Which is easier - IELTS or TOEFL?
Gayathri Gopakumar

Meet Gayathri - a Content Editor at Hotcourses India- an IDP company. A once-international student herself- she loves to research & give insights into the world of global education through her writing. When she isn’t working, you'll find her playing, travelling or binge-watching just about anything.


06 Aug 2021 63.4K Book icon 6 mins Share

Do I prepare for IELTS or TOEFL? In which can I score higher?

Prepare for IELTS, wait no… Prepare for TOEFL. Here, find out by yourself which one to prep for with our quiz!

06 Aug 2021 63.4K Book icon 6 mins Share
Which is easier - IELTS or TOEFL?

Guess what we discovered while researching for this article: Per month, more than 12,000 people Google how to prepare for IELTS, while only 1600 people google about TOEFL preparation. (*hint hint*). 

Even though IELTS and TOEFL are accepted by over 10,000 organisations around the world (including universities offering undergraduate and postgraduate programmes) one seems to be taking the spotlight over the other in recent years.

Why do you suppose so?

Last year, close to 3 million people took up IELTS. The International English Language Testing System is jointly owned by IDP: IELTS Australia, British Council and Cambridge Assessment English, and tests your proficiency in English in two categories - academic (abroad education purposes) and general training (migratory purposes). While all universities in the UK, Europe, Asia and commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand accept IELTS scores, 99% of 4-year universities and institutions in the US with over 1000 international students approve of IELTS as well. 

Here are a few of the top universities across the world that accept IELTS scores:

If you would like to apply to institutions abroad, reach out to our counsellors and they’ll be able to guide you for free.

Now, this is not a question we can answer FOR you- so we’ll help you ask yourself the right questions.

As similar as they seem, IELTS and TOEFL have their differences too. Right from pattern and preparation to cost and logistics - the differences are vast, and you must capitalise on them. 

We’ve collated a set of key questions that differentiate IELTS and TOEFL. Answer them and you’ll know if you should prepare for IELTS or TOEFL:

1.Does the university of your choice have a preference?

This should be the first and foremost question you should be asking yourself. Check the websites of your dream universities and their programme requirements. If the university of your choice requires only one of the two – then you can rule out the other one right away. And if that is the case, none of the other factors matter.

2.Which test will optimise your points of strength?

Remember, your goal is to score high – so choose the test that has scope to do that. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are and analyse which test would involve using your strengths more. While the IELTS pattern is quite straightforward and independently graded, TOEFL has some variations which could cost you few marks here and there and pull down your total.

For example, the reading and listening sections of TOEFL include extra questions that do not count towards your total score. 

So, make sure you choose what plays to your strength.

3.Which of the two tests is more feasible for you?


Previously, only TOEFL offered the option to take up the internet-based test. Gone are those days! Through IDP IELTS, you can now take up the Computer Delivered IELTS (CD IELTS) - which is available at 20 IDP IELTS centres which include New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Chandigarh, Kochi, Jaipur and Gurgaon.  

With IDP IELTS, you also have better chances of booking a suitable slot for the test (up to 4 tests in a month and over 50 in a year).

Register online for a CD IELTS test slot now! Speak to our study-abroad experts for free guidance on studying overseas.

4.Which test requires more preparation?


While both IELTS and TOEFL require basic preparation at the least, many takers felt that preparing for TOEFL seemed harder. But again, that varies with each individual. The difference in the test patterns may give rise to tasks that need more preparation. 

For example, unlike IELTS, TOEFL’s questions are mostly multiple-choice questions. Also, IELTS is comparatively shorter.

The reading section in IELTS is considered much easier when compared to that of TOEFL’s. The TOEFL essay is longer; 300 words, when compared to the 250 words essay in IELTS. In short, you’ll need to prepare for TOEFL harder, as far as the reading section is considered.

5.What about the format?


They both assess your reading, writing, listening and speaking abilities in English. So, how do you choose now? The best way to go about this is to know which will help you score high and go for that. Now to do that, you’ll need to know the basic structure and grading of IELTS and TOEFL.


IELTS grades you on a nine-band scale to categorise your level of proficiency – from band score 1 (non-user) through to band score 9 (expert). Its four sections are:

  • Listening (30 minutes) – Consists of 4 sections of conversations with 10 questions in each section. The conversation recordings are played only once – based on which you must answer the questions. Each question carries one mark. 
  • Reading (60 minutes) – Has three sections, comprising 40 questions in total. You’ll need to answer questions based on three reading passages, with each question carrying one mark. 
  • Writing (60 minutes) – Consists of two writing tasks – One requires you to describe a diagram/infographic in 20 minutes, and the other requires you to respond to an argument/view in 40 minutes. Both of these should follow a formal style of writing.
  • Speaking (11-14 minutes) – Assesses your spoken English in three parts – In the first, you will have to answer questions about yourself, your family, interests and other familiar topics. In the second part, you’ll be given a topic and a minute to prepare for it before you speak about it for 2 minutes. The third part involves questions/discussions on what you spoke about in part 2.

The total duration of the test is two hours and 45 minutes. While, the reading, writing and listening tests take place on the same day, your speaking section will be held 7 days prior or post the test date.


Unlike the IELTS, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) assesses your reading, writing, listening and speaking abilities in a combined test format. The total test time takes 3.5 hours – including checking in.

  • Reading (54–72 minutes) - Involves reading 3 or 4 passages from academic texts and answering 30-40 questions.
  • Listening (41–57 minutes) – Involves listening to conversations, lectures and discussions; and then answering 28–39 questions based on them.

You’ll be given a break of 10 minutes.

  • Speaking (17 minutes) - Taking up 4 tasks, you’ll have to speak and share your views on a familiar topic and talk about what you read and listened to, during the reading and listening sections.
  • Writing (50 minutes) – It consists of 2 tasks. One - You will be asked to read a passage, listen to a recording and then type your response. Two – You should write an essay based on your experience or opinion.

6.Which test is more expensive?


When it comes to fee expenses, the cost of IELTS and TOEFL differ only by around INR 800. The registration fee for IELTS (computer-delivered) is INR 14,500, while TOEFL costs USD 185 (an equivalent of INR 13,715).

7.Which test gives faster results?


This is a very important factor to be considered – especially if you’re nearing the admissions and intake dates of universities. You’ll get your computer-delivered IELTS score within 3-5 days, while it could take up to 6 days for TEOFL results to come out. 

Up to you, now

As our little quiz comes to an end here, we’re pretty sure you’re now at a better place to pick one. 

So tell us now- are you going to prepare for IELTS or prepare for TOEFL? Either way, practice is the key. Start familiarising yourself with the test pattern. Why don’t you give our IELTS mock test a shot? 

For personalised guidance and counselling, get in touch with us right away by clicking on the ‘Speak to an expert’ button below – we’re happy to help! 

Editor's note: This article was originally published in April 2019. We have included up-to-date information and made it comprehensive.

Preparing for IELTS?

Deepali Panwanda Deepali Panwanda,
IDP Expert
Get personal training from our experts for IELTS. Get in touch with us today.