Why TOEFL May be a Better Option Than IELTS


Subhashri Roy
Updated on Aug 03, 2023 11:04 AM IST

Confused about the TOEFL vs IELTS? Well, you are not alone! Both these popular English language proficiency tests are quite similar and are widely accepted around the world for undergraduate and graduate admissions. Read the article to know the difference between IELTS and TOEFL and why TOEFL may be a better option than IELTS.

Why TOEFL May Be a Better Option Than IELTS

TOEFL vs IELTS: There have been endless discussions on which one is best among the two. Well, there cannot be a common answer for everyone. If you are preparing to study abroad, you will most likely have questions such as - which exam does my desired university accept, what is the difficulty level, what is the difference between IELTS and TOEFL, which exam is better suited to my strengths or which exam can I take without any hassle?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are the two primary English language proficiency exams that are recognised by institutions around the world. A particular score on any one of these exams may enable you to enrol in the university of your choice, making it a crucial step in the process of studying abroad. However, before choosing which test to take, it is wise to learn more about why should you opt for one. If you ask me, TOEFL has always seemed like a better choice!

To begin with, let me clarify that TOEFL is the only English communication test aimed at simulating actual classroom experience through 100% academic content. TOEFL is a registered trademark of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private, non-profit organisation that organises and administers tests. ETS offers official score reports that are sent to institutions independently and are valid for two years after the test.

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Reasons Why TOEFL May Be Better Than IELTS

The TOEFL exam and the IELTS exam are both widely accepted at undergraduate and graduate colleges worldwide. Although scores from either exam are accepted by many colleges, American universities prefer the TOEFL while international institutions prefer the IELTS. Before you flip a coin to make a choice between the two tests, here are my further reasons to explain why TOEFL seems a better option than the IELTS exam.

TOEFL is Now the Shortest English Proficiency Test

The TOEFL has been revised and enhanced since July 26, 2023. Numerous changes have been made to the redesigned TOEFL, all with the purpose of simplifying and optimising it to maximise student productivity. TOEFL has become the world's shortest English language competency test after ETS introduced a newer and shorter exam TOEFL iBT version (less than 2 hours) to give students a more convenient and faster testing experience. Also, test takers now prepare for the enhanced TOEFL iBT exam while on the road with the new TOEFL road! app. As part of ETS's commitment to improving the TOEFL iBT test-taking experience, this app will be completely free for test takers to use.

TOEFL iBT Home Edition is Here to Stay

No matter where you are (except in Mainland China and Iran), you can take the TOEFL iBT Home Edition from the comfort of your home. Launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the TOEFL iBT Home Edition is now a standard option for test-takers and will be available for the foreseeable future, along with the option of testing at a test centre. This is not the case with the IELTS Indicator, an official product of IELTS, which will remain available only for a limited time as IELTS in-person testing is currently suspended due to the pandemic.

The IELTS Indicator is not to be considered a substitute for the in-person IELTS and once testing resumes, the university that you have applied to may ask you to take the in-person test even if you have taken the IELTS Indicator.

In addition, while the IELTS Indicator test is conducted only once a week at a scheduled time, the TOEFL iBT Home Edition is available 24 hours a day, four days a week, with bookings as early as 24 hours before the test.

Also, the IELTS Indicator has not been developed for immigration purposes, whereas, TOEFL iBT Home Edition can be taken by anyone with equipment requirements for the test. On TOEFL at Home, a human proctor will be there during check-in, identity verification and throughout the entire session to monitor you and ensure that you are following all testing procedures, leaving almost zilch differences between the home and test centre versions. TOEFLs artificial intelligence (AI) technology further helps in maintaining test security. Ultimately, it is 'Your test. Your choice.'

