IELTS vs TOEFL - IELTS or TOEFL, which test to choose?
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 Dec 2022 98.6K Book icon 10 mins Share

IELTS vs. TOEFL: Which is easier? Which should you take?

IELTS or TOEFL iBT – which is the best test to prove your English language skills? Make a choice by understanding the differences and asking a few questions.

06 Dec 2022 98.6K Book icon 10 mins Share
IELTS vs TOEFL - IELTS or TOEFL, which test to choose?

What’s covered in this article?

  • Full form of IELTS and TOEFL
  • What are the major differences between IELTS and TOEFL?
  • Details of how IELTS differs from TOEFL
  • IELTS vs TOEFL test format
  • IELTS and TOEFL question types
  • IELTS vs TOEFL: In which can you score higher?
  • IELTS and TOEFL Listening sections
  • IELTS and TOEFL Reading sections
  • IELTS and TOEFL Writing sections
  • IELTS and TOEFL Speaking sections
  • IELTS vs TOEFL Grading
  • Questions to help you pick between IELTS and TOEFL (FAQs)

Both IELTS and TOEFL iBT are accepted by over 10,000 organisations around the world (including universities offering undergraduate and postgraduate programmes). It is only natural that students wonder which one to opt for their application to universities abroad. We’ll lay down the facts so that you can make an informed decision.

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Full form of IELTS and TOEFL

IELTS full form is the International English Language Testing System.

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language.

IELTS was established in 1980 and is currently jointly owned by IDP: IELTS Australia, British Council and Cambridge Assessment English. TOEFL was established in 1964. It is designed ad administered by the Educational Testing Services (ETS). Both tests evaluate candidates on a range of abilities from non-user of the English language to expert users.


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. 

IELTS practice test

What are the major differences between IELTS and TOEFL?




The test is administered by

IDP owns the IELTS operations in India

ETS (Educational Testing Services)

Test name

IELTS Academic



INR 15,500

$ 190 (Around INR 15600)

Online or Offline

Paper and Computer Delivered, and Online

Fully online

Number of questions


64 - 85 questions

The test duration

2 hrs 45 min

3 hrs 15 min

How is it scored?

By trained examiners and automatic scoring

Reading and Listening sections are scored by the computer. Speaking and Writing1 are scored by AI as well as multiple trained examiners.

The time taken for delivering results

In 13 days for the paper-based test and in 3-5 days for the computer-delivered test.

In 4-8 days after the test.

Are there breaks?

No breaks during the test. But the speaking test can be taken one week before or after the rest of the test.

A 10-minute break between listening and speaking tests

Do candidates interact with examiners?

Yes, for the speaking test


Number of universities accepting the scores

More than 11,000 institutions

More than 11,500 institutions

Number of test centres in India

Minimum of 10

More than 70

Link to the Course matcher tool

Details of how IELTS differs from TOEFL

IELTS vs TOEFL test format


Both IELTS and TOEFL tests the listening, reading, writing and speaking skills of the candidates. But the time allotted for each of the different sections of the test varies. The number of questions also varies. Check out the table to understand the difference:





30 min, 40 questions

41 – 57 min, 28 – 39 questions


60 min, 40 questions

54 – 72 min, 30 – 40 questions


11 – 14 min, 3 tasks

17 min, 4 tasks


60 min, 2 tasks

50 min, 2 tasks

IELTS vs TOEFL: Question types

The question types used in IELTS and TOEFL are one of the major factors that differentiate between the two.

TOEFL: The Reading and Listening questions in TOEFL are multiple choice questions, where candidates will be asked to pick the right answer from 4 options. The Speaking test includes 1 Independent Speaking Task and 3 Integrated Speaking Tasks which test your speaking skills in combination with other skills. The Writing test also includes an Independent Writing Task and a Integrated Writing Task.

IELTS: IELTS uses different question types to assess candidates.

Link to the FastLane application

IELTS question types:


Question types


Multiple choice, complete the sentence, matching, plan, map, or diagram labelling, sentence completion and summary completion.


Multiple choice, matching information, matching heading to content, matching sentence endings, fill in the blanks, short answers, note, table, or flow-chart completion,  and identifying writer’s views.


Describe, summarise, or explain


Oral interview between the test taker and examiner.

Understand the IELTS test format in detail through our article.

IELTS vs TOEFL: In which can you score higher?

Familiarise yourself with the test formats further, and know the basic structure and grading to understand in which you can score higher.

IELTS and TOEFL Listening section

IELTS 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. 

TOEFL Listening (41–57 minutes) – Involves listening to conversations, lectures and discussions; and then answering 28–39 questions based on them.

IELTS and TOEFL Reading sections

IELTS 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. 

TOEFL Reading (54–72 minutes) - Involves reading 3 or 4 passages from academic texts and answering 30-40 questions.

IELTS and TOEFL Writing sections

IELTS 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.

TOEFL 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.

IELTS and TOEFL Speaking sections

IELTS 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.

TOEFL Speaking (17 minutes) - 4 tasks are part of the Speaking test. Task 1 involves Independent Speaking, where you’ll have to speak and share your views on a familiar topic. Tasks 2-4 involve Integrated Speaking, where you will have to do a combination of Listening and Speaking or Reading and Speaking. 

The total duration of the IELTS test is two hours and 45 minutes. While, the reading, writing and listening tests take place on the same day, you can choose to take your speaking test 7 days prior or post the rest of the test date.

IELTS vs TOEFL scores and grades

IELTS Grading:

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).

IELTS score

English language skill level




Very good










Extremely limited





A score is given for each test. The average of these individual scores is taken and rounded to the nearest half-band to get the overall band score. For example, if the average of the listening, reading, writing and speaking sections is 5.75, the overall band score will be rounded to 6.0.

Want to know what your IELTS band score means? Read our article to find out.

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.

TOEFL Grading

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. Each section in TOEFL has a score range of 0 – 30.


TOEFL score

English language skill level


22 – 30


17 – 21


9 – 16


0 – 8

Below low-intermediate


24 – 30


18 – 23


4 – 17


0 – 3

Below Low-Intermediate


25 – 30


20 – 24


16 – 19


10 – 15


0 – 9

Below Basic


24 – 30


17 – 23


13 – 16


7 – 12


0 – 6

Below Basic

In TOEFL, the final score is arrived at, by adding these individual scores.

IELTS vs TOEFL score

ETS, the organisation that administers TOEFL provides the following IELTS vs TOEFL score comparison table.

9 118
8.5 115
8 110
7.5 102
7 94
6.5 79
6 60
5.5 46
5 35
4.5 32
0-4 0-31

FAQs on IELTS or TOEFL: Key questions to help you choose between the two

Next, we’ve collated a set of key questions that differentiate IELTS and TOEFL. Understand the answers to these and you’ll know if you should prepare for IELTS or TOEFL.

Which is easier IELTS or TOEFL?

Both IELTS and TOEFL tests the English proficiency of the individual. The difficulty level of these exams is subjective; however, many students consider IELTS easier than TOEFL, especially the reading sections. In IELTS, the reading question samples are from magazines, books, journals and newspapers. The TOEFL reading passages are from academic textbooks and academic publications. Some test takers might find these challenging as these may include technical vocabulary and complex sentence structures.

Which is better, IELTS or TOEFL?

Both IELTS and TOEFL are widely accepted by universities, governments and organisations as a proof of English proficiency. IELTS questions majorly focus on the practical communication skills of the individual, while TOEFL tests are more academic. IELTS also offers the option to choose between academic and general training tests based on the individual's needs. IELTS has a face-to-face speaking section, while TOEFL is purely computer-based. While most institutions accept both the test scores, some might have preferences. It is best to check with the institution before deciding which test to take.

What is the difference between the TOEFL and the IELTS?

There are several differences between IELTS and TOEFL. You can take the IELTS test on paper, computer or completely online. TOEFL iBT is administrated compleetely on computer. The IELTS test duration is 2hrs and 45 minutes, while TOEFL is 3 hours and 15 minutes long. The number of questions vary too - 40 questions in IELTS and 64 - 85 questions in TOEFL. The speaking section of the IELTS exam can be taken 1 week before or after the remaining sections of the test. You will not have any breaks during the test. A 10 minute break is allowed between the listening and speaking tests in a TOEFL exam. The IELTS exam needs test takers to interact with an examiner for the speaking section. A human interaction is not a part of any of the TOEFL sections.

IELTS or TOEFL: Which is preferred by your university?

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 accepts only one of the two – then you can rule out the other one right away.

Which test will optimise your points of strength?

Remember, your goal is to score high – so choose the test that has the 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 a 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.

Which of the two tests is more feasible for you?

Previously, only TOEFL offered the option to take up the internet-based test. IDP IELTS, you can now take up the Computer Delivered IELTS (CD IELTS) - which is available at several 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.

Which test requires more preparation?


Both IELTS and TOEFL require basic preparation at the least. 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.

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 190 (an equivalent of INR 15,600).

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. 

IELTS or TOEFL? Which test is your pick?

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.

If IELTS is your choice, why don’t you give our IELTS mock test a shot? 

For personalised guidance and counselling, get in touch with us right away by filling out the form on this page – we’re happy to help! 

Editor's note: This article was originally published in April 2019. Our Content Writer Roshna Mohan has included up-to-date information and made it comprehensive.

Note: Hotcourses India is part of IDP Connect, which is an IELTS partner.

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