TOEFL vs IELTS, which is easier?

9 mins

The two primary English language competency exams approved in universities worldwide are the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The TOEFL framework is more intellectual, while IELTS emphasizes more on real communication more.

In the battle between TOEFL and IELTS, IELTS is still demanding, but it lacks the in-depth intellectual substance of the TOEFL.

Another difference is that the IELTS is given on paper, but the TOEFL is given on a computer to most test-takers. Students who can type well may do better on the TOEFL, but those who like to scribble their answers may do better on the IELTS.

What is the TOEFL exam?

The TOEFL test, one of the well-known English language exams in the world, is recognized by colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. The TOEFL test measures international students' knowledge and comprehension of English as it is spoken, written, and heard in college and university settings.

ETS (Educational Testing Services) is responsible for generating the questions, conducting the test, and providing each examinee with their scorecard for the TOEFL.

Students may now take the TOEFL exam from the convenience of their homes thanks to the release of the TOEFL at Home version. ETS has also created the TOEFL Essential Test, a shorter but equally effective performance of the TOEFL exam that will be available beginning August 21, 2021.

ETS has just agreed to accept Aadhar Cards as a student ID for candidates from India taking the TOEFL exam. You will discover more about these and other current events as you read.

What is the IELTS test?

The most widely used English language exam in the world for work, school, and immigration is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Over 10,000 businesses rely on IELTS as a reliable indicator of real-life English communication competence.

IELTS uses four competencies to assess a test taker's English language ability: listening, reading, writing, and speaking.

IELTS is the only high-stakes language exam approved for migration in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Either a computer or pen & paper can be used to take the test.

More than 30 years ago, IELTS was a pioneer in four-skills English language testing, focusing on human conversations, and is still considered the gold standard in the English language examination.

Detailed and Section-by-Section Comparison of IELTS and TOEFL

IELTS tests are offered on 48 occasions yearly, but TOEFL tests are provided more than 50 times each year. The following table shows how the two differ from one another:



3 passages

Total number of questions in the section: 40

Total Time: 60 minutes

3-4 passages (around 700 words)

Total number of questions in the section: 30-40 (9-10 from each passage)

Total Time: 54-72 minutes


4 recordings


Total number of questions in the section: 40

Total Time: 30 minutes + 10 minutes to transfer the answers to the sheet

3-4 lectures, length 3-5 minutes each, 6 questions from each lecture

2-3 conversations (2 speakers) 3 minutes each. 5 questions from each conversation

Total number of questions in the section: 39

Total Time: 41-57 Minutes


3 parts (questions of each part increase in difficulty)


Total Time: 11-14 minutes

 1 Independent Speaking Task (speak for 1 minute)

3 Integrated Speaking Tasks (speak for 1.5-2 minutes after reading a passage/ article/ listening to a lecture)

Total Time: 17 Minutes


IELTS Writing task 1 – write 150 words based on a visual description within 20 minutes

IELTS Writing task 2 – write 250 words by responding to an argument or a problem or a viewpoint in 40 minutes

Time: 60 minutes

 TOEFL Integrated Writing Task (150-225 words) – write an essay after reading a passage and listening to a lecture in 20 minutes

TOEFL Independent Writing Task (300-350 words) – write an essay based on a prompt in 30 minutes

Time: 50 Minutes

Is the TOEFL or IELTS more difficult?

TOEFL is entirely computer-based; you will not need to speak with a live person. It may be nerve-wracking for some people to give the speaking section of IELTS examinations before an examiner. For writing tasks on the TOEFL, you must use a keyboard, whereas IELTS requires you to write by hand.

When comparing the lengths of the IELTS and TOEFL examinations, the IELTS essay is somewhat shorter, at 250 words, compared to the TOEFL's 300.

You will be required to sit through lectures from a university course or snippets of on-campus conversation for the listening component of the TOEFL and take notes. As you prepare for IELTS, you'll listen to recordings and answer questions in various now-familiar question styles.

Find out which tests the colleges you're thinking about applying to will accept. If time isn't an issue, think about which of the two examinations is suitable for you: IELTS or TOEFL. If you're worried about your handwriting or your English when conversing with a native speaker, the TOEFL may be a good choice.

IELTS is a shorter, more demanding test with a broader range of questions and exercises and direct interaction with an examiner. The TOEFL exam costs $200 to $325, but the IELTS exam costs $260 to $390.

The primary distinction between IELTS and TOEFL

A description of the differences between IELTS and TOEFL for applicants and those intending to study abroad is provided below:

  • The IELTS exam is shorter than the TOEFL.
  • The IELTS speaking test is administered in front of an examiner.
  • The TOEFL frequently asks you to utilize the US or UK English exclusively throughout the exam rather than a combination of the two, but the IELTS is typically a little more lenient.
  • The TOEFL contains primarily multiple-choice questions, but the IELTS has a greater range in how questions are constructed and responses must be provided.

IELTS Structure

The four components of the IELTS exam pattern are listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The applicants are evaluated using these four criteria. There are two variants of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS): Academic and General Training (IELTS).

