The Ultimate Guide to IELTS and TOEFL Exam Prep


The IELTS and TOEFL are two standardized language tests that are used for gaining admittance into universities and colleges across various countries. IELTS and TOEFL are the two most common and widely accepted tests. Although there are a lot of similarities between the two, there are differences between them as well, especially in terms of the level of difficulty.

If you just want to take an English proficiency test for immigration purposes, the IELTS exam would suffice since it has a general testing option, as well as an academic one. The TOEFL is a different story since it’s more geared toward college admissions and not just immigration.

So, if you’re not sure which one to take, read our guide to understand the differences between IELTS and TOEFL and choose the best one for you.


IELTS vs TOEFL: Mode of Exam



The IELTS Exam is Given in Two Ways:

  • Computer-Delivered IELTS Exam: The Computer-Based exam was introduced in 2017. The paper-based IELTS exam requires you to write the exam on an answer sheet.
  • Paper-based IELTS Exam: Candidates in the computer-delivered IELTS must type their answers in the provided boxes.
Method Paper and Online Online
Length 2 hours 45 minutes 2 hours
Scores 0-9 0-120
Results 13 days 10 days
Marking Human examiners and automated marking (machine marking) Human examiners and automated marking (machine marking)
Accepted by 11,000 organizations worldwide 11,500 organizations worldwide



The TOEFL exam is administered in two ways:

  • PBT (Paper-based Test): It is administered offline in locations where internet access is not available. It is divided into three sections reading, writing, and listening.
  • iBT (Internet-based Test): In 2006, the exam replaced the computer-based test. It is divided into four sections reading, listening, speaking, and writing. It is one of the most popular types of TOEFL exams.


IELTS vs TOEFL: Which is Easier

When comparing the two exams, IELTS vs TOEFL, the question that arises is which exam is easier. The decision between the two exams and their level of difficulty is entirely subjective. It is determined by several factors, including


Whether your University has Accepted your Score

Although both scores are accepted globally for admission to undergraduate and graduate programs, you must be certain. Check to see if the university/school has any particular preferences for accepting English language proficiency tests.


Question Type of Preference

The IELTS and TOEFL both assess the same abilities: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. They do it, however, in a very different way. Learn about the exam format and the types of questions that will be asked.

Before making a final decision, familiarize yourself with the exam pattern and types of questions asked in both exams. For example, if you are more comfortable answering multiple-choice questions, you might prefer the TOEFL exam over the IELTS.


Your Level of Comfort with the Exam Pattern

The pattern of the Speaking section differs significantly between the TOEFL and IELTS exams. The IELTS speaking test is given in front of an examiner, who determines your speaking score. Furthermore, the IELTS speaking test may not be scheduled on the same day as the rest of the exam. In the case of the TOEFL, you must answer the questions using a microphone. These are then recorded and distributed to reviewers.

So, select the exam type and pattern that you are most comfortable with.


The Exam Fee

The cost of IELTS vs. TOEFL can also be a deciding factor. Both exams are typically priced between $190 and $250 USD. These costs, however, vary depending on the country in which you take the exam. So, if cost is a major concern for you, check the prices of the exams in your country before making a decision.



The availability of a test center near you also influences your exam selection. You can select an exam for which the exam center and dates are both easily accessible.


IELTS vs TOEFL: An Overview

When we compare IELTS and TOEFL, we can see that, while the goal of both exams is the same, they differ in many ways. If you intend to take one of these exams, make sure you understand the following distinctions before making your final decision:

Length About 2 hours long 2 hours and 45 minutes long
Locations Available in more than 200 countries and territories Available at 78 locations across India and about 900 worldwide
Scoring Score on a sliding scale from 0 to 120 Score on a band of 1-9 or levels

Most of the colleges in the United States and Canada may accept either of the two- The IELTS as well as the TOEFL. You may not need any of these tests for Singapore. Any of the two tests may serve your purpose throughout the Europe except UK for which you will need to take the IELTS UKVI. However, most of the institutes in Australia and New Zealand may prefer the IELTS. The best thing to do is to check the website of the university you are applying to.

In order to find out on which of the tests you are likely to score better, you should take a diagnostic test for each and seek expert advice from your trainers.



For years, the TOEFL vs IELTS question has been haunting students. It is common knowledge that one of these English language tests is required for admission in an English-speaking country. But which test? In 2009, the PTE emerged as a yet-another option, further confusing students.


Decision Factor 1: Purpose of IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE

It is important to understand why each test exists. The IELTS aims to certify the language proficiency of non-native English speakers intending to travel to a Commonwealth country. Hence, Commonwealth countries, the UK, Australia, and such, prefer the IELTS. On the other hand, both TOEFL and PTE are American exams. Most US schools, so, expect students to take one of them.

There are also other English language proficiency tests, e.g. TOEIC, that are designed for professional settings. But let’s keep them outside of this discussion as we focus on study abroad tests.


