TOEFL vs. IELTS – Basic Differences

If English is not your native language, you will probably be asked to sit for an English Language Proficiency test as an essential part of your application to study at an English-speaking academic institution (e.g. Universities, professional schools). Two of the most widely known tests accepted by such institutions are the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and International English Language Test System (IELTS). The best way to make sure that you’re ready for this type of exam is to take an Exam Preparation course; these classes typically focus on learning the exam skills required to reach your full potential and meet the score you need to follow your dreams. With constant support and guidance from your teacher, and the exam itself as your motivation for learning, you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve in just 4-8 weeks.

Don’t worry! These exams may sound a little intimidating, but we’re going to break them down so that they’re easy to understand.


This respected English-language test is recognised by thousands of universities, colleges, and agencies in over 130 countries around the world, including the UK, US, Canada, and Australia. A TOEFL Exam Preparation course is ideal for students who want a career in the international sphere, gain a competitive edge, and better work opportunities.


This qualification is often required by academic institutions and professional bodies, as well as for immigration purposes when entering Canada or Australia. An IELTS Exam Preparation course is perfect for students who need this qualification in order to attend an English-speaking university, work internationally, and drive their careers towards better prospects.

We’ve taken a look at each exam type individually, but what are some of the basic differences between these popular tests?

Seeks to test your ability to communicate in English in specifically academic settings  and contexts. Used for educational, immigration, and professional reasons.
Carried out in US English (e.g. colour instead of ‘colour’) Carried out in British English. (e.g. ‘favourite’ instead of ‘favorite’)
Favoured by US institutions Favoured by UK and Commonwealth institutions
4 hours long 2 hours and 40 minutes long
1 type, computer based 2 types, paper based–  Those applying for English-speaking tertiary programmes take the Academic IELTS exam–          Those taking the test to meet immigration and occupational requirements take the General Training exam
Questions almost entirely multiple choice Requires student to answer a variety of question types, including-   Short answers-     Gap-fills-     Short essay tasks
Valid for 2 years after test date Valid for 2 years after test date