IELTS vs TOEFL – What’s The Difference?

One of the most common requirements of students applying for a period of international study abroad is the demonstration of your language fluency. The ability to communicate in the tongue of your host country is frequently becoming a legal requirement for entry to the country, and this is best demonstrated through the provision of TOEFL or IELTS language test scores. We recently spoke about how international students should prepare for their IELTS exam, but TOEFL is another one of the world’s most recognised English language and literacy tests. However, what the differences between the two exams? Is IELTS more popular than TOEFL in certain countries?

The Host Country

Whereas most countries accept both IELTS and TOEFL scores when making a visa application, there are some specific types of visa which do not. For example, if you have been told you require a Tier 4 UK study visa the TOEFL exam is no longer accepted as an example of your fluency, and in order to gain a visa to study in Australia or Canada you will need to take the IELTS test. Whilst many nations do take both tests as proof, some countries favour certain tests and require higher scores on one than you would need on the other. Check the requirements of your chosen study destination carefully before embarking on any language course.

Course Entry Requirements

The IELTS test results are accepted by more than 9000 institutions across 130 countries worldwide, whereas TOEFL scores are accepted by around 8500. Once more you should check which test your chosen university accepts and ensure you will meet their entry requirements. Generally, the TOEFL exam is favoured by universities in the USA, whereas IELTS is preferred by British and Commonwealth or former Commonwealth nations such as Australia, Ireland and Canada.

Your Background

Whereas costs for both tests are roughly similar there are 4500 TOEFL testing locations available worldwide, compared to only around 900 for taking the IELTS examination, so travelling to the test centre needs to be taken into consideration both practically and financially. It is also important to understand which English-speaking countries have influenced you the most. If your nation has been exposed to American English dialects via music or movies then TOEFL may seem more familiar, whereas IELTS is conducted in British English and may be better suited to those looking to experience student life in the UK.

Your Abilities

The TOEFL preparation and testing cover mostly academic uses of English, so if you have a solid base of fluency already this may be the best option to brush up on your academic language skills. If you need help with conversational and cultural English the IELTS exam offers a more realistic range of situations and questions than TOEFL’s multiple choice approach. You’ll also find that the IELTS examinations take place with a live tester and involves hand-writing, whereas TOEFL is a primarily computer-based course. If nerves affect your language skills TOEFL might be a better choice, but IELTS could give you a truer test of your English fluency in action. There are many other general differences between studying for IELTS and TOEFL accreditation, including what questions you’ll be asked, how you’ll be scored, and how long the examinations take. If you need more detailed advice on which English-language test may be suitable for your needs, contact IEC Abroad today for expert insight into visa regulations, course requirements, and choosing a test which satisfies both.