IELTS vs TOEFL – Which is Better

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2019)



Which is better for you?


Traveling to English speaking countries to school and sometimes, to get a visa to those countries, one is expected to write either of the two major tests of English exams, IELTS and TOEFL.


Both examinations have been in existence for years and used to determine whether a foreigner from a non-English speaking country is capable of communicating in English, enough to live and school in English speaking countries.


The examinations are aimed at practical living, so the examinations are not only written; there is also an oral examination to ascertain pronunciation as well as your ability to understand a native English speaker.



What is IELTS?

IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System.

Established in 1989, it is overseen by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment.

IELTS is one of the major Test of English examinations, alongside TOEFL, required by institutions in native English speaking countries and sometimes, for visa application from foreigners from non-native English speaking countries.

The test is accepted by most native English countries, including Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, as well as institutions in these countries, including more than 3000 academic institutions in the United Kingdom.

IELTS was initially called English Language Testing System (ELTS) and started by Cambridge English Language Assessment in 1980.

In the 1980s, due to low participation and as a result of a need to globalize the examination, the International Development Program of Australian Universities and Colleges joined Cambridge English Language Assessment and the British Council to form the international IELTS partnership.

This brought about IELTS in 1989.


IELTS comes in two modules; academic and general training. The academic is for those seeking admission into institutions in these native English speaking countries while general training is for those seeking entry into the country for other purposes apart from academics.

The skills and knowledge tested are in writing, reading, speaking and reading of the English Language. The listening module has four sections with either one or two people speaking while that of reading has to do with reading texts and answering a wide range of questions from them.

For the writing module, the test takers are required to write describing a certain thing or discussing a point of view and the speaking module requires a face to face interview with the examiner.

After examination, the scores are produced in an overall band score, ranging from 0 to 9, with each band relating to specified competency level and results are valid for two years.


What is TOEFL?

TOEFL, which stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language, is one of the major Test of English examinations taken by citizens of non-English speaking countries in order to school in institutions located in English speaking countries and sometimes, to get the visa into the country.

A trademark of Educational Testing Service, which is a private non-profit organization, the test is to determine the ability of non-native English speakers to speak and understand the English language. The intent is to make sure they will not have communication problems when they get to any of these countries.

TOEFL is the result of a 1962 council made up of thirty governments and private organizations to address the issue of non-native speakers studying in the U.S institutions.

And then, in 1964, the first test was administered, developed at the Center for Applied Linguistics under the direction of a professor of Applied Linguistics from Stanford University, Dr. Charles A. Ferguson.


In the present day, some institutions exempt from their criteria some commonwealth nations and former United States Protectorates because English is either their official language or their de facto official language.


The skills are knowledge tested during the examinations are writing, reading, speaking, and listening to the English language.

For the reading section, reading comprehension has 50 questions about reading passages, the writing skill is tested with an essay question of about 250-300 words while listening section consist of three part, comprising of short and long conservations and lectures or talks.

There is also a structure and written expression section with questions on completing sentences and identifying errors.

There is both an internet-based test and a paper-based test with a ten minutes break in between both but depending on the country.

After the exams, required score range from 61 to 110 (which is required by University of Oxford) and the scores are valid for 2 years.


So what is The Basic Difference between TOEFL and IELTS?


IELTS and TOEFL are quite similar in their purpose and the skill sets tested. Both examinations are recognized and accepted in most institutions and native English speaking countries around the world but TOEFL is more United States centered.


Another difference is that TOEFL is more focused on academic purposes while IELTS has provision for immigration for other purposes apart from academics.


Furthermore, whereas TOEFL is graded based on scores and there is pass or fail, for IELTS, there is no pass or fail, scores are used to determine proficiency level of the English language which is a pre-requisite in our WAEC, NECO or GCE exams.

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