TOEFL vs IELTS: What's the Difference and Which is Easier

9 mins

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
    • TOEFL Format
  3. IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
    • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
  4. Writing Segment of TOEFL vs IELTS
  5. Speaking Segment of TOEFL vs IELTS
  6. Reading Segment TOEFL vs IELTS
  7. Listening Segment TOEFL vs IELTS
  8. TOEFL vs IELTS Scores
  9. TOEFL vs IELTS scores comparison
  10. 4 Tips for Effective TOEFL or IELTS Preparation
  11. Frequently Asked Questions

All the students who wish to study abroad are required to prove their English proficiency. For this purpose, they need to face an exam and submit their scores along with the application. The two most popular English Efficiency exams are-


TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

TOEFL is designed by a non-profit organization Education Testing Service (ETS) to assess the English prowess of non-native speakers. It is a standardized test that measures your English proficiency. More than 11000 universities accept this test. It is accepted in more than 150 countries. It is the oldest English Proficiency exam in the world which was first conducted in 1964.

TOEFL Format

There are two formats of this test- via the internet or paper-based. A paper-based test is only an option when there is an internet connection/service at the venue of the test. Primarily, the test is conducted via the internet.

TOEFL is divided into sections such as-

  • Reading - The reading section of this test would test your comprehension skills. You would get 36-56 minutes to complete this section. You’ll be scored out of 30.
  • Listening - This section consists of 34-51 questions. Your listening skills would be put to test in this section as you would listen to native speakers and answer the questions on the basis of the audio. So, if you are not able to properly understand the native speakers speaking in English, you may end up giving wrong answers to some questions. The duration of this section is 60-90 minutes. Your scoring would be 0-30.
  • Speaking - You should be able to display your speaking skills in 20 minutes. The no. of questions would be 34-51. 
  • Writing - You will be given two writing tasks to complete in 50 minutes. You’ll be scored out of 30.
  • Total - You’ll get a total of 4 hours to complete this test.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. Like TOEFL, IELTS is also an English proficiency test that is taken by students who wish to study in English-speaking countries and whose native language is not English. IELTS is accepted by 140+ countries.

In IELTS students are required to display their creative skills, critical thinking, and comprehensive skills. 

IELTS Format

Unlike TOEFL, IELTS does not ask Multiple Choice Questions. It asks various types of questions like, fill in blanks, short answers, etc.

IELTS consists of 4 sections :

  • Listening - The duration of the listening section is 30 minutes. Four tasks would be assigned.
  • Reading - This section is 60 minutes long. It consists of three tasks.
  • Writing - You would get 60 minutes to showcase your writing skills. You would be required to write on 2 topics. In one task you would have to write an essay, and in the second task, you would need to interpret an image or data and convert it into the written form.
  • Speaking- There are 3 tasks in this section and you would get 11-15 minutes to show off your speaking ability.   
  • Total - In all, you would get 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete IELTS                                                   

Two Main Difference between IELTS and TOEFL (TOEFL vs IELTS)

Question typeMCQsAny kind of questions can be asked. For ex- fill in the blanks, short answers
Duration4 hours2 hours 45 minutes


Since both TOEFL and IELTS have 4 sections namely- Writing, reading, listening, and speaking, let us talk about each section in detail to understand how these sections are different in both TOEFL and IELTS.

Writing Segment of TOEFL vs IELTS

  • IELTS- There will be a total of 2 questions in the writing section of IELTS. In the first question, you will be given a diagram, table, or a chart/ graph, you would have to understand it and explain it in your own words. In the second question, you would be required to write about 250 words on a particular topic. The topic is most likely to be a point-of-view or an argument.
  • TOEFL - Like IELTS, TOEFL also asks 2 writing questions. However, in the first question, you would be required to put together an essay within 4-5 paragraphs and 300-350 words. Candidates are required to write on the basis of their reading and listening tasks. Your writing answer should adequately reflect your understanding and point of view. Furthermore, you must use relevant explanations to support your claims. The writing tasks require you to showcase comprehension as well as your reasoning skills.

Speaking Segment of TOEFL vs IELTS

There is a little relaxation in the case of the speaking assessment of TOEFL, as you just need to record yourself through a mic, speaking on a particular topic. However, in the case of IELTS, the speaking assessment would be a face-to-face test for all the candidates.

TOEFL speaking assessment is of 20 minutes duration, while IELTS speaking assessment may range from 10-15 minutes duration.

Reading Segment TOEFL vs IELTS

The reading Segment of both the exams is designed to test the readability of the candidates as well as their comprehension skills. The passages given in the reading section are excerpts from university-level books. So, if the topics are unfamiliar to you it is not a concern.

The no. of passages given in the reading segment of TOEFL varies from 3 to 4; each passage would be of around 700 words. There are 10 questions in each passage. You would get 54-72 minutes in this segment depending on the length of the segment.

The reading segment of IELTS is of 60 minutes duration and contains 3 sections. There are 10-17 questions in each section of this segment. It means that there are a total of 40 questions in this segment. 

