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The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are two of the most widely-accepted tests to certify your English proficiency. The decision to take the TOEFL vs IELTS will ultimately depend on a number of factors. At this point, you may even be asking, “What is the TOEFL test?” or “What is the IELTS?” Read on to discover which test is best for you.

what is the toefl test

LengthAbout 3 hours long2 hours and 45 minutes long
LocationsAvailable at over 500 locations in the US, over 4,500 worldwideAvailable at 59 locations in the US, about 900 worldwide
PriceCost is usually between 160 and 200 USDCost varies widely even within the same country; usually is around 200 USD
ScoringScore on a sliding scale from 0 to 120Score in any of 9 "bands," or levels
Does Magoosh offer prep?Yes! Magoosh TOEFL PrepYes! Magoosh IELTS Prep

TOEFL vs IELTS at a glance

The TOEFL and IELTS exams are fairly different, and therefore some people will find that they are naturally better suited for one than they are for the other. You probably want to know which test you should study for. But before we discuss their similarities and differences, remember that both IELTS and TOEFL are standardized tests. This means that, with some coaching and practice (like we have in the Magoosh TOEFL free trial), you can learn to do well on whichever exam you decide to take. Let’s talk more specifically about each exam…

The TOEFL is a language test for non-native English speakers, and is commonly used as an entrance exam at universities and graduate schools. Because of this, the TOEFL offers only academic English. On the other hand, the IELTS offers an academic option as well as a general test; this is generally the preferred test for immigration purposes to the UK and Canada.

The IELTS academic test and the TOEFL compared to the IELTS general test are both more difficult, but they are usually the only options if you want to study at any level higher than secondary school. No matter which test you take, be aware that the scores all expire 2 years after your test date. (And if you’re curious, you can see how the scores on the two exams compare here).

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

When you compare the format of the IELTS with the TOEFL format, you will notice a couple of things. First of all, both of them have four basic sections, each of which tests a basic skill (reading, listening, speaking, writing). But while the TOEFL only tests academic subjects, the IELTS academic option will have academic reading and writing sections combined with general listening and speaking sections. Overall, the IELTS has more of a real-world feel than the TOEFL. Deciding how hard the TOEFL is versus the IELTS truly depends on your English background.

The IELTS also doesn’t have a listening component on the integrated assignments, although on one of the two assignments you will have to incorporate a graphic or other written information source into your argument. Both tests contain an independent question that simply asks your opinion about some issue.

The TOEFL speaking section is done by recorder and mostly involves explaining your opinions and summarizing/interpreting information from other sources. On the IELTS, your speaking test will take place in person and will include a short speech (you’ll have a small period in which to prepare it) and a conversation component.

Although it would be great if every English program gave equal time to each major dialect of English, the vast majority of students spend 90% of their time with only one dialect. If you’re most experienced with American English, you may find some parts of the IELTS unfamiliar; if you’ve learned British English or another dialect, the TOEFL will feel a little strange. It’s important to note that neither test will penalize you for using one or the other dialect, as long as your answers are fluent, clear, and, of course, correct.

TOEFL vs IELTS: Which is harder?

This is probably the question you’re most concerned with, but it’s pretty difficult to compare the TOEFL and the IELTS directly. A better way to find the answer to this question is to ask yourself a few questions. Answer the following questions with a simple “yes” or “no.”

  • I am comfortable with computers. YES/NO
  • I am comfortable speaking extemporaneously into a microphone. YES/NO
  • I can type quickly. YES/NO
  • I prefer standard American English. YES/NO
  • I am good at answering multiple-choice questions. YES/NO
  • It is easy for me to take notes from a recording. YES/NO
  • The authentic English sources I read/listen to/watch are usually intended to inform rather than entertain. YES/NO

If you answered YES to most of these questions, the TOEFL is probably the best fit for your skill set. In this case, you should definitely take a look at our TOEFL lessons to help you prepare. 🙂

  • I am comfortable having a detailed interview in-person. YES/NO
  • I have legible English handwriting. YES/NO
  • I can understand a variety of dialects of English. YES/NO
  • I prefer tests with many question types, including multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, matching, true/false, and flowcharts. YES/NO
  • I feel most comfortable discussing non-academic topics in English. YES/NO
  • The authentic English sources that I read/listen to/watch are usually made to entertain. YES/NO

If you answered YES to most of these questions, then you might find the IELTS to be more up your alley. In this case, you should consider taking a look at our IELTS lessons to help you prepare. 🙂

Both the TOEFL and the IELTS are rigorous, widely-accepted tests that are available at a variety of locations. When trying to decide between the TOEFL and the IELTS, first consult the programs you want to apply to and make sure that they accept both; after that, the most important factors are convenience and your particular skill set. With Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS prep, you can succeed on whichever test you decide to take!

UPDATE: Although the IELTS is primarily available on paper, it is also available as a computer-based test in some parts of the world. If you have access to the computer-based IELTS, then you should compare the IELTS computer interface to the TOEFL iBT one. From there, consider which one you are most comfortable with.

Psst...Need more TOEFL practice? Start your FREE TRIAL today.

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96 Responses to TOEFL vs IELTS

  1. Carolina January 23, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

    Hello there!

