IELTS vs TOEFL which is easier

Top differences between IELTS vs TOEFL | Which is easier?

Last Updated on September 30, 2021 by iSchoolConnect

Both IELTS and TOEFL are designed to test your English proficiency while applying to universities abroad. Since most colleges accept both these scores, it’s easy to get confused about which test to give. Use the 6 factors in this blog to compare IELTS vs TOEFL and find out which will be easier for you!

Although IELTS and TOEFL both demonstrate your level of knowledge regarding the English language, they do so in different ways. Plus, most universities give value to one or the other depending on the subject and the country you choose. So to help you decide between IELTS vs TOEFL and find out which is easier, we are sharing a few important aspects that you should consider while choosing. Read along to find out more details about each test and decide which one is the most fitting for you!

But before we start comparing these 2 exams, let’s understand them a little better.

What is IELTS?

The International English Language Test System (IELTS) is for both students and working professionals. It’s even taken by those who want to immigrate to foreign countries.

When it comes to education, several universities accept the IELTS all over the world, including those in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, etc.

All in all, the IELTS exam scores are accepted by 10,000 institutions in more than 140 countries around the world.

Coming to the testing medium – you can either take this test on paper or online. In any of its 2 versions, you will see different forms of questions, even short essays to write down.

You can do the test in less than 3 hours.

The speaking part is taken in person with only one examiner in front of you, who will be in charge of evaluating you. This part may take place on a different date than the rest of the test, and it displays a variety of accents in the English language.

The listening part implies answering questions of diverse lengths whilst you simultaneously listen to some recordings of lectures or carefully planned conversations for that purpose.

The IELTS is graded from 1-9 and they take the overall score from the result of the four-part written test.

What is TOEFL


The Test Of English as a Foreign Language (or TOEFL) is an English proficiency test conducted by the Education Testing Service (ETS). Most universities around the globe also accept it.

The test is conducted in American English, and most American institutions prefer it as an English evaluation system.

While the TOEFL exam is available in both internet-based (TOEFL iBT) and paper-delivered formats, 98% of TOEFL test takers worldwide opt for the TOEFL iBT test due to the convenience and ease of the testing manner.

It focuses on evaluating your skills when communicating in English in detailed settings like academic, classroom-located, and university environments.
TOEFL table listing all the TOEFL exam details

The TOEFL is attempted by typing all the answers on a computer. During the speaking part, six reviewers are in charge of checking your recorded answers. This takes 20 minutes and it’s performed the same day as the rest of the evaluation.

As for the writing part, you are expected to write a 350-word essay containing five paragraphs for the first task. For the second one (lasting 20 minutes), you’ll be asked to create a 225-word response to the excerpt of a lecture from which you previously took notes while listening to it.

This is also applicable in the 40-60-minute long listening part of the test.

Comprehension is what the TOEFL evaluates most stringently, with a scoring system from 1-120.

IELTS vs TOEFL pattern

IELTS academic exam pattern
IELTS academic exam pattern

The IELTS exam has 4 sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. The total time given to complete the test is 2 hours, 45 minutes. The Academic IELTS exam pattern is as follows:

Similarly, TOEFL also has 4 sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. The total time given to complete the test is 3 hours. The Academic TOEFL exam pattern is as follows:

IELTS vs TOEFL Reading section

Woman reading book at evening at home close up
For some people, reading the questions first and the passage later helps. See if that works for you.


The reading paper has 3 passages with a total of 40 questions divided into a number of tasks. The candidate is expected to complete the paper in 60 minutes. The questions in different tasks range from multiple-choice, matching information, diagram labeling, and identifying information (question type: true or false). Also, the distribution of the number of questions in the tasks is not fixed.


The reading section of the test consists of 3-4 multiple-focus passages (compare/contrast, cause-effect). Each passage consists of 10 questions. The time allotted to this section can vary between 54-72 minutes, depending on the number of passages given in the test. The scores for this portion of the test can range between 0 and 30. You can take a look at the TOEFL practice test for reading right here.

IELTS vs TOEFL Listening Section

Close up portrait of a curious afro american man
Draw a flow chart. Start at the beginning – write one sentence for each key point mentioned, and connect lines where necessary. This will help you map out what you heard.


The listening paper has a total of 40 questions divided in 4 different tasks which are to be finished in 30 minutes. The candidate listens to 4 different recordings, played only once. The recordings will be in a variety of voices with native-speaker accents. They can be a one on one conversation or a monologue on any topic. The questions range from multiple-choice, matching, map or diagram labeling, form completion, note completion, summary completion, and short answers.


