Overview of the TOEFL Test

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is an English language proficiency examination produced by the ETS, the same organization that develops the GRE (an exam for graduate school admissions) and several other tests. TOEFL contains four sections with each test a different area of your English skills, and lasts a total of 3.5 hours for the four sections. There is a ten-minute break between the Listening and Speaking sections. For each section, you will be awarded a score of 0-30. These scores are then added together, meaning your total TOEFL score ranges from 0-120. Below is the format of the exam.

Sections                  Number of Questions                                         Time Given

Reading                               36-56.                                                                   60-80 minutes

Listening                             34-51                                                                     60-90 minutes

Speaking                             6 tasks.                                                                 20 minutes

Writing                                2 tasks                                                                 50 minutes

Generally speaking, the majority of United States schools surveyed stated they preferred TOEFL scores over scores of other English-language proficiency tests.

Overview of the IELTS Test

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is another English language proficiency examination jointly owned by the British Council and IDP (International Development Program): IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment.  IDP is an international education organisation which offers placements for students in various countries like Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Canada.

There are two versions of the IELTS: the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Training. IELTS Academic is for people applying for higher education or a profession, while the IELTS General Training is for people traveling to English-speaking countries for secondary education, visitation, relocation, or work experience.  The focus of this guide is on IELTS Academic, since it is the version for students applying to undergraduate and postgraduate institutions (although the two versions both have the same scoring system and similar formats).

The total alloted time for the IELTS is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The IELTS has the same four sections as the TOEFL, though the two examinations are tested in different orders. On the IELTS, you will receive a score from 0-9 for each section. Your overall score is an average of those four scores and will also be from 0-9. Unlike the TOEFL, which you must take all at once, for the IELTS, you are able to take the Speaking section up to a week before or after the other sections if you prefer (you schedule your Speaking time when you register for the exam).


Section                                 Number of Questions                                  Time Given

Listening                                             40                                                       30 minutes

Reading                                              40                                                         60 minutes

Writing                                               2 tasks                                                60 minutes

Speaking                                             3 tasks                                                 11-14 minutes



In conclusion, over 9000 universities around the globe accept either IELTS or TOEFL or both. If you are applying to universities in the United Kingdom or Australia, IELTS is more widely accepted. Universities in the United States of America accept TOEFL. The schools you are applying to will likely accept scores from either examination, but it is very important to verify this before you choose a test in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the future.










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