Here is a table that may help you further distinguish between TOEFL iBT Home Edition and IELTS Indicator:

TOEFL iBT Home Edition

IELTS Indicator

Available 24 hours a day, four days a week

Held once a week at a scheduled time

Exactly identical to TOEFL iBT taken at a test centre

Not identical as the Speaking test here is delivered via video call

Will be available for the foreseeable future

Not a substitute for the in-person IELTS

All participating institutes of the TOEFL iBT test centre version

Not accepted by all organisations

It is currently available everywhere, except Mainland China and Iran

The test is available where IELTS testing is currently restricted or suspended due to Covid-19

No Difference Between TOEFL iBT Taken at Home or at a Test Centre

The scoring for the TOEFL iBT at home is exactly the same as TOEFL iBT, allowing you to not prepare for the two separately. Because this is still a TOEFL iBT test, the home edition scores will be accepted and used in the same way as the test centre version. It is completely identical in content, format and on-screen experience to TOEFL taken at a test centre.

As the IELTS Indicator gives you only an indicative score, it is not accepted by all organisations. On the other hand, TOEFL iBT Home Edition scores are accepted by over 11,000 organisations and universities. Thus, it can be said that the exam acceptance of the TOEFL is higher than the exam acceptance of the IELTS.

TOEFL is Mostly Preferred Across the World

When I say TOEFL iBT is the most preferred, I am not kidding! More than 11,000 universities in 150+ countries use it to evaluate an international student's English language proficiency. It is accepted by 100% of universities in the UK, including schools that are part of the Russell Group. The same is the case for universities in Australia and universities in New Zealand and for all migration visas.

Over 80% of graduate programs offered by Canadian universities prefer TOEFL iBT scores. According to ETS, the administrator of the test, universities in Canada receive more TOEFL scores than all other English language proficiency tests combined.

Well, everybody is well aware of the fact that the United States is the largest recipient of TOEFL Scores. What you might not know is that the TOEFL iBT is accepted by 9 out of 10 universities not just in the US but elsewhere as well.

It is also the most preferred English language proficiency test across Europe and especially in Germany and France. It is also widely trusted in Asia, with top universities in Hong Kong, China, Japan, Korea and Malaysia preferring the TOEFL.

When you take the TOEFL, you automatically stand out from the crowd. According to an ETS Survey of 296 TOEFL test takers who were also university students who took the TOEFL test, over 90% of them were accepted into their first or second choice university.

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TOEFL Prepares Students for a Rigorous Academic Environment Abroad

As mentioned right at the beginning, unlike other English language tests, TOEFL iBT is based entirely on academic content, specially designed for a smooth transition to university. On the TOEFL, you use authentic language media which not only prepares you for the test but also after you have arrived on campus.

The TOEFL iBT, a combination of all four communication skills including listening, reading, speaking and writing, helps evaluators identify students who are ready to communicate in an academic setting. The higher-standard TOEFL helps you demonstrate your superior academic English skills and feel confident to stand out regardless of which study destination you decide to go to eventually.

No Dreading an Oral Interview

Are you also intimidated by oral interviews or speaking in front of a person? Well, you are not alone and I have been there. On the TOEFL, instead of speaking to an examiner (which is in the case of the IELTS Academic Speaking section), you will speak into the microphone on your headset and your responses will be recorded. This way, you do neither have to engage in a two-way discussion or a nine-minute interview. Not to mention that speaking via computer does away with the potential bias of face-to-face interviews.

You will get 15 to 30 seconds to prepare before answering a question and your response needs to be 40 to 60 minutes long. The same will be scored not just by human raters but also by AI which certainly ensures fairness and quality. On the other hand, the IELTS requires the examiner to score the Speaking test, which might not be as fair as artificial intelligence.

TOEFL Ensures Fairness in Scoring

A lot of things come into the picture when we talk about fairness and unbiased scoring in English language tests. If I dive into the score ranges, TOEFL is scored on a scale of 0 to 120, compared to a nine-band scale of IELTS. On the IELTS, each section is graded on a scale of 0 to 9 following which an average score of all sections is represented through a final score within the same range of 0 and 9. So, if you do not perform well enough in a particular section, it is likely to show in your final average. However, TOEFL scores are based on each section graded on a scale of 0 to 30, resulting in a final average between 0 and 120, along with a performance-based report.