Before applying, candidates should research the college/university requirements and prepare accordingly. Institutions accept IELTS Academic all around the globe for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The IELTS exam has four sections, each evaluating a candidate's ability in a range of areas.


Listening30 minutes Four monologues and four chats are included.
Reading30 minutes Three lengthy reading assignments These writings incorporate non-verbal information like diagrams, graphs, and drawings and span from descriptive to factual to discursive to analytical. These are real texts (taken from books, journals, and newspapers)
Writing60 minutes Following a 250-word short essay, the applicant must summarize, describe, or otherwise explain a table, graph, chart, or diagram in 150 words.
Speaking11-14 minutes A face-to-face interview consists of brief questions, an in-depth discussion on a well-known subject, and a structured discussion.

TOEFL versus IELTS Speaking Section

The IELTS speaking test will be administered in person to all students, while the TOEFL speaking test will be recorded with a microphone and sent to the examiners. The TOEFL examination would last 20 minutes.

IELTS would take around 10-15 minutes. The possibility to take a speaking exam before the other examinations in IELTS is a crucial distinction between TOEFL and IELTS; in TOEFL, this option is not available.


SegmentQuestions askedTimeAssignment
Reading4072 minutes Responding to inquiries based on three or four academic passages.
Listening3857 minutes Depending on the lecture, the dialogue, or the classroom debate, questions may be posed to you.
Speaking4 tasks17 minutes Based on reading and listening exercises, the applicants should articulate their thoughts on a subject they are familiar with and do so with authority.
Writing2 tasks50 minutes Candidates are required to prepare essays based on reading and listening exercises and provide written evidence for their viewpoints.

TOEFL Reading Section vs IELTS Reading Section

The reading assessments for both exams will consist of literature similar to those they may encounter in their studies. This section of the IELTS exam will consist of three questions, with applicants needing to respond in various styles such as gap fillers, short replies, and so on. In 20 minutes, you will be given 3-5 reading questions to answer.

IELTS Writing Section vs TOEFL Writing Section

While taking the ILETS test, you will be required to answer two writing questions. In the first paragraph, you must explain the data offered in the form of a diagram, table chart, or other visual assistance. You will have to write 200–250 words about an argument or a specific point of view for the second assignment.

The TOEFL exam requires you to write a five-paragraph essay of between 300 and 350 words. For the second question, you must take notes from a specific source and write a 150-225 word response.

IELTS Listening Section vs TOEFL

The Listening skill exams in both examinations are vastly different. Students in the ILETS test can answer questions while listening to a recording. There will be both extensive and brief questions.

Conversely, the TOEFL will be based on classroom lectures, with applicants taking notes while listening to the audio. For the TOEFL hearing component, students must complete MCQs in 40-60 minutes.

TOEFL versus IELTS Score Comparison

The TOEFL Writing and Speaking portions are generally scored based on their appearance, including your vocabulary range, writing style, and grammar.

The IELTS is scored based on logic, coherence, grammar, and fluency. An essay that has a logical flow of ideas but foul language, for example, may score higher on a TOEFL exam. On the other hand, a piece with good grammar and vocabulary but a poor capacity to explain a concept will score better on the IELTS criterion.

Preparation for the TOEFL and IELTS

Where to start studying for the IELTS/TOEFL is a lot simpler issue to answer. It would help if you started looking for these examinations as soon as you plan to study abroad.

These examinations could be required of you at any moment, unless and until you've registered for a class that doesn't need them. As a consequence, you can start preparing for these exams.

Furthermore, because the examinations are required for language acquisition, preparing for them should never be considered a waste of time. Focus on your language abilities, pay more attention to understanding the subtleties, and try to communicate in the language vocally and write.

TOEFL vs IELTS What is accepted by whom?


Several institutions recognized the IELTS, including those in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Overall, IELTS exam scores are accepted by 10,000 institutions in over 140 countries worldwide.


The United Kingdom, Australia, The United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, and many more institutions in Europe and Asia are among the top nations that accept TOEFL.

Important Factors to Consider

Before choosing between IETLS and TOEFL, you should examine the following factors:

  • University preference: You should first determine what language tests are accepted and favored by the institutions to which you wish to apply.
  • Preparation time: On average, IELTS preparation takes 3-6 weeks, and TOEFL preparation takes 2 to 3 months. If your application deadline is in a few months, IELTS will suffice. IELTS is administered on paper or computer, but TOEFL is exclusively administered on a computer. You can take either if you have a quick typing speed or TOEFL if you write well on paper.
  • Exam format: For IELTS, you can divide the IELTS papers into portions and administer them over weeks. Candidates must take the TOEFL exam in a single session.

Conclusion: IELTS vs TOEFL

TOEFL and IELTS are the two most often utilized English language proficiency assessments. Both exams include the same four areas: reading, listening, speaking, and writing, but they differ in style and how abilities are assessed.

To establish which exam is better for you in the TOEFL vs. IELTS debate, ask yourself the four questions below:

  • Which test do the colleges you want to apply to accept?
  • Which exam will be the greatest fit for your abilities?
  • Is one easier to get there than the other?
  • Is one more affordable?
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