TOEFL vs IELTS: Which Exam Should You Choose?

Florencia Basavilbaso

Florencia Basavilbaso

Content Writer At Gradehacker

TOEFL vs IELTS: Which Exam Should You Choose?

Showing great English language skills is essential for academic purposes and finding more opportunities in other countries, and that can be for professional reasons or immigration purposes.

And if you need to take an exam to prove your proficiency, it all comes down to TOEFL vs IELTS.

If you’ve already started doing your research, you’ve already seen that these are the two main English exams that most companies, universities, and jobs ask for to prove your English proficiency.

At Gradehacker we have dedicated ourselves for years to helping students who need assistance, making us the non-traditional students’ #1 resource. That’s why we want to provide the best information you need to reach your goals faster.

You can take either of these tests to demonstrate your English language ability. 

Depending on where you are, why you need it, and your life goals, one of these English proficiency tests may be better for you than the other one. In this blog post, we are comparing TOEFL vs IELTS to help you know which exam you should take.

TOEFL vs IELTS- Redhead college student girl with glasses on campus

Reasons for Taking TOEFL and IELTS Exams

These Exams were created to evaluate your English ability and ensure you have the right knowledge so you can fulfill your goals!

Most English-speaking countries will have as a requirement to have a certain English skills level if you want to work or study at their institution or company. This is a normal situation for any international student who is going to start a career in a foreign country or workers who get hired by international business companies.

It is most commonly seen that academic institutions and companies from the United Kingdom and across most of Europe ask for IELTS scores, and most institutions and companies in the United States will require TOEFL iBT scores.

Still, it’s important to remember that it will depend on the institution or company you are applying to, so take the time to find what you need, so you can prepare the right way to get the best exam scores!

TOEFL vs IELTS Exams: Main Differences

TOEFL is the short form for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It was created by the American non-profit organization Educational Testing Service (ETS).

IELTS comes for International English Language Testing System. It was created by Cambridge Assessment English, British Council, and IDP Education Australia.

Both TOEFL and IELTS are English language proficiency tests that evaluate your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. 

The biggest difference between these two exams is the content of their tasks and the way you take them. One follows the modality seen only across American institutions, and with the other, you will prepare for the academic version learned in the UK and Europe.

Both can be accepted in each other regions, but it depends on the type of institution.

How TOEFL Works

TOEFL was created to evaluate your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills in English.


Has three to four passages for the reading sections, each around 700 words. In those passages, you’ll focus on 10 questions about comparing, contrasting, and cause and effect.


Four lectures are integrated into the Listening sections, some of which are with class discussion. Every lecture lasts three to five minutes and includes six questions.

After completing this first part of the test, you’ll have a break of 10 minutes. After the break, you’ll continue with:


For this section, you’ll have to complete 4 tasks.

Task one, is independent, and you’ll answer your opinion on familiar topics. In the remaining three, you’ll be completing integrated tasks based on what you read and hear.


This is the last part of the exam.

In this section, you’ll have two writing tasks. The first one is a 20-minute integrated writing task based on what is read and heard. The second is a 30-minute independent task to support an opinion on a topic.

In total, the score for the final result is from 0 to 120.

TOEFL vs IELTS- Group of university students taking a test

TOEFL Exam Options:

You can take the exam in three different ways.

  • Reading, Listening, and Writing sections: you can take the paper-based test at their testing facilities
  • Speaking section: on a computer at home.

How IELTS Works

There are two different types of IELTS: The Academic Test and The General Training Test.

While the Listening and Speaking test is the same for both types, the Reading and Writing sections are different,

Except for the Speaking test, the other tests will be completed on the same day with no breaks in between. 

The Speaking part has to be scheduled for a week apart from the others, which can be a week before or after. Consider that if you choose to schedule the tests online, the evaluation will happen before the others.

IELTS results are reported on a 9-band scale from 1 being the lowest to 9 being the highest.


You will listen to four recordings. 

There are four parts with ten questions each. You can only hear the recordings once, and a range of different English native speakers’ accents are provided.


You will listen to four recordings. 

There are four parts with ten questions each. You can only hear the recordings once, and a range of different English native speakers’ accents are provided.

toefl vs ielts- guy in headset watching online webinar

IELTS Academic Reading

This section has 40 questions and consists of three reading passages with various questions. You will be reading for gist, main ideas, in detail, skimming and understanding logical arguments.

Finally, you’ll have to recognize writers’ opinions, attitudes, and purpose.

IELTS General Training Reading

This test will also have 40 questions to answer, and the tasks will be the same as the Academic test, but here, you’ll count with three sections.

The first section will have up to three short texts to read. The second section of the test will be about two texts, and in the third, you’ll just have a long text.

IELTS Academic Writing

If you are an undergraduate, a postgraduate, or seeking professional registration, this test will be ideal for you.

There are two tasks in this test. 

First, you’ll be provided a graph, table, chart, or diagram, which you’ll have to describe and explain in your own words. Then, you have to write an essay responding to a point of view, argument, or problem.

The responses must be in a formal style.

IELTS General Training Writing

The test format is the same as the Academic, the difference is that you won’t have to write in a particular style; you can do your own.

IELTS Exam Options

  • Paper-based IELTS test
  • Internet-Based Test: It can be taken from a test center online, from home, or from any private location with a stable internet connection.


Both tests’ price varies according to the location, and the amount is provided once you register.

The cost for IELTS in the US is between $245 and $255. And the price in the UK, can go anywhere from From £175 to £195 depending on location.

The TOEFL test, you can find it at the price of  $255 in the US. and $245 in the UK. 

Both also provide practice tests and thousands of practice questions for you to get ready.

TOEFL vs IELTS: Choosing The Best For You

It is hard to say which one is harder or easier, as both tests require a good level of English proficiency.

IELTS can be more difficult for some due to its emphasis on the high level of academic English, besides having assignments with very specific series of questions and tasks.

But for some is easier since most of the answers are short and the test is about 2.45hs.

TOEFL may be seen as easier because it emphasizes everyday English and offers more flexibility in terms of test formats.

Still, some people find it more difficult because of the length of the test and the three hours that it takes to complete.

Ready to Demonstrate Your Proficiency?

TOEFL vs IELTS, which one should you choose?

It all depends on your current English level and which type of English you are more used to.

Ultimately, your choice depends on what you need the test for and which type of English best suits your goals.

Both the TOEFL and IELTS tests provide a valid assessment of language proficiency for non-native English speakers. 

Knowing which test to take can be difficult, so it is important to become familiar with each test’s format, structure, and requirements before making a decision.

We wish you the best of luck and be sure to  get in touch with us if you have any questions or need guidance on how to prepare for the exam.

And if you are about to start a new college journey that will make you progress in your life, don’t miss these blogs:

Florencia Basavilbaso

Florencia Basavilbaso

Florencia Basavilbaso is a content creator passioned for writing, music, films, and the arts. At Gradehacker, she helps to improve non-traditional students life’s by finding and providing the most useful information, so they can always progress. You can find her on LinkedIn.