Responses on the TOEFL iBT are typed on the computer keyboard, which is sent to ETS, where they are scored by AI scoring as well as multiple certified human raters who ensure fairness, accuracy and quality. In the case of IELTS, responses are assessed only by examiners. Also, TOEFL raters are trained and monitored daily to ensure that only the highest quality ones are scored. Moreover, there is no scope for geographical bias on TOEFL as raters are from all across the globe.

TOEFL raters or AI, for that matter, do not require you to be experts in a section, particularly in the writing section. Designed only to measure your proficiency in the language and not in-depth knowledge of a topic, they understand that essays written on the test are only the first draft.

ETS invests over USD 60 million every year in state-of-the-art security to ensure the quality of candidates and protect the integrity of test scores.

You can check out this video to understand the differences between IELTS and TOEFL exams so that you can make informed decisions regarding the language proficiency test to take for studying abroad: 

Difference Between IELTS vs TOEFL

Although the IELTS and TOEFL measure the same core competencies, they do so in slightly different ways. The following are five of the most significant differences between the TOEFL and the IELTS. Consider whether one exam appears more suited to your strengths than the other as you read through both. You can also take a practice test for each exam if you are unsure and determine which one you feel most confident taking.

Difference 1: Short Answers vs Multiple-Choice Questions

The IELTS requires you to compose your own answers for many of the questions in the Reading and Listening sections, but the TOEFL provides you with all of the response alternatives. The TOEFL questions in these sections are not entirely multiple-choice, but the majority of them are, and the ones that do not need you to provide your own answers. Many questions on the IELTS will require you to come up with your own responses.

Both tests, for example, feature questions that require you to generate a properly ordered list of actions or events. The requirements are already given to you on the TOEFL; all you have to do is enter them in the correct order. For the IELTS, you must write the requirements yourself and order them correctly.

You may feel more at ease with the TOEFL if you like more multiple-choice questions or ones where you merely have to select an answer from a set of possible solutions.

Difference 2: Paper-Based vs Computer-Based

The debate over TOEFL vs IELTS is also a debate over paper testing vs computer testing. For TOEFL, you may take notes on scratch paper, but all official responses must be delivered electronically. IELTS, however, is conducted in a variety of IELTS Test Centers using either an IELTS Computer-based or Paper-based Test.

If you prefer typing to writing, have sloppy handwriting, and/or prefer computers to paper tests, the TOEFL may be better for you. If you prefer writing out your answers, are uncomfortable with computer-based assessments, and/or are unfamiliar with English language keyboards, the IELTS may be easier for you.

Difference 3: Reading Section Texts

Both the TOEFL and IELTS Reading sections have many texts, each followed by a series of questions. The two exams, however, use distinct types of literature. The IELTS utilises both educational resources and pieces from newspapers and publications. Since the TOEFL primarily uses academic books, its reading sections are often denser, with more difficult terminology and topics to grasp. As a result, if you are not sure about your English reading comprehension, the IELTS Reading section may be easier for you.

Difference 4: Speaking Section Interview

The TOEFL Speaking section, like all other sections of the test, is completed on a computer. To respond, you will hear recorded questions and talk through a microphone. With the IELTS, you will actually be conversing with a real person.

This is one of the most significant differences in the IELTS vs TOEFL debate, and it is critical to understand. Some people find it more difficult to speak to a real person and would prefer the TOEFL. On the other hand, others find it easier and more organic to have an actual conversation with a person rather than talking into a void for several minutes.

Difference 5: Recommended Essay Lengths

You must write two essays for the Writing section of both tests. IELTS allows you 60 minutes to write the recommended 400 words, while TOEFL only allows you 50 minutes to write roughly 500 words. You can submit your essays for both tests even if they do not fit inside those word limits; however, you will probably lose marks for not providing a thorough response. Hence, if you analyse the ratio between the number of words and the allocated limit, the IELTS writing section may be more forthright for you. Also, if writing in the English language is difficult for you and takes a lot of time, you should go for the IELTS exam.

Conclusion: IELTS vs TOEFL

The two most widely given tests for English language proficiency are the TOEFL and IELTS. The same four skills reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing are tested on both exams, but the format and methodology of the assessments vary.