    I’ve taken several times the TOEFL Test (3 times in a year) and it haven’t given me a break!. My best score was 79!!, This has become a very frustrating process because I’m way much better than that TOEFL Score is showing (trust me, I’m not being arrogant actually english teachers and english native speakers tell my that my english is great. So, at this point I’m considering to take the IELTS next time. I hope you start to publish more about IETLS. By the ways your tips are great, but this time I will need for IELTS.

    Good luck!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 29, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

      I’m sorry to hear that your TOEFL scores didn’t reflect your English skills, but good luck on your IELTS!

      • DAREEN August 21, 2016 at 7:43 am #

        Is there any big Differences between TOEFL writing text 1 in 2013 and 2016???

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 22, 2016 at 11:05 am #

          Thankfully, there have been no significant changes to the TOEFL Writing section since 2013. So older prep materials can still help you prepare for the newer exam.

      • Zaid April 19, 2018 at 5:01 am #

        I tried the IELTS six times and did not get the result I wanted. Chaned to TOEFL and got what I was aiming for from the first try. In short, if your English is good then take The TOEFL because it is really testing your English. While IELTS is testing your skills in passing specific test methods, you don’t need good English to pass it just learn the requirements to answer each question which can be memorised.

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 20, 2018 at 3:02 pm #

          Hi Zaid,

          Thank you for sharing your experience! I’d like to emphasize that we have a lot of students with the opposite experience…some people switch to the IELTS and improve their score. Both tests require a strong English level AND good strategy and test-taking skills! There are pros and cons to both tests, and each student must determine which one is best for him or her. We recommend that students take a practice test for both tests to see which one is a better fit 🙂

    • Milad April 21, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

      I have the same problem with IELTS, and I am going to try TOEFL this time. It is so frustrating to repeat the whole test for a minor mistake in a single section.

      • Lucas Fink
        Lucas April 26, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

        Well, Milad, we can help you to get the best score you can on your TOEFL. 🙂 Let us know if you have any questions about Magoosh, and happy studying!

    • viku April 29, 2015 at 1:34 am #

      i too have given toefl 3 times, but all times i was able to get 78 .And this time I am too considering ielts.
      @ Lucas , i have tried magoosh material your reading material is too limited.

      • Lucas Fink
        Lucas April 30, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

        Thank you for the feedback, Viku! We’ve just released 84 more reading questions this week, so we have a much more reading material now. But we’ll continue to improve Magoosh TOEFL as long as we get feedback from students like you! Thanks for that, and good luck on your IELTS. 🙂 Email us a if you have any questions for us.

    • Jorge July 7, 2015 at 9:37 am #

      Sorry Carolina for your many attempts, for sure you could get it with IELTS, I want to pass any exam TOEFL or IELTS to get a measurement of my English level , currently I am working in a country where use English as second language mainly in work environment, and I am accustomed to understand or try to understand many accents, so I am checking and learning of You. good luck


      • Lucas Fink
        Lucas Fink July 10, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

        And good luck to you, too, Jorge!

    • Sri June 30, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

      Hi Carolina!

      As it’s evident there are many errors in what you’ve written on your post. I’m myself a non-native speaker. Just so you know, it is not required of you that you make your language wordy and dense. The golden rule is still writing simple and clear English. You gotta work on your grammar. I’d say don’t be bogged down by your scores. Remember that practice makes perfect. Trying and taking either of the exams is not a solution to the problem.

    • asmaa July 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

      Thanks this was helpful

      • Azeem December 22, 2016 at 3:25 am #

        Hi Asma can you send me the material??

    • Jana July 22, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

      Which one did you liked better? Toefl or Ielts?

    • raveesh January 19, 2018 at 3:40 am #

      which test is advised if someone wants to apply to german universities. Toefl or ielts

      • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
        Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 20, 2018 at 1:09 pm #

        Hi Raveesh,

        Many schools will accept either the TOEFL or IELTS, but you should make a list of your target schools and visit their websites for more information. Each school has different requirements, so you’ll want to make sure you understand them all!

  2. ABREHAM DEMISEW March 26, 2015 at 11:54 pm #

    I want to study my second degre abroad.

    • David Recine March 31, 2015 at 7:21 am #

      Hello Abreham,

      Where are you thinking of studying? Are you hoping to study in the UK, a Commonwealth country other than Canada (, or an international university that is UK accredited? If so, it may be better to take the IELTS. In the US, Canada, and at international universities that are North-American-accredited, the IELTS and TOEFL are generally both accepted, although sometimes TOEFL is preferred.

      To be sure you are taking an acceptable exam that gives you the best chance of being admitted, contact your prospective universities and ask them which test, if any, is preferred.


  3. Jurgis May 15, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

    I took IELTS five years ago. At that time I was studying at a university which used English as the medium of instruction. I also had a couple of native speakers around me to practice the language with them on a daily basis. I had been intensively preparing for the actual exam for a week and scored overall 8.0 with 8.5 in reading, 8.0 in listening, 8.0 in writing and 7.5 in speaking. Last week took TOEFL. This time the only way I use English is to read some articles and books, related to my academic field. In fact I’ve been intensively learning Turkish for the last one and a half year and using little if any English. I looked through the exam structure and sample questions the night before exam. Today I got my score which is 116 overall – 30 in reading, 30 in listening, 28 in speaking, and 28 in writing. Now I can definitely say – reading and listening are much easier in TOEFL than in IELTS. The only problem is that TOEFL listening part is sooo long. Very long lectures are followed by only a few questions. I was so bored and nearly peed in my pants by the time it was over (my advice then – don’t drink too much coffee before the exam like I did))) Speaking is much more confusing and stressful in TOEFL, thought. However, the scoring criteria seem less strict. Writing section might be a bit easier in IELTS, especially for those who prefer actual writing, not typing. They give you more time and expect fewer words. Again I’m not sure about the strictness of grading.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink May 26, 2015 at 11:19 am #

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Jurgis! It’s always to get more info about students’ reactions to the tests.

