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IELTS vs TOEFL: Which One's For Me?

Last updated on 27 May 2019

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By Rebecca Isjwara

So your university needs you to submit proof for your English-language proficiency, and you turn to a standardized test. But which one do you take: TOEFL or IELTS? Both tests are widely acceptable and test centres (as well as prep courses) are scattered all around Indonesia. Which do you choose, then? Does your choice even matter? What makes one better than the other anyway? Here’s a quick overview of how to approach the decision on taking either standardized test.

1. Which does your university need?

Or which one does your host country need for visa requirements? At the end of the day, convenience is key, and it would be annoying to have to take both when you could have prepared for just one instead. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, prefer IELTS for both university admissions and also to fulfill their visa requirement. That’s not to say that TOEFL is off limits, but you might have to double check with the university admission team and also the immigration department regarding the requirement.


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2. Which accent you are used to?

TOEFL tends to use American English, whilst the IELTS utilizes a few different accents (mostly British or at the very least European) throughout its listening section. Depending on how you picked up your English, it might be more comfortable for you to stick to the accent you’re used to. However, it’s worth to note that neither test will penalize you for using the “wrong English”, i.e. using British English spelling in TOEFL or pronouncing words the American way in an IELTS test.

3. How much does it cost and how long does it take?

Both TOEFL and IELTS tests are priced similarly in Indonesia, being at around USD 200 per test. Both can be taken multiple times and expire after two years. The difference that’s notable is the duration of the two tests. TOEFL takes 4 hours to complete whilst the IELTS only takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. If you’re not used to being exposed to English for more than a few minutes at a time, taking the IELTS might be less overwhelming than the 4-hour-long TOEFL test.

4. What’s the content of the test?

The TOEFL test is generally more academic-oriented, whilst the IELTS tests tend to be more colloquial. If you’re used to formal reading/writing and speaking about academic topics, TOEFL would be the test for you. However, if you mainly interact with English in an entertainment setting, such as catching your favourite TV show in its English-language glory, you might feel more comfortable taking IELTS.


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5. What kinds of questions do you prefer?

TOEFL’s tests are all multiple-choice, excluding the section in which you have to write out an essay. IELTS’ is less straightforward, with questions ranging from True/False, fill-in-the-blanks, and flowchart-type questions. Figuring out which type you’re comfortable with might also lean you towards choosing one over the other.

6. Are you more comfortable with strangers or computers?

TOEFL tests are administered using computers whilst IELTS hires English teachers and/or speakers to help conduct the test. If you find speaking to strangers nerve wracking, perhaps taking the TOEFL would be a better option since you’ll be speaking to a computer via a microphone. If you feel uncomfortable typing and would rather write your essay in your plausible penmanship, IELTS might be a better option.


For more information about studying in Europe, click here.

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