IELTS are graded by computers while the Writing and Speaking sections are graded by human examiners. For TOEFL, though the Reading and Listening sections are scored by the computer, the Speaking and Writing sections are rated by AI as well as highly trained human examiners.

Time difference between IELTS and TOEFL

The IELTS is a shorter test of 2 hours and 45 minutes whereas TOEFL takes around 3-3.5 hours to complete. 

Question types in IELTS and TOEFL

The IELTS asks different types of questions like multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labeling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion, etc. 

In TOEFL, all questions are multiple-choice so it becomes relatively easier to answer them.

IELTS vs TOEFL - Listening

The Listening section of the IELTS consists of four parts. In the first part, audio of two people conversing in a social context is played. In the second part, a monologue in a social context or a general topic is played. The third part is an audio of 2-3 people conversing in an educational or academic context. Lastly, the fourth part is a long monologue on an academic topic. For each part, you will be asked 10 questions.

In TOEFL, there will only be 2 parts - lectures and conversations. You will have to listen to 3-4 lectures and answer 6 questions for each of them. In the second part, 2-3 conversations will be played between two speakers and you will be asked 5 questions per conversation.

IELTS vs TOEFL - Reading

As you know, IELTS is of two types - General Training and Academic. Therefore, the Reading section is different for both of them. In the General Training IELTS, you will be given 3 passages and 40 questions based on them. In the Academic IELTS, there will be three sections with 5-6 texts and questions based on them.

For TOEFL, you will be given 3-4 reading passages with around 700 words each and each passage will have 10 multiple-choice questions.

IELTS vs TOEFL - Writing

Again, General Training IELTS has two writing tasks. Task 1 requires you to write an informal or formal/semi-formal letter on a given situation and Task 2 requires you to write a discursive essay on a point of view, argument, or problem. 

Academic IELTS also has two writing tasks. For Task 1, you will have to explain an infographic or figure and write down your interpretation. In Task 2, you need to write an essay on a point of view, argument, or problem.

In the Writing section of TOEFL, you will appear for two tasks. For Task 1, you will have to read a short passage and listen to a short lecture and write a response based on them. In Task 2, you will have to write an essay based on a personal experience or opinion. 

IELTS vs TOEFL - Speaking

The IELTS Speaking section will be conducted face-to-face by an examiner or on a video call. It is divided into three parts. In Part 1, the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself. In Part 2, you will have to speak on a topic given and answer questions based on it. In Part 3, the examiner will ask you some more questions on the topic you spoke about. 

The Speaking section of TOEFL is divided into four tasks/questions. Question 1 is an ‘independent speaking task’ where you have to express your thoughts, ideas, and opinions on a given topic. Questions 2-4 are ‘integrated speaking tasks’ that integrate reading and listening along with speaking.


You get band scores between 0-9 for the IELTS. Your final band score is the aggregate of your band scores for each of the four sections. You get a raw score for each section which is converted into a band score. Read: How is the IELTS scored?

On the other hand, for TOEFL, you can get a score between 0-120. For each section, you can receive a score between 0-30 as per your proficiency level in that section. Click here to know more about it.

Comparison between IELTS and TOEFL




Time limit

2 hours 45 minutes

3 hours

Mode of testing

Online and offline; paper-based and computer-based

Online and offline; computer-based

Types of questions

Multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labeling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion, etc. 

Multiple-choice questions

Types of tests

General Training and Academic



Band scores between 0-9

Scores between 0-120

Frequency of the test

48 times a year 

60+ times

Breaks between the test

No breaks between the sections. The speaking section will be conducted one week before or after the test as per availability of dates

10-minute break between the Listening and Speaking sections

Receiving test results

After 13 days of the written tests and within 5-7 days of the online test

4-8 days after the online test


The question ‘which test is better for me?’ still stands. But the truth is, only you can decide which test is better for you. Both tests have their pros and cons. TOEFL is a bigger test but you do not have to interact with human examiners as in IELTS. At the same time, the Speaking section of IELTS is a bit easier than TOEFL. The frequency of IELTS is less compared to TOEFL. The bottom line is that you have to choose the test that fits your convenience. If the organization that you want to join prefers one test over the other, opt for that test.

To take your IELTS prep up a notch, IELTS Vocabulary Flashcards are a unique and portable tool. These flashcards will help you improve your vocabulary with 352 expert-picked words and give dedicated practice for the writing, reading, and speaking sections. Read more about how these flashcards can help here.

Also read: The Importance of Building Vocabulary for Standardized Tests


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