4 Things You Should Know About TOEFL vs IELTS

For non-native speakers, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and International English Language Testing System (IELTS) are the standards for certifying English proficiency, but the exams differ considerably. Comparing the content and structure of each helps as you make a decision on TOEFL versus IELTS.


The TOEFL frequently appears as an entrance exam to higher education; thus, it features only academic English. The IELTS offers both an academic and a general testing option, with the latter being sufficient for most immigrants. In particular, the UK and Canada use the IELTS as the preferred testing option for immigration.

Test Format

Both exams offer four basic sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. However, the IELTS – even in the academic version – includes more general, “real-world” testing content. The IELTS speaking test also takes place in person with both a speech and a conversation, while the TOEFL’s is performed via recorder.

Regional Dialects

English dialects sometimes present issues for non-native speakers. While the TOEFL and IELTS do not penalize you for not using the expected dialect, the former is oriented towards American English while the latter trends towards British English. ESL speakers may find the other test a little strange, but in most cases not enough to cause problems.


With TOEFL versus IELTS, which test is easier for speakers comes down to learning background and aptitudes. The former assumes testers learned more from informative or academic works and involves testing by computer and recording; the latter is better suited for casual speech, takes place in-person, and varies more in question types.