What’s the difference between TOEFL iBT and IELTS (Academic)?

04 Oct 2017

TOEFL iBT stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. The TOEFL iBT test is a test that measures your ability to use and understand English at the university level and it evaluates how well you combine your reading, listening, speaking and writing skills to perform academic tasks.


IELTS stands for The International English Language Testing System. It is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration, with over 3 million tests taken in the last year.


So, what are the differences between the two ?


TOEFL iBT uses mostly North American English accents, where IELTS uses a range of international english accents. TOEFL test takes around 4 hours to take whereas IELTS takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes.


Both TOEFL and IELTS have reading, listening, speaking, and writing section, but each test has a different method.


TOEFL reading section takes around 60-100 minutes. The test asks you to read 4-6 academic English passages and answer multiple-choice questions about them. Questions test comprehension of the text, main ideas, imporant details, vicabulary, inferring, rhetorical devices and style. IELTS’s reading section on the other hand, takes around 3 passages, each for 20 minutes.


TOEFL’s listening section took around 40-60 minutes that contains campus conversations and lectures. The listening section presents 2-3 longer conversations and 4-6 lectures. The situations are always related to university life (eg: a conversation between a student and a librarian about finding research materials). All questions are multiple choice and ask you about important details, inferences, tone, and vocabulary. The conversations and lectures are spoken in very natural English and include informal English, ‘filler’ words like ‘um’ and ‘er’. The IELTS has four listening sections. The first is a “transactional conversation” in which someone may be applying for something (eg: a driver’s license, a library card) or asking for information. The second section is an informational lecture of some kind. The third section is a conversation in an academic context and the final section is an academic lecture.


Question types that may be used:  complete a summary, fill in a table, multiple-choice, label a diagram or picture, classify information into different categories. Answers are first written into a test booklet and then transferred onto an answer sheet later.


TOEFL’s speaking section length around 20 minutes, where all the test taker sit at a computer, wearing headphones and a microphone. 6 different university-type questions are asked and recorded. The test is assessed by an examiner on another day, after the test. IELTS’s speaking test is recorded which the length is 12-15 minutes. The speaking module may be held on the same or different day from the rest of the test. It is conducted by a trained, live examiner and consists of 3 parts. Part 1 is a brief introductory conversation followed by some short questions about familiar topics (eg: the interviewer may ask about your hometown, your job, your favourite food, your hobbies, etc). In Part 2, you will be given a card with a topic and a specific question to answer. You will have to speak for 1-2 minutes on this topic. In Part 3, the interviewer will ask you questions related to the question asked in Part 2.


As for the writing section, TOEFL takes around 50 minutes where there are two questions and the answer will be typed into a computer. IELTS writing section, on the other hand, takes around 1 hour that contains two tasks and the answer will be handwritten.







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