Difference Between TOEFL and IELTS

Main Difference – TOEFL vs IELTS

TOFEL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are two of the most popular English language proficiency tests for non-native English speakers. While both these tests measure your reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills accurately, there are certain differences in their structure, approach, and scores. The main difference between TOFEL and IELTS is that TOFEL is a computer based test whereas IELTS is a paper based test. Therefore, some fundamental differences can be noted between these two tests, especially in the speaking test. This article will help you to understand the difference between TOEFL and IELTS and help you to gather more knowledge about what is tested, the application, preparation, test duration, and scores of these two tests.Difference Between TOEFL and IELTS - infographic

What is TOEFL

TOFEL is an internationally acclaimed English language proficiency test which is specially designed to test your ability to communicate in English in academic and education-based settings. This test is conducted in American English and is administered by a US-based organization, the Education Testing Service. Therefore, it is more likely to be favored by American institutions. Nevertheless, this test is accepted by more than 9000 institutes in over 130 countries.

Before 2006, this test was available as a paper based test. But now TOEFL iBT (internet based) test is the most used test format. The paper format is available in limited areas where internet facilities are not available.

The test takes about 4 hours to complete and comprises of 4 sections. Let’s briefly look at these sections:


The reading section contains 4-6 passages drawn from academic context; all the passages are of the same level of difficulty. The candidates have to read the passages and answer a series of multiple-choice questions. This section will take about 60 -80 minutes.


There are two tasks in the writing section. The first task is a short essay between 300-350 words. The next task will involve taking notes from a section of text and lecture excerpt which are on the same topic and write an answer (150-225 words) to a question on the excerpts. Answers have to be typed, and you will have about 50 minutes to complete these two tasks.


The speaking test does not have interviewers; it will involve a 20-minute conversation with a computer. Your answers will be recorded and revived by more than one marker. There are 6 different university-type questions: two questions will be on familiar topics, the next two questions will involve summarizing information from a text, and a conversation and the last two questions will involve summarizing information from a short conversation.


Listening test can be completed in 40-60 minutes. There are 2-3 longer conversations and 4-6 lectures related to university life. You have to answer multiple choice questions. This test will mostly contain North American English accents.


Each of the four sections (Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing) receives a score from 0 to 30. The scaled scores from the four sections are added together to calculate the total score. The final score is on a scale of 0 to 120 points.

Application and Preparation

You can find a TOFEL testing location by following this link. Once you select your country, you’ll be notified of the testing centers, fees, and test dates. You can also register and create a profile.

TOFEL official website also offers preparation materials and tools. You can access them here. Although most of these materials have to be purchased, you can also find some free resources at the end of the page. 

Difference Between TOEFL and IELTS

What is IELTS

IELTS is a popular English language proficiency test that can be used for educational, immigration, and occupational purposes. This test is accepted in many countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. IELTS is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment. There are two modules in the test: Academic Module and General Training Module.

IELTS is a paper based test, and it takes about 2 hours, 45 minutes. There are four sections:


There are three sections in the reading test, and each is 20 minutes long. The passages will gradually get harder. There will be a wide range of question types – short answers, multiple choice, fill in the blanks, etc.


The writing test contains two main questions. The first part is to interpret a graph, table or diagram. Then the candidate will have to write a short essay as an argument or discussion. These two parts have to be completed within an hour.


Unlike TOFEL, IELTS has a real interview, i.e., that is a face-to-face with an examiner. This test will take only about12-15 minutes. There are three parts to the test. First, the candidates have to engage in a brief introductory conversation about a familiar topic. Then they are required to speak about a given topic. In the final section, the interviewer will ask questions about the given speech (in question 2). The speaking test may be held on a different day.


There are four sections in the listening test. This will take about 30 minutes. You can note a range of different accents of English in these audio clips. The first section will be a conversation, usually a transactional conversation where someone is applying for something. The second section will be an informal lecture and the third a conversation in an academic context. The final section is an academic lecture.


The results are given on band scores on a scale from 1 to 9. (1 is the lowest and 9 is the highest). You can get to know more about the scores by following this link

Given below is a comparison between IELTS and TOFEL score.


























Application and Preparation

You can find sample test materials and other resources that will help you to prepare for IELTS from this site. You can register for the test by following this link

Main Difference - TOEFL vs IELTS

Difference Between TOEFL and IELTS


TOEFL is computer based.

IELTS is paper based. 

Length of Time

TOEFL will take about 4 hours. 

IELTS will take about 2 hours, 45 minutes.


TOEFL will contain 4 – 6 passages and multiple choice questions.

IELTS will contain 3 passages and different types of questions. 


TOEFL will mostly have people speaking in North American accents.

IELTS will have a range of different accents of English.


TOEFL involves speaking to the computer.

IELTS will have a real examiner. 


TOEFL essays are typed into the computer. 

IELTS essays are handwritten. 


TOEFL is given scores from 0 to 120. 

IELTS is given scores from 0 to 30. 

Image Courtesy: 

“IELTS logo” By SVG: Niamh O’C – IELTS (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

“TOEFL Logo” By Niamh O’C – ETS TOEFL (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasa

Hasanthi is a seasoned content writer and editor with over 8 years of experience. Armed with a BA degree in English and a knack for digital marketing, she explores her passions for literature, history, culture, and food through her engaging and informative writing.