      • Raghav Bhandari October 23, 2016 at 7:19 am #

        It’s always to get more info?

        1) a pleasure
        2) confusing
        3) great
        4) helpful

        Sorry, I couldn’t help it, loving the TOEFL Magoosh Premium material by Lucas 🙂

    • Yoppy Soleman July 4, 2015 at 1:39 am #

      Thank you very much for sharing. The information you provide is unique and useful because it is rarely found in other places.

    • Camila May 9, 2017 at 8:03 am #

      Hi Jurgus!

      Well, I’m not sure if by now you are still checking this page out, but i just read your comment, and I believe you can help me out with some stuff I’m going through right now.

      I’m 15 years old and of course, a non-native speaker, and I want to apply for a Canadian University in a couple of years. Unfourtunately, I’m currently living in Peru (where I was born), but we are planning to move to Canada by 2019-2020. The University I’m planning to apply to, requires one of these exams (TOEFL iBT 80 and IELTS 6.5), and I truly want to be ready for one of them.

      What I’m not sure about is wether I should take TOEFL or IELTS, and which one would fit best for me.

      Please let me now what can I do, and how this procedure of taking the exams works, because I’m lost.

      Thank you !!!

      • yazan adi September 18, 2017 at 4:47 am #

        i have the same situation as you but i wouold like to move to usa by 2020

        • David Recine
          David Recine September 18, 2017 at 10:49 am #

          To both Camila and Yazan—

          I have a recommendation here. The best way to see what’s easier for you– TOEFL or IELTS– is to sample a full exam of both. You can put together a full TOEFL test from ETS by using their free TOEFL Quick Prep service. And there are a number of places online where you can find good full-length IELTS practice tests. Compare your experiences with both types of materials, and you should be able to make a good decision by 2019 or 2020.

  4. Aditya June 15, 2015 at 4:21 am #

    Hi, Thanks for the article explaining difference between IELTS and TOEFL. I was looking forward to take IELTS but see no courses offered by Magoosh. I was wondering if IELTS and TOEFL preparation material is same even though the format for the test is different…
    Can you write an article about IELTS alone covering – how/what to prepare, books etc…?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink June 16, 2015 at 8:07 pm #

      You’re right that we don’t have an IELTS product yet, and I’m afraid the two tests are different enough that Magoosh TOEFL is not a good choice for preparing for the IELTS. The preparation material is focused largely on how to answer specific types of questions, and those are very different between the two tests. 🙁 But thanks for the request on the blog article! We might not be able to publish that any time soon, though, because right now we don’t have any IELTS experts at Magoosh. That may change in the future, but for now we’re mostly focused on the TOEFL. I’m sorry we can’t be of more help!

  5. Yasmeen August 4, 2015 at 7:08 am #

    This article has clarified all my doubts regarding TOEFL and ielts. But still i have some check point that is very few of the Universities only accepting ielts. This is my fear to take whether toefl or ielts. Anyway your article helped me lot.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink August 7, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

      I’m glad it helped a bit! You’re right that it’s important to first check what’s accepted at the universities you will apply to. In the U.S., almost all schools accept TOEFL scores, but in other countries it may be IELTS-only.

  6. Rukon Khan September 25, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    i have 6.5 in all 4 section in ielts i have given it two times but i am stuck at 6.5… will it be wise to go for toefl as I am more comfortable with computer

    • David Recine September 29, 2015 at 11:31 pm #

      Sorry to hear that you haven’t been able to get the higher IELTS score you’ve been hoping for.

      You’re right that switching to the TOEFL might get you better results— I’ve seen some students get higher TOEFL scores after getting “stuck” on the IELTS. But to be sure the TOEFL really is the best choice for you, you’ll want to carefully compare it to the IELTS. There are many other differences between the two tests, beyond the computer/no computer split.

      For example, the IELTS has a wider variety of Listening and Reading question types, compared to the TOEFL. In the TOEFL, nearly all Listening and Reading questions are multiple choice, with just a few questions where you need to do matching or fill in a table.

      In contrast, IELTS Reading and Listening is less focused on multiple choice, but much more visually oriented—as you you know, you need to read charts and diagrams, listen to descriptions of charts and diagrams, fill in charts and diagrams, etc….

      TOEFL Writing is also less visual than the IELTS— unlike the IELTS, the TOEFL does not have any writing tasks that require you to interpret and describe charts or graphs.

      And TOEFL Speaking is much less interactive than IELTS Speaking. You simply record your spoken answers to questions, and the recordings are saved in the exam computer. In IELTS, as you know, you have a series of actual live conversations for speaking.

      And of course, the TOEFL has quite a few integrated tasks– tasks that involve some combination of listening, reading, writing and speaking. There’s nothing quite like that on the IELTS.

