Student Competitions - What is IELTS and TOEFL and Which Test Should I

What is IELTS and TOEFL and Which Test Should I Take?

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So you want to apply to study abroad? That’s great! However, to get accepted into a University program, you will need proof of your English language abilities. This means you will need a passing score on an English exam.

The two most popular ones are the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System). But which one should you take?


Both exams will test you in four areas: Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening. That said, the process of preparing for and taking these exams are really different. You should also know that after taking the tests, the scores will only be valid for two years so you may have to retake them if you move on to higher studies.

Got that? Great!

Now, let’s move on to the details.




The TOEFL usually taken through the Internet-based (iBT) version. These have sessions available over 50 times a year.





Around 4 hours

Available at over 500 locations in the US, over 4,500 worldwide


Listen (60-90 mins)

This is a multiple choice question test where you answer questions based on a few lectures and conversations. You can take notes while you listen.

Read (60–80 mins)

Here you will answer a set of questions based on a set of passages that you have to read.

Write (50 mins)

There are two tasks here.

First you have to write a few paragraphs to explain how an article will relate to an excerpt from a lecture.

The second task is a short essay, where you express your views on a statement.

Speak (20 mins)

You will be asked to talk about familiar topics as well as answer questions after listening to some talks or lectures.

You can also take the IELTS paper-based (PBT) version, where the iBT is not available. They are not the same - the PBT version does not have a speaking task. It is instead replaced with a Structure task.




There are two versions of IELTS that you can choose from. The most common is Academic, but there is also General Training which is usually required for secondary education and work experience in English-speaking countries.




2 hrs 45 mins

Available at 59 locations in the US, about 900 worldwide

Around USD200

Listen (30 mins)

Answer questions about what you hear in recordings of conversations, discussions and lectures

Read (60 mins)

Academic: Read 3 excerpts from books, journals, magazines and newspapers.

Exercises will include multiple choice questions, filling in missing word and information matching.

General: Same format but instead of academic reading you will read texts on general interest.

Write (60 mins)

Academic: Write a short analysis of a chart, table or diagram and also a short essay in response to a problem.

General: Write a short letter to respond to a situation, and then another short essay in response to an argument.

Speak (11-15 mins)

Introduce yourself plus talk about and answer questions on a given topic.


Phew - that was a lot of information. We hope that helps!


Are you still on the fence? Here’s a quick way to check which test you should take.


If you….

  • Are comfortable with computers
  • Are comfortable speaking into a microphone
  • Can type quickly
  • Prefer standard American English
  • Are good at answering multiple-choice questions
  • Find it easy to take notes  from a recording                                                                        
  • Are more comfortable talking in person
  • Have good handwriting and are comfortable writing in English
  • Can understand a variety of dialects of English
  • Prefer tests with many question types
  • Feel most comfortable discussing non-academic topics in English, especially general entertainment

The TOEFL will be a better fit for you.

The IELTS will be a better fit for you.



Want to see how good your English is? Test your verbal reasoning skills on Sqore!