Listening Segment TOEFL vs IELTS

The listening section of both these exams is designed to test your ability to understand lectures and conversations in English.

There are a total of 4 recordings in IELTS. You’ll listen to these recordings and simultaneously you can answer the questions. Some questions may be short, others will belong. 

  • Recording one will be an everyday conversation among 2 people.
  • Recording two will be a monologue of everyday social context.
  • Recording three will be an academic or training context conversation between 4 people.
  • Recording four will be a monologue on an educational topic. For example, a university lecture.

In TOEFL there are audios to check both basic and pragmatic understanding of the listener/ candidate. You will listen to both lectures and conversations. Both of which would consist of formal language. 

You will listen to 3-4 lectures, each will be 3-5 minutes long. There will be 6 questions per lecture.

There will be 2-3 conversations between 2 people, each will be 3 minutes long and contain 5 questions each. 

Unlike IELTS where you can simultaneously answer questions while listening to the audio, TOEFL requires you to first listen to the audio, make notes, and then answer the questions after listening. 

TOEFL consists of MCQs while in IELTS, there will be short and long question types.


TOEFL prefers thinking ability, and logical thinking/ reasoning over grammar and vocabulary. While IELTS is evaluated on the basis of grammar, fluency, coherence, and logic. 

For instance, if your flow of ideas was logical but your grammar and vocabulary were bad or not that good, then you would score higher in TOEFL. However, if your ideas and logic were not that good, but you did well in grammar, vocabulary, and fluency wise, then you would score higher on IELTS.

In TOEFL, you get scores out of 120, whereas, IELTS is evaluated on a scale of 1-9, 9 being the highest score.

TOEFL vs IELTS scores comparison

118-1209Expert user
115-1178.5Very good user
110-1148Very good user
102-1097.5Good user
94-1017Good user
79-936.5Competent user
60-786Competent user
46-595.5Modest user
35-455Modest user
32-344.5Limited user
  1. Non-user
  2. Intermittent user
  3. Extremely limited user
  4. Limited User


4 Tips for Effective TOEFL or IELTS Preparation

If you are preparing for IELTS or TOEFL you must know that it is all about the knowledge of the English language. Like any other language English also has 4 strands i.e. speaking, listening, reading, and writing. To ace any language we need to get a hold of these 4 strands of that particular language.

Now, we will be discussing 4 tips through which one can crack IELTS.

  1. Start Speaking in English - Most of the time we all can read English and understand it, even when we watch English movies, we can get what the native speakers are saying, but when it comes to speaking, we hesitate. This is because of the lack of practice. We need to start talking in English to get a good command of this language.
  2. Read a lot - 
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

                                                      -Dr. Seuss

Reading is that strand of language which ultimately enhances your knowledge which you practice in the other three strands of a language. So, seize this day, read, gain knowledge, and unleash that in your exam. 

Find something that interests you and start reading today. Read articles, magazines, newspapers, novels; read anything but please do it constantly. Reading boosts our understanding, enhances our vocabulary. 

  1. Listen to Native English Speakers - If you know any native speakers, call them and talk to them and increase your listening skills. If you read, write, and have a good understanding of grammar and vocabulary, then in the listening part all you need to do is focus on understanding the accent of the native speakers. For this, you can listen to podcasts, English songs, movies, series, etc.
  2. Write every day - Writing is something we take lightly and think that we have gathered knowledge through studying, now we can write in the exam without any practice. This confidence is good to have, but we need to constantly practice it. By doing so we can proofread our writing and find out the errors so that we do not repeat them in our exams. We can also ask our dear ones to read the content for us and give us advice on the quality of the content. This will help us write better in the exam.


Enhance your vocabulary- “I am out of words”, is a sentence you will never have to use if you focus on vocabulary and use it in your day-to-day life. Learning a word every day helps in enhancing vocabulary.

To sum up, whether to choose TOEFL or IELTS comes down to your own preferences. If you prefer MCQs go for TOEFL. If you prefer a less time-consuming test go for IELTS.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do universities prefer TOEFL or IELTS?

TOEFL is considered in 11000+ universities across 150+ countries. These countries include the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, Australia, France, and New Zealand. When compared, TOEFL is more considered than IELTS. While in other countries IELTS is more preferred.

Q. Does Havard accept IELTS?

It is not mandatory to take an English proficiency test to get into Havard. However, you may submit your scores on the English proficiency test, such as TOEFL, IELTS, etc. if you want.

Q. Does USA accept IELTS?

Yes, the USA accepts your scores of IELTS as proof of your English language efficiency. 

Q. Is 7.5 a good IELTS score?

Yes, 7.5 is a good IELTS score. It means you are a good user of English.

Q. Does UK require IELTS?

As IELTS is an English language proficiency test. It is a prerequisite for all non-native English speakers, especially in English-speaking countries like the UK, Canada, and the USA. However, there are several universities in the UK that may waive this criterion, if convinced about your language proficiency through a Skype interview and your 10th-12th scores in English.

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