IELTS vs. TOEFL in Difficulty – Which is Easier/Harder?


International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are two standardized tests to evaluate English aptitude for non-native English language speakers. Majority of students face the dilemma of choosing between IELTS and TOEFL. Both of these tests are widely-accepted tests to certify English proficiency. A commonly asked question is which among them is easier! To find answer to the question, let us first look at the similarities and differences among IELTS and TOEFL:


Both of these tests have many differences and quite a few similarities too. The similarities and differences between IELTS and TOEFL are listed below:


  • As mentioned above, both of these tests are standardized tests. Hence, their scores are accepted everywhere.
  • Both of the tests are divided into four broad sections viz. Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.
  • The price difference between IELTS and TOEFL is almost negligible with both of these tests lying in the range of $150 to $250.


Speaking section

The biggest distinction between the two tests is in the speaking section.

IELTS exam pattern

  1. In IELTS speaking section, your exam will be conducted by a real person with face to face interaction.
  2. The test is divided into 3 sections. All the 3 sections last around 15 minutes.
  3. The first section consists of questions related to the candidate’s home, job or studies. In the second section, the candidate has to prepare a monologue of about 1-2 minutes on the given topic. In the final part, the candidate is asked questions related to the topic in part 2.

TOEFL exam pattern

  1