      So to make a fully informed decision, you’ll want to carefully look at the official TOEFL materials such as Quick Prep ( and the other materials offered on the official site ( And you’ll want to compare these materials to the content of the IELTS. It may help to revisit the IELTS through the official materials on and the British Council website (

  7. Rohit September 29, 2015 at 7:43 am #

    Hi, can anyone suggest which test is more acceptable & preferred for PR in non-American territory ?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink September 30, 2015 at 9:31 am #

      It depends on where you’re applying. Find out the requirements of the universities you’re interested in—it’s usually on their websites. 🙂

  8. Nikhil November 19, 2015 at 12:07 am #

    Hi, being a premium member for GMAT i know how helpful your materials are. I would have loved if you people had some IELTS courses to offer. But nontheless what i have to ask is they say TOEFL and IELTS are in a way correlated. If i join your TOEFL course can i crack IELTS? (I know format of the two exams change, I am just looking for the content. Will the content of TOEFL listed in your website help me with IELTS?)

    • David Recine November 20, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

      We may introduce a line of IELTS products in the future, if our TOEFL line does well enough, and there’s enough student interest. So thanks for letting us know you’d like to see Magoosh IELTS someday! 🙂

      I’ve been tutoring the TOEFL and the IELTS for several years now, and yes— studying for the TOEFL can definitely help you crack the IELTS. For that matter, studying IELTS materials can also help you crack the TOEFL. I’ve written a post on how to study for both exams at the same time here: .

      If you do use a Magoosh TOEFL Premium membership partly to pass the IELTS, be sure to also use the official IELTS materials found at and .

  9. Julian December 8, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

    Hi, I had taken IELTS for the fourth times and always scored 6.5 in writing although all the rest were above 7 or even 8. Have tried PTE academic and my score was always less than what I expected. I need at least 7 in all modules of IELTS. Is it a good idea if I try TOEFL? Is the writing task in TOEFL easier than IELTS? How about the scoring?

    • David Recine December 10, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

      Julian, sorry to hear that your IELTS score isn’t quite where you need it to be, even after several tries. That sounds frustrating! I have seen some students get the TOEFL scores they need after being unsuccessful with the IELTS. But it doesn’t necessarily work out this way for all students.

      A lot of students say the TOEFL is easier than the IELTS. But a lot of other students ALSO say the IELTS is easier than the TOEFL. This can depend a lot on your learning style and personal preferences. To figure out whether the TOEFL might be a good alternative for you, I suggest you do some of the free practice on TOEFL Quick Prep ( .

      Carefully compare that experience to your past experiences with IELTS materials. It should be pretty easy to tell whether you find one test or the other a bit easier. And of course, for the Reading and Listening on Quick Prep, you can actually calculate your percentage score, and compare it to the IELTS equivalent.

      As for the scoring on TOEFL Writing versus IELTS Writing, whether the scoring is “easier” also depends a lot on your own learning styles and preferences. Read and compare the official TOEFL Writing score guide ( with the official score sheets for IELTS Writing Task 1 ( and Writing Task 2 ( This should help you decide whether or not you may be able to get a better score on TOEFL Writing, with your writing style and learning needs.

  10. shaf February 23, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    I’m going to apply for PhD at a German University and I don’t know which is better, TOEFL or IELTS ? What would be better for me?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 30, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

      Hi Shaf,

      Sorry this reply is so late!

      In Europe, the IELTS exam is far more popular than the TOEFL, but some schools are starting to accept TOEFL too. You will have to base this case-by-case and figure out what each university wants. There is no blanket answer, unfortunately.

      I hope you were able to determine the best plan for you!

  11. Sandro March 10, 2016 at 4:42 am #

    It is actually funny how people say it all the time how sorry they are because you haven’t pass your exam. The truth is the more time you fail the more money they will make 🙂

  12. Saiman SIgdel April 8, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

    Hi, I want to do IT in USA and I am having a hard time choosing between IELTS and TOFEL? What is your suggestion? What should I do?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 9, 2016 at 11:53 am #

      Hi Saiman,

      Good question! 🙂

      The TOEFL is far more common in the US than the IELTS, so if you don’t know where you want to go yet, the TOEFL is more applicable. You should definitely do some research, though, and find out what test scores your chosen universities want to see. 🙂

  13. vatsal verma May 8, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

    Hi i am vatsal..!!
    I want to ask that if i wants to pursude my higher studies in countries like south korea ,japan china etc so which test i should prefer to score more ……

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 9, 2016 at 11:03 am #

      Wow— that is a very good question! I assume you’re referring to pursuing higher education in English in those countries, of course. 😉 Japan, China, Korea, and other East Asian countries definitely to offer a lot of degrees taught in English. From my research into this– and my own experience working and living in the region, there is a definite preference for the TOEFL by East Asian universities.

      In East Asain, the TOEFL simply seems to get more recognition and appreciation than the IELTS. That being said, the IELTS is also accepted by a lot of East Asian universities too. If you have a personal preference for IELTS over TOEFL, “shop around” for a university that will accept the IELTS. You should be able to find one.

  14. Vidya Jain May 11, 2016 at 8:12 am #

    Hello Sir..
    i am preparing for the TOEFL exam to get admission for MS (Pharmacy) in US.
    I want to confirm from your side that whether both GRE and TOEFL is required for admission in US??
    Due to time constraint i am not giving GRE.
    Can i get admission in any US university based on TOEFL score???

