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What Is Difference Between the TOEFL Test & the IELTS Test?

by Josh Hawthorne

Two standardized international tests of English proficiency are familiar to most English language students -- the International English Language Testing Service test and Test of English as a Foreign Language. While these tests are similar, they have several important differences. Two IELTS tests exist, including the academic test, which is closest in difficulty to TOEFL. Some students find the IELTS general test slightly easier than the IELTS academic test or TOEFL.

Differences in English

Students need to be familiar with the accents found in the test they have to take.

TOEFL is created by the Education Testing Service and uses American accents and vocabulary in its listening section. IELTS is a product of Cambridge University and uses British and Australian accents and vocabulary in its listening section. Students need to be familiar with the accent and the vocabulary of the test they are planning to take to gain the greatest chance of success.

Test Structure

Although each test covers four English skills, each does so in different ways.

Each test includes reading, writing, speaking and listening. For the TOEFL, the times are 60 to 100 minutes for the reading section; 30 minutes for the writing section; 20 minutes for the speaking section; and 40 to 60 minutes for the listening section. For the IELTS test, the times are 60 minutes for the reading section; 40 minutes for the writing section; 11 to 14 minutes for the speaking section; and 30 minutes for the listening section. The TOEFL has more multiple-choice questions, while IELTS test questions vary in structure. Note that shorter does not necessarily mean easier when comparing times.

Acceptance

The two tests are accepted in different countries around the world.

These tests are often taken for immigration purposes, university entrance requirements or as part of a job application process. The IELTS test is accepted in more countries than the TOEFL, which is most commonly accepted in the United States and Canada but not in Britain, Australia or New Zealand.

Your Time and Money

Cost is a factor in selecting which test to write.

The IELTS test is more expensive than TOEFL. The IELTS test also takes place on two different days -- the speaking test usually takes place a day or two after the first part of the exam. The TOEFL takes approximately four hours to complete, while the IELTS test takes roughly two hours and 45 minutes

About the Author

Based in Victoria, BC, Canada, Josh Hawthorne has been writing curriculum and digital project guides since 1998. He holds a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Victoria. Hawthorne freely admits he loves reading zombie literature and is currently working on a book about error correction for students learning English (without zombies).

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