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 at in an English-speaking country. But which test? In 2009, the PTE emerged as a yet-another option, further confusing students.

But wait – it doesn’t have to be so complicated! At Manya, we keep it simple; so read on to know the 5 definite ways in which you can get rid of the question once and for all.

Decision Factor 1: Purpose of IELTS, TOEFL, 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, 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 test:

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 3 hrs 10 mins to 4 hrs 20 minutes. Your stamina and concentration matter enormously.


The IELTS is offered at specific locations, 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 looked at more favorably. 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 test 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 easier or more difficult. If you find multiple-choice questions easier, TOEFL and PTS are right up your alley. If you find talking to a person easier than recording your voice into a microphone, you may score better on the IELTS. Ultimately, you must go for a test that you find 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!

If you still have any questions, we are happy to help! Get in touch with us. Click here. If not, keep calm and English-on. And yes, remember to share this post so your friends do not sweat over this small stuff.

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