This section contains 3 to 4 lectures, and some lectures contain classroom discussions. Each lecture is around 3-5 minutes long, and at the end of each, you will be asked 6 questions. Also included in this portion are normal, daily-life conversations. You’ll get to listen to 2-3 conversations, each being 3 minutes long. Additionally, you’ll be asked 5 questions at the end of each conversation. The accents used in the listening portion are those of native-speakers from all over North America.

IELTS vs TOEFL Speaking Section

Young woman with microphone recording voice acting
As soon as you see you have 15-20 seconds left, start stating your conclusion. Never end your response abruptly.


Speaking test is an interview with the examiner which lasts up to 11-14 minutes. The test consists of 3 tasks. Task one is typically an introduction or an interview wherein the examiner asks the candidate for a personal introduction. The interview can go on for about 4-5 minutes. In the second task, a task card is given to the candidate containing a topic to speak on. 1 minute is given to jot down the notes and 1-2 minutes are given to talk on the given topic. At the end of the 2 minutes, the examiner can ask a couple of questions based on your topic. Task three is related to the previous task. The topic from task two is discussed in-depth and in an abstract way. This task can end up for 4-5 minutes. In some cases, they conduct the speaking test on a different day.


This portion of the test consists of 4 tasks. You’ll be assigned 1 independent task to express your opinion on a topic you’re familiar with. You’ll have 30 seconds to prepare your response. Apart from that, you will have 3 integrated speaking tasks based on reading and listening. You’ll have 1 minute to prepare your response. The total time allotted to this section is 17 minutes. You’ll be scored out of 0-4 points, and then your points will be converted to a scale between 0 to 30. You can find an example of the speaking section here. This example is 11 seconds long and you have 45 seconds to respond.

IELTS vs TOEFL Writing Section

Cropped photo of young smiling woman in striped shirt taking not
Write the entire essay first. Don’t listen to the critical side of your brain just now. Once you’ve finished your first draft, you can always come back and edit.


The writing test consists of two sections with a total test time of 60 minutes. Section one consists of various types of visual information(e.g: graphs or pi diagrams). They expect candidates to elaborate the visual information in precisely 150 words. Section two consists of a topic to write on where candidates elaborate on an argument or a topic in not less or more than 250 words.


You’ll have two tasks in this section of the test-

  • Section 1- An integrated task based on what you read and heard. You’ll have 20 minutes to complete this.
  • Section 2- An independent task to support an opinion on a topic. You’ll have 30 minutes to complete this.

The total time allotted to this section is 50 minutes and you’ll be scored on a point range of 0 to 5, which will then be converted to a score scale of 0 to 30.

IELTS vs TOEFL Who accepts what?


Several universities accepted the IELTS, including those in Canada, US, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, etc. All in all, the IELTS exam scores are accepted by 10,000 institutions in more than 140 countries around the world.


Some of the top countries that accept TOEFL include the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and many other institutions across Europe and Asia

Major differences between IELTS and TOEFL

If you have read so far, you must’ve already noticed a few subtle yet important differences between the two exams. Let’s point them out-

  1. While TOEFL is ONLY computer-based, IELTS is both paper and computer-based. So if you’re more comfortable taking an exam on paper, you can choose IELTS.
  2. The speaking section for these two exams is so different. In IELTS, you have to appear for a personal interview. This isn’t the case in TOEFL, where you can speak to the computer during your online test itself.
  3. They take TOEFL in standard American English. So if you’ve grown up watching English movies and binge-watch sitcoms even today, TOEFL might be for you.
  4. The essay they expect you to write in the TOEFL writing section is lengthier. It also demands a fast typing speed. On the other hand, if you type slow but have legible handwriting, you can go for TOEFL.
  5. In IELTS, you have to give short answers, which is not the case in TOEFL. TOEFL requires you to attempt MCQ-type questions.
  6. The reading passages in TOEFL are also used to inform rather than entertain. This means that if you like reading non-fiction, news, etc., you will find this exam easier to attempt.

IELTS vs TOEFL which is easier

All these parameters and information mentioned above should help you decide upon which entrance exam to choose between IELTS vs TOEFL.

However, if you’re still confused, remember that both these exams cost approximately the same and the price should not be your deciding factor.

Look at what you’re better at – if it’s academic reading, online interviews, MCQs, and typing on keyboards instead of writing, go for TOEFL.

Otherwise, choose IELTS.

The answer to IELTS vs TOEFL, which is easier, is, as you must’ve realized, subjective.

Once you’ve decided, all you have to do is find the right test prep course, make your study plan, and start preparing!

And in case *if you get stuck or need any kind of help, you can also reach out to us!

Or drop a comment.

We’d be very happy to help!

Akanksha Vora

Bright, bold, and bubbly, Akanksha Vora is a writer at iSchoolConnect. She writes creative and curious blogs that help students with their life and studies abroad.

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