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 12, 2016 at 5:53 am #

      Hi Vidya,

      Most universities have TOEFL and GRE requirements for graduate programs, so you will want to carefully research the programs you are interested in. The TOEFL only guarantees that you have English skills to study, but the GRE is the admissions test for general graduate programs–native English speakers or not. So you are probably going to have to take an additional test for an MS Pharmacy, though in medicine there are other possible requirements, too. You should start doing some research ASAP so you can be prepared and get in where you want to go! 🙂

  15. idrees June 9, 2016 at 6:32 pm #

    Hi, I wanna apply for student visa of UK my question is which test should I take and which one is easier. I live in Afghanistan.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 11, 2016 at 6:30 pm #

      Hi there 🙂

      Whether to take the IELTS or TOEFL depends mainly on which schools or programs you’re applying to. American universities always accept the TOEFL, while not every school accepts the IELTS. If your programs accept both, then it really doesn’t matter too much. If you score very high on one, you would probably score high on the other, too. This is because the two exams have a lot in common, and they test most of the same skills. There are some differences, but the biggest two are:

      1. The IELTS is a paper test, whereas the TOEFL iBT is computer-based (there is a paper-based TOEFL, but it’s not very common)
      2. You speak with an actual person for the IELTS, but only speak into a microphone on the TOEFL.

      Overall, though, the two exams aren’t very different, so don’t worry about it too much! Really it’s just about what you prefer and what your programs prefer. 🙂

      I hope this helps!

  16. Adam July 19, 2016 at 12:54 am #

    Is general IELTS accredited in universities and ministries ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 19, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

      If you’re referring to the non-academic version of the IELTS— the IELTS General Training Exam, then the answer is no for universities. Universities will want to see a qualifying score on the IELTS Academic test. However, the IELTS General Training test is acceptable to many employers and many visa offices for English speaking countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and so on.

  17. Hemant Parkash August 5, 2016 at 1:46 am #


    I have done Bachelor in Electrical Engineering and planning for an MS from EU countries. Actually, a vexed question is that I am not quite sure whether to go for IELTS or TOEFL. The reason behind my perplexity is that I am also exploring ways and means to immigrate myself to Canada or Australia for which I need IELTS (General) but EU countries accept IELTS (Academic). Is there any way out for keeping both my primary secondary options intact?

    Furthermore, Australia Immigration authority accepts both TOEFL & IELTS, whereas, Canada’s Immigration authority does not accept TOEFL for filing a case. I want to avail both options by giving a single test.

    Please, if you can advise me accordingly that which test would be aptly applicable for above mentioned options,

    1) TOEFL
    2) IELTS (General)
    3) IELTS (Academic).


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 6, 2016 at 11:07 am #

      Unfortunately, there’s no way to take just one of those three tests and keep both your study and immigration options open. IELTS Academic is probably your best catch-all, because nearly every university that accepts TOEFL also accepts IELTS Academic. Additionally, IELTS Academic is very similar to IELTS General Training. The Listening and Speaking sections are exactly the same on both exams. Reading and Writing are different on the two different IELTS exams… but only a little bit different. You will find some very similar Reading and Writing tasks in both tests. So you preparing for the IELTS Academic Test will also make you more ready for the IELTS General Training Exam.

      In fact, I would actually recommend covering all your needs with two tests— both the IELTS Academic Test and the General Training Test. You could study for both at the same time, and probably successfully pass both exams at the end of your studies. This would be much easier than taking the TOEFL and IELTS General Training tests together.

  18. janette September 2, 2016 at 6:23 am #


    I am considering taking either toefl or ielts since I want to apply to colleges in the US, UK as well as Australia.

    Since I am planning on studying medicine and have read that international students are at great disadvantage when applying to med school in the US, studying in the Uk may be a tad more realistic (German graduation, within EU)
    Because each of those countries have separate medical curriculums, and do not offer a bachelors and masters in medicine, I’d have to stick with the country I do study in all the way.

    Which is why a good result in either Toefl or ielts is pivotal to me, as well as the choice for one of them. Which one would you recommend?

    i am still a student and I want to get the test over with before the graduation stress starts. I have attended a british school for six years, though I never really adapted the typical dialect, nor Britsh english. I’d say I’m familiar with both american and british english since most articles, books and tv shows are american.

    to sum up: I am still rather unsure as to where I want to study, so I’d prefer an exam that opens up as many possibilities as possible.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 5, 2016 at 9:41 am #

      It’s great to hear from a student who thinks so carefully about their testing and schooling options. In your case, I’d recommend the IELTS. The IELTS and TOEFL are both accepted worldwide, but the IELTS is slightly more favored in the UK. And you don’t need to speak or write in British English to pass the exam– you just need to be able to understand a variety of native English accents, including UK accents.

      There’s another advantage of the IELTS for you. The UK National Health Service actually requires the Academic version of the IELTS for doctors who want to practice medicine in the UK. So taking the IELTS Academic exam now will prepare you for retaking the IELTS when and if you apply to work in the UK after you graduate.

  19. Mai Tran September 13, 2016 at 1:14 am #

    Hi everyone ! I have a plan to take an Enlish test like Toefl or Ielts .
    my major is in Bioinformatic. It is more related in Math, computer science, Biology, Chemistry and some subjects like that.
    my friend advised me to take Toefl test because it’s more related to those things than Ielts. Ielts is academic in society not natural science .
    Can you explain to me, please ?
    thank you very much.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 13, 2016 at 10:54 am #

      I would respectfully disagree with what your friend told you. Both the TOEFL and the IELTS have some Reading and Listening material that is science-related. But neither exam really focuses on hard science. And Bioinformatic degree programs probably won’t care which exam you took, as long as you got a qualifying score. In the TOEFL vs. IELTS debate, it’s better to think about which exam will be easier for you personally.

