TOEFL or IELTS – Which One Is Better For Me?

Students face an array of choices when they apply for university. Which university should I attend? What course of study should I pursue? What tests do I need to take before I apply for university? At times, these questions can seem overwhelming. However, with a little research, some understanding about where a student will attend college, and consideration of what kind of English a student has learned, deciding on which tests to take should be one of the easier questions to answer. For students who come from countries where English is not the primary language, it is likely that they will have to take some form of English proficiency test when they apply for university. The two most common of these tests are the International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). While most universities throughout the world accept either test, students should ask themselves a few questions to help them decide which one they should take TOEFL or IELTS.

  1. What kind of English am I most comfortable with? Did I learn North American English or British English?
    Answer: IELTS is a British-based English test which is intended for international audiences. As such it features speakers with several different accents but still leans more towards British English.
    TOEFL is a North American-based English test which features speakers with North American accents. British and American spelling are accepted on both tests, but students should remember to be consistent. Don’t use British spelling and then halfway through switch to American spelling. Use the same type on the entire test.Also, if a student plans on attending a university in a commonwealth nation, the IELTS will probably be the favored test. And if they are attending university in North America, the university would most likely favor TOEFL. But students should check to make sure their university of choice accepts the test they will take.
  2. Do I mind taking long tests?
    Answer: The TOEFL, at four hours, is a bit longer than IELTS which is two and a half hours long. Both tests feature reading, listening, speaking, and writing, but the TOEFL takes a little longer to get to the end.Also, on the IELTS test, the speaking section can be taken on the same day as the other three sections, or students may opt to take in up to seven days before or after they take they complete the other three sections.
  3. Do I want to take the test on a computer, or do I want to write it out by hand?
    Answer: The TOEFL test is entirely online, while with the IELTS test, many of the sections are written out.
  4. Do I want mostly multiple-choice questions or do I want a variety of questions such as true-or-false, long-answer written questions, and multiple-choice?
    Answer: The TOEFL test is made up almost completely of multiple-choice questions while the IELTS has a variety of question types.
  5. For the speaking section, do I want to listen and record my voice, or do I want to talk to a real person?
    Answer: The speaking section of the TOEFL is a recorded response. Students will not need to talk to anyone. However, for the speaking section of the IELTS, students will have to converse with a live examiner.
  6. When and where can I take the tests?
    Answer: TOEFL has 4,500 test centers in 165 countries. IELTS, on the other hand, only has 900 test centers. But the IELTS test centers are available in all major cities throughout the world. And both tests are offered 48 times throughout the year.

Remember, students should research the universities to which they are applying so they can find out which test the university accepts. If they accept both, take the one that is most suitable or the one on which they feel they would be the most successful. Small differences on the test can have a big impact on the end score, so students should choose the test that best suits them.

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