To determine which exam is best for you in the discussion between the TOEFL and the IELTS, pose the following four questions to yourself:

  • Is one more accessible?

  • Which exam is accepted by the schools you are interested in?

  • Which exam best utilises your strengths?

  • Does one cost less?

And last, it is up to you to decide which exam suits you the most. There are test dates available for both exams all year long, and each exam is accredited by hundreds of organisations and universities worldwide.

Are you still confused about TOEFL vs IELTS? Ask Our Experts! Drop us a line at abroad@collegedekho.com and resolve all your queries right from the experts!

Still Confused Between TOEFL vs IELTS?

Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this article belong solely to the author. Students are recommended to make a choice between TOEFL and IELTS based on their own research and analysis.


Which is easier TOEFL or IELTS?

It can be said that IELTS is easier than TOEFL. Both IELTS and TOEFL are fundamental English proficiency exams. Most test-takers consider that IELTS is easier than TOEFL. Also, many students believe that the reading section of the IELTS is easier than the TOEFL Reading section of the TOEFL.

How is TOEFL different from IELTS?

TOEFL is different from IELTS in a few ways. TOEFL questions are nearly all multiple choice, whereas IELTS include a variety of question types throughout. These include short answers, short essays, and gap-filling tasks – in which you must fill in the missing word. Furthermore, because the TOEFL is totally computer-based, you will not have to communicate with a live person.

Which exam do universities prefer, TOEFL vs IELTS?

TOEFL vs IELTS, universities do prefer both exams. TOEFL scores are accepted by over 11,000 universities in 150 countries. These include the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, and Germany. TOEFL is more popular in the US, while IELTS is more popular in other nations including the US. For detailed information, please see- IELTS or TOEFL? Which Exam Should You Take to Study Abroad

Is IELTS accepted in the USA?

Yes, IELTS is accepted in the USA and trusted by over 3,400 USA universities, and it opens doors to education and employment in the country. However, there are many alternatives if you wish to study in USA without IELTS, namely, TOEFL, Pearson Test of English (PTE), and Duolingo English Test.

Is TOEFL easy for Indian students?

Yes, it can be said that TOEFL is easy for Indian students. The TOEFL will be an easy exam for most Indians who have attended English-medium schools. However, it is likely that students have never taken a computerised test before. Many applicants may slip or err in their writing due to the transition from writing on paper to typing on a computer if word processors do not include auto-correct or grammar-checking capabilities.

Do universities accept TOEFL over IELTS?

Yes, it can be said that universities do accept TOEFL over IELTS. Not to mention, TOEFL and IELTS are rated differently depending on the university a student wants to attend. TOEFL, on the other hand, is more likely to get recognised because the majority of universities prefer TOEFL over IELTS.

What is the difference between TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE?

The main difference between TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE is how the speaking component of the test is graded. While the TOEFL is entirely computer-based, the IELTS is both paper-based and computer-based. If you prefer to take an exam on paper, you can select IELTS. However, PTE is a completely automated examination. For more information, check out - IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE vs Duolingo - Which Exam to Take for Study Abroad?

What is the TOEFL exam syllabus?

The TOEFL exam syllabus contains data on all elements of the exam, such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Three to four passages, four to six short lectures and two to three lengthy conversations are contained in audio clips. For detailed information, please refer to the TOEFL Syllabus page.

Can I study abroad without IELTS?

Yes, you can study abroad without IELTS. While many colleges require language proficiency tests for admission, many others institutes allow international students to study without IELTS. However, pathway programmes are another option for students in such cases. For further information, check out Top Countries to Study Bachelors, Masters, and MBA Abroad Without IELTS.

What are TOEFL Writing task 1 & Task 2?

The TOEFL Writing task 1 consists of listening to and reading a brief piece, followed by listening to a short audio clip of a speaker discussing the same topic. On the TOEFL Writing task 2, you will be required to craft an essay in response to a prompt that can cover a wide range of general topics. For detailed information, please visit - TOEFL Writing Test: Task 1 & Task 2 Samples, Questions, Syllabus, Score Chart and Calculation.

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