  20. anu September 20, 2016 at 2:33 am #

    I strongly believe that TOEFL is more tough than IELTS. I got overall 7.5 in IELTS. You know in TOEFL the listening section is really tough and also the speaking has 6 section… In the case of IELTS the listening is very simple .I got 8.5 in listening and 7 in speaking. IELTS speaking section has cue-card which is very easy for me. My frends said that TOEFL exam scoring criteria seem less strict but i don’t think so.I feel that toefl follow more strict evaluation.

  21. Shantanu September 27, 2016 at 7:55 am #

    I know that IELTS is valid for work permit.Is TOEFL valid for work permit?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 1, 2016 at 8:54 am #

      If you’re referring to an immigration work permit, then yes– the TOEFL is valid for a number of different work permits. This exam is used for work-based Australian immigration, and for certification in a variety of healthcare jobs. However, the TOEFL and IELTS are not all accepted by the exact same countries and employers. In some countries, the TOEFL is your best or only option for getting a work permit. In other countries or jobs, the IELTS may be your best or only option. And there are situations where both are equally accepted. Be open to taking either exam, but make sure you research exactly which exam you need to take for a work permit or work-based immigration.

  22. Prashanna October 16, 2016 at 4:53 am #

    Hello there!!
    I’m a high school student from Nepal. And I am in a lot of confusion whether to take TOEFL test or an IELTS. I am planning to take SAT as well. And I primarily am focused to study in US, and well, if not, in Australia. So what would be better for me? Should I go with TOEFL or IELTS? Do the American Universities give as equal priority to IELTS as TOEFL? Any Sugestions, Please!!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 18, 2016 at 2:58 am #

      Hi Prashanna,

      The TOEFL is far more prevalent in the US than the IELTS, but this is a very case-by-case issue. Have you researched schools that you want to attend? Each one should tell you the tests that are accepted, and if you can mark down which exams will allow you to go to specific schools, you can make the ultimate decision based on the places you want to go. 🙂

    • Farin July 26, 2017 at 10:52 pm #


      I am under grad student and now I’m thinking about GMAT. To make GMAT easier which course is much helpful IELTS or TOEFL ? For which one Should I go ?

  23. Ida November 17, 2016 at 7:48 am #

    Hi there!
    Currently I am preparing for the TOEFL, and I have already read almost all your articles (they are great!).
    But recently I was thinking a lot about a number of IELTS textbooks that have been left by my elder brother (who has taken IELTS exam).
    Can I use them to prepare for the TOEFL exam? Will the be helpful?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 17, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

      Hi Ida,

      You can definitely feel free to leverage some of your brother’s IELTS books for additional content and supplementary support; however, I would recommend that you utilize a TOEFL prep book/course as your base if you intend to take the TOEFL. Given that both exams do focus on reading, listening, speaking, and writing, the books may be helpful. Still, using TOEFL-focused material will be the most helpful in building a strong foundation for the TOEFL and your studies.

  24. Haseeb November 21, 2016 at 11:04 pm #


    I want to thanks for providing such a valuable information. I am PhD scholar in south Korea, for continuing my scholarship I need to submit the IELTS or TOFEL score till December end. I registered for IELTS in November but due to the confusion of two center with same name I missed the test. I appeared once for IELTS in 2012 but the score was not good. I don’t have much time for preparation and I need score. I am friendly with computer due to my field, and typing etc is easy for me. While writing on paper is little bit difficult for me. I want to appear for TOFEL this time, but I heard in TOFEL the listening task is much more as compare to IELTS. IS TOFEL listening is easy from IELTS or both same?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 22, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

      I’m sorry to hear you had a test center mishap, especially after getting an IELTS score that was lower than you would have liked. that sounds frustrating and disappointing!

      You’ll certainly want the easiest testing experience possible, after going through all of that.

      It’s hard to say whether TOEFL or IELTS Listening is harder, because test-takers disagree on which one is the hardest and which is easiest. The listening sections on these two tests are definitely distinctly different. The TOEFL Listening Section is 100% academic. All audio tracks involve lectures or conversations that take place in university settings. IELTS Listening is half academic, but the other half of the audio deals with “real life” situations such as booking travel, shopping, working, etc….

      My advice to you is to actually try the listening sections in some TOEFL practice tests and IELTS practice tests. In fact, compare every element of both IELTS and TOEFL practice tests. If you make a real, side-by-side comparison, you’ll be able to know which test will be easier for you personally.

  25. Ruby February 11, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    i don’t know what i need to choose TOEFL or IELTS school require TOEFL 550 or IELTS 6.5 … do u think what do u need to get earlier?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 11, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

      Since you’ve mentioned a 550, it sounds like you’re talking about the TOEFL PBT and not iBT? (An 80 is the iBT equivalent of PBT 550 and IELTS 6.5) As for which one you should take, it won’t make a difference to the school; whichever test works best for you is just fine. The one other thing to consider is test availability. The TOEFL is often available on more dates and at more locations. (See Magoosh’s comparison of TOEFL and IELTS availability worldwide.)

