IELTS or TOEFL – Which Exam Should I Take?

Purpose and Importance of the Tests

If you want to study abroad in countries like the US, UK, Australia and Canada, and if your first language is NOT English, you will have to take a test to prove that you can speak, read, write in English and understand spoken English. Two major standardized assessment tests allow you to do this: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System).

These tests allow foreign universities to see whether students have at least the basic language skills required to complete their courses. That is why it is mandatory to take one of these tests if you are applying to graduate or undergraduate study programs abroad. In fact the TOEFL and IELTS have become the gold standard of English proficiency for educational purposes and also for immigration and work. But which of these exams should you take?

Which Test to Take?

As tests of the English language both the TOEFL and IELTS are at a similar level of difficulty. The scores of both are valid for the same amount of time, i.e. up to 2 years from test date and both tests are very well recognized. TOEFL is accepted by 8,500 colleges in over 130 countries (click here to see if your university or college accepts TOEFL). Similarly, IELTS is also accepted by over 7,000 organisations across 130 countries. In fact, about 3,000 US Universities also accept IELTS scores. So, which test is the best one to take?

The choice of which test to take depends first and foremost on the country you want to study in. TOEFL is still the preferred exam for students wanting to take up Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral programs of study in America. IELTS is more commonly required for ‘non-US’ countries, such as UK, Australia and Canada. Of course, you can be more sure of which exam to take by checking the site of the university or college you are applying to. Choose the one that is accepted by all (or at least most of the universities or colleges you are applying to) But, in general, if you are applying to an American university, it is better to take the TOEFL, if you are applying to a British, Australian or Canadian one, the IELTS would be the exam to take.

What is an Acceptable Score?

Most American Universities regard a score of 80 (out of 120) in TOEFL, as an acceptable minimum score for admission. However, students applying to high-ranking colleges generally need a minimum score of 100 on TOEFL or band of 7 (out of 9) on the IELTS.

Find out about coaching for TOEFL and IELTS

Coming soon:

1. Which of the two exams is more difficult – and what are the differences between them?

2. What if I get a low score in the TOEFL or IELTS?

Related Questions on our Q & A Forum:

(click links to see questions and answers)

1. Can I apply without a TOEFL score?

2. No TOEFL dates available, can I take IELTS instead?

3. Will I face a problem in getting a visa if I do IELTS rather than TOEFL?

4. Does the ETS send free score reports for TOEFL like it does for the GRE?

5. Is a score of 94 acceptable for an MS in Computer Science?