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The TOEFL and IELTS – Which Test Should You Take?

The Scoop on the TOEFL and IELTS Tests for English Language Skills

If you plan to study at a university or college in an English-speaking country, you’ll need to take either the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) as part of your application. But where to begin and which test to take?

Here we’ve distilled the answers to your questions. The IELTS for Study (different from the IELTS for work or migration purposes) and the TOEFL iBT are the versions of the tests for those seeking to apply for higher education.

Q: Which test is easier, the TOEFL or the IELTS?

 A: Neither test is necessarily easier. Their format is slightly different but both test for advanced English skills.

Q: Which test should I take?

A: First things first, check the website of each school you want to apply to and check their requirements. Approximately 3,000 institutions accept the IELTS and approximately 5,000 institutions accept the TOEFL. Some schools accept both tests, which leads to the next question.

Q: How are the TOEFL and IELTS different?

A: Both tests have 4 sections with writing, reading, listening, and speaking. With the 2 hour and 45 minute long IELTS, you speak to an actual person and handwrite answers to be sent in. The TOEFL is 4 hours long and you speak into a microphone and type responses on a computer.

Q: What score do I need to make?

A: Check specific IELTS and TOEFL requirements on school websites. For nationally ranked American universities, the average minimum score for the IELTS is 6.3 and 78 for the TOEFL.

Q: Where can I take the TOEFL or the IELTS?

A: Each test has many locations for testing worldwide. Check here for IELTS and here for the TOEFL.

Q: How much do they cost?

A: The IELTS ranges from about USD $215 to $240. The TOEFL iBT costs between USD $165 to $250.

Test Preparation

While many programs exist online to study for the IELTS or TOEFL, there’s nothing like immersion in an American classroom to accelerate your learning and ensure a better score. Portland English Language Academy (PELA)—an official IELTS test center—takes TOEFL and IELTS preparation a step further by providing not only courses for both tests, but volunteer opportunities as well (so you can work alongside Americans while learning English). With PELA’s 3-month Intensive IELTS program, if you don’t raise your score a full point from the last test you took, they’ll refund you for the course!

Find out which school is right for you