  26. Phuong April 1, 2017 at 6:57 am #

    Why was toefl more widely recognized in the US than the UK in the past?
    Why do American students like toefl test more than ielts? (for format or topic of toefl test)

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 2, 2017 at 3:56 am #

      Hi Phuong,

      The answer is pretty straight forward: the TOEFL is from ETS, an American company, and the IELTS is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English Language Assessment. So the preferences are directly related to the companies that own and administer the tests. 🙂

  27. Rezwan May 16, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

    Thanks for explaining TOEFL vs IELTS. I have a problem that my handwriting is not more good, is it matter of fact in IELTS written test. Please give me answer and if it is then What i do?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 17, 2017 at 8:59 am #

      Hi Rezwan! 🙂 Yes, the IELTS is always written, so you would need to handwrite your answers. If you do not want to write, you should go for TOEFL.

  28. Micky September 13, 2017 at 11:11 pm #


    I’ve stumbled upon this website when searching for IELST vs TOEFL.
    I’ve just done IELTS academic with an overall score of 8.0 (L 8.5 R 9.0 W 6.5 S 8.5)
    I’m satisfied with the overall score, but I need at least 7.0 in ALL fields.
    Would it be better for me te retake the IELTS test and practice just the writing?
    (I’m frustrated that I can’t see my essay with corrections, so that I know where I have to improve)
    Or should I take the TOEFL as I only need 250 marks in the computer based test, that way I could compensate my ‘poor writing’ with the other tasks?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 14, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

      Hi Micky,

      Thanks for contacting Magoosh! 🙂 Just to be clear, the only scoring systems for the TOEFL now are the iBT (0-120) and the paper-based test was recently updated to be on a similar scale. You still get individual scores (like IELTS band scores) so you cannot just mitigate a problem with the writing section that way. Honestly, with your IELTS score so high elsewhere, I would recommend working on the writing component and tackling it again. 🙂

  29. Charles September 26, 2017 at 1:37 am #

    I definitely align myself on Jurgis comment above regarding the length of the test. Funnily enough I have been exactly in the same situation. The TOEFL is very long and you won’t be able to pause the test during the two 2-hours sessions so indeed don’t drink too much caffeine beforehand ! I had to leave to pee as I couldn’t focus anymore on the listening and had to let the time runs. Hopefully I was able to catch up afterwards.

    On the difficulty side I wouldn’t agree with Jurgis though. I did two times the IELTS and two times the TOEFL (band 8 on IELTS and 116 on TOEFL so same as him). From my side the big differences are:

    British English (IELTS) Vs American English (TOEFL)
    Handwriting (IELTS) Vs Typing (TOEFL)
    Human examiner for speaking section (IELTS) Vs Microphone recording (TOEFL)
    2hrs45 length (IELTS) Vs 4 hours length (TOEFL)
    Large classroom (IELTS) Vs Cubicle desk (TOEFL)
    Not widely accepted (IELTS) Vs very widely accepted (TOEFL)

    For all of these reasons I definitely recommend the TOEFL. Not everyone is familiar with the British English especially when it comes to listening. Also, we pretty much never hand write in our day to day life so passing the IELTS puts you in a very unfamiliar situation. Same for being in a classroom listening to an audio, which sends you back in time when you were at high school (quite disturbing for more mature test takers).

    I found the difficulty of IELTS is mostly due to the British English (we are more familiar with American English because of the movie and music industries), the fact that you have to hand-write (if the classroom is cold or you have a poor writing then good luck) and having a human examiner (stressful). The difference in difficulty is ONLY about the situation (British accent, hand-writing, open classroom and human examiner) not about the skills being tested. Also I found the TOEFL more standardisable because your hand writing does not affect your score and all the speaking is assessed by 3 to 6 examiners and not just one person (who you may eventually feel unease with for some reasons). You are also able to simulate the test at home (take the TOEFL value pack) in real conditions while this is not possible for the IELTS (big classroom, human examiner etc).

    Now if you have difficulties with only one skill I could roughly say that:

    – READING is easier on IELTS than TOEFL, because it is paper based so you can circle, highlight things etc which is impossible with the TOEFL.

    – LISTENING is equivalent on both tests because the difficulty of the IELTS (British accent, open classroom) is balanced by the length of the TOEFL section (very long passages).

    – SPEAKING is equivalent on both because the difficulty of the IELTS (human examiner) is balanced by the length of the TOEFL section and its mingling with listening parts (absent in the IELTS test).

    – WRITING is easier on the TOEFL because you just focus on the core of the task and do not worry about how lisible will your hand writing be for the examiner.

    But all in all they have similar difficulty, just the IELTS environment is clearly more uncomfortable.

    Hope this helps.

  30. Nadir khan January 26, 2018 at 10:49 pm #

    I wana get more education i us so wich test is required for us universties . Can someone tell me .

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 28, 2018 at 12:43 pm #

      Hi Nadir,

      This answer depends on what you want to study and what program you are applying to. As an international student, almost all schools will require an English language test like the TOEFL or IELTS (The TOEFL is more common in the US). If you are applying to graduate school in most programs, you will need to take the GRE. If you are applying for a graduate program in business, you will need to take the GMAT (though some schools also accept the GRE). If you are applying for college, you will need to take the ACT or SAT. Medical and law school also have different requirements. I know this can be a little bit confusing! You can read about the application process here and see a timeline here.

  31. AMRITA February 24, 2018 at 6:59 am #

    hi, i am hoping to pursue MBA in one of the B Schools in UK
    It would be great if you could help me decide whether IELTS would be a better option to get into a B school.

    • David Recine
      David Recine February 24, 2018 at 10:35 am #

      On paper, quite a few UK B-schools accept either TOEFL or IELTS. However, the IELTS is definitely a better test. For one thing, a number of major UK B-schools, including Cambridge, don’t accept the TOEFL anymore. For another thing, the UK government has officially rejected the TOEFL as proof of English proficiency, even though individual universities are allowed to use the TOEFL if thy want to. Finally, the IELTS focuses a lot more on British English, compared to the American English-dominated TOEFL. So UK universities are more likely to prefer the IELTS, even if they don’t have an official policy of doing so.

  32. azita ansari March 9, 2018 at 3:08 am #

    I am required to take an english test in order to register my license . I have a choice between Ielts and Toefl, having studied in France , lived in US and exposed to different english dialect, I am not sure which one to choose. I am comfortable with both paper and computer. If the subject is interesting I could listen for hours.
    I am puzzled as I need to enrol asap and can not decide where to sit !

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 10, 2018 at 8:58 am #

      Hi Azita,

      Based on what you said, you have no preference for the exams. I would personally flip a coin to make that choice!

  33. Satya March 10, 2018 at 10:01 pm #

    am an engineer with 3 years experience in instrumentation,i wish to attain a permit in UK or Canada. What is my best option to get one?
    am from india…

    • David Recine
      David Recine March 11, 2018 at 4:36 pm #

      If you’re talking about a work permit, IELTS is your best option. In the UK and Canada, the TOEFL is only accepted for university admissions. Regular immigration visas require IELTS. For most skilled immigration visas, you’ll need to take the IELTS General Training exam. But a small number of visas require IELTS academic instead. Check with an immigration office or immigrant assistance firm to find out which version of the IELTS you’ll need.

  34. Layla July 17, 2018 at 7:13 am #

    I really want to take a TOEFL iBT test, and so I’m going to start practice and preparing for the test in a few days. I want to tell my parents about this, should I tell them before I start preparing or should I tell them after my practice?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 17, 2018 at 11:40 am #

      Hi Layla,

      I’m not familiar with your personal family dynamics, so I’m afraid I can’t really provide you advice about this! In general, we recommend that students let those around them (friends, family, etc) know about their study plans so that they can provide support and encouragement for the test. Good luck 🙂

  35. Anuj November 1, 2018 at 11:39 am #

    I got toefl score 63 and sat score 1400.sir is there any problem arise getting low score on toefl for college admission

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 3, 2018 at 2:18 pm #

      Hi Anuj,

      You may find that you get conditional acceptance with a 63. You also want to make sure you qualify for whatever relevant visas you need. I suggest researching what requirements are on the program pages of schools you want to attend!

  36. Frank May 10, 2019 at 5:59 pm #

    Hi there,

    I got 6.5 in IELTS but now I have to get over 80 in TOEFL

    I just have 2 months to prepare for the test.

    Is it possible for me to get my expected score (over 80 in TOEFL)

    Thanks you guy very much to read my question

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 12, 2019 at 6:04 pm #

      Hi Frank,

      According to this score comparison between TOEFL and IELTS , a 6.5 band score is roughly an 80-85 in the TOEFL. This means that you have the English skills to meet your desired score in the TOEFL. You should focus on studying to prepare for the strategy in the TOEFL test and improve as much as possible. This is definitely a realistic score expectation in 2 months 🙂

  37. Sri Vatsa November 14, 2019 at 10:34 pm #

    I want to do my masters in biomedical engineering in US which test should I prefer to write to get admission?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 18, 2019 at 9:34 pm #

      Hi Sri!

      Whether to take the IELTS or TOEFL depends mainly on which schools or programs you’re applying to. American universities always accept the TOEFL, while not every school accepts the IELTS. If your programs accept both, then it really doesn’t matter too much. If you score very high on one, you would probably score high on the other, too. This is because the two exams have a lot in common, and they test most of the same skills. There are some differences, but the biggest two are:

      1. The IELTS is a paper test, whereas the TOEFL iBT is computer-based (there is a paper-based TOEFL, but it’s not very common)
      2. You speak with an actual person for the IELTS, but only speak into a microphone on the TOEFL.

      Overall, though, the two exams aren’t very different, so don’t worry about it too much! Really it’s just about what you prefer and what your programs prefer. 🙂

      I hope this helps!

      • Juhi December 2, 2019 at 11:18 pm #

        I just took my TOEFL on 1st December, I spent one day looking at the format of the test for IELTS but I am not sure if when should I give ,how much time do I really need to give for IELTS preparation, considering I need my scores by 25th December .can anyone help?

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 20, 2019 at 12:00 pm #

          Hi Juhi,

          This may be too late for you, and I’m sorry about that. We are a small team and sometimes it takes us a while to get through all of the blog comments!

          There are a few significant differences between the TOEFL and the IELTS, but they cover the same basic English skills and concepts. You will need to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the IELTS exam (see our IELTS blog for more details) and get in some practice with IELTS questions before taking the exam.


  1. How the TOEFL Is Different from Real Life English - Higher Education Blog - December 11, 2013

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