Decision Factor 2: Pattern And Other Nitty-Gritty

While all these tests assess candidates on all 4 aspects of English – Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing – their patterns and operational details are different. Some key aspects are

Paper-based vs Computer-based tests:

The IELTS is a paper-based test, with handwritten essays and an in-person interview for the Speaking section. The TOEFL and PTE are entirely computer-based, with typed essays and recorded voice responses.


The IELTS is scored on bands (0-9) whereas the TOEFL and PTE are scored on (0-120) points and (10-90) points respectively.


IELTS lasts for 2 hrs 45 mins and the PTE lasts for about 3 hrs. TOEFL is the longest test and lasts anywhere from 2 hrs to 2 hrs 30 minutes. Your stamina and concentration matter enormously.


The IELTS is offered at specific locations and on specific dates. The TOEFL and PTE are offered at any Prometric center around the year.


Decision Factor 3: Acceptance

This, luckily, is one of the few black-and-white aspects. Decision Factor 1 above noted the general rule of acceptance – IELTS by Commonwealth countries and TOEFL/PTE by the US. The ultimate decision, however, depends on each university/school. For example, a number of well-reputed US universities, including Stanford, Yale, Harvard, and MIT, accept the IELTS. Hence, you must check which tests your target universities/schools accept. If most of them accept (or do not accept) a test, your decision is pretty much made.


Decision Factor 4: Minimum Score Criteria

All the above tests are English competency assessments, so there is no good or bad score per se. However, since the admission process has to have an objective mechanism as the basis for candidate selection, a few general cut-off scores have emerged as ‘minimum score criteria’.

On the IELTS, a composite band of 7 is necessary, although a score of 8 is considered more favorable. On the TOEFL, a score of 100 points is a must-have for most leading institutions, but a few mid and low-ranking universities also accept a score of 90. A score of 110 is necessary for the cream of American universities such as Columbia.

Another thing to note is that there are certain unofficial-yet-widely-followed methods of converting a score on one test to an equivalent score on another. Using them, you will see that most cut-off criteria noted above overlap. So then the question is: which of these tests is the easiest if there is one?


Decision Factor 5: Ease

The answer to this million-dollar question is subtle – none of the above is an easy test, but yes, some tests, owing to their specific patterns, can be perceived as easier or more difficult. If you find multiple-choice questions easier, TOEFL and PTE are right up your alley. If you find talking to someone easier than recording your voice in a microphone, you may score better on the IELTS. Ultimately, you must go for a test most suited to your style. This, of course, assumes that all of the above 4 decision factors have already been dealt with!

With all this knowledge, how must you proceed? Simple, again. Make a grid based on the 5 points above and evaluate all tests through them. Keep it an easy Yes-or-No system to know which test suits most of the requirements. There will be one winner and that, my friend, is the answer. Elementary!


Which Exam does the School You’re Applying to Accept?

This is the most important factor to consider because if the schools you’re interested in do not accept the test scores you take, no other factors will matter.

  • The TOEFL and IELTS are both widely accepted at undergraduate and graduate schools worldwide.
  • The TOEFL is more commonly accepted by American institutions, while the IELTS is more commonly accepted abroad, but scores from either exam are accepted by many schools. However, a school’s preference for which test you take should be considered as well.
  • In general, the majority of US schools polled said they preferred TOEFL scores over other English-language test scores.

Overall, the schools you’re considering will most likely accept scores from either exam, but it’s important to double-check this before you choose a test to avoid any unpleasant surprises later on. The TOEFL and IELTS both make it simple to determine which institutions accept their scores.


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How are IELTS and TOEFL Different?

IELTS and TOEFL are different in several ways. Firstly, IELTS is accepted by more countries than TOEFL. Secondly, IELTS includes a speaking section, while TOEFL does not. Thirdly, the format of the two tests is different, with IELTS consisting of four sections (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) and TOEFL consisting of only reading, writing, and speaking.

Which test is more widely accepted?

Both IELTS and TOEFL are widely accepted in universities and other institutions around the world. However, IELTS is accepted by more countries, while TOEFL is primarily accepted in North America.

Which test is preferred by universities and employers between IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE?

Different Universities and employers have different requirements, so it’s best to check with them to see which test they prefer. However, in general, IELTS is more commonly used in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, while TOEFL is more commonly used in the US and Canada. PTE is accepted by many universities and employers worldwide.

What is the scoring system for IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE?

IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE all use different scoring systems. IELTS scores range from 0 to 9, with 9 being the highest score. TOEFL scores range from 0 to 120, with each section scored out of 30. PTE scores range from 10 to 90, with 90 being the highest score.

What is the time duration of IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE?

IELTS last for 2 hours and 45 minutes, with Listening, Reading, and Writing taking 2 hours and Speaking taking 11-14 minutes. TOEFL lasts for about 4 hours, with Reading, Listening, and Speaking taking about 1 hour each and Writing taking about 50 minutes. PTE lasts for about 3 hours, with Speaking and Writing taking about 77-93 minutes, Reading taking 32-41 minutes, and Listening taking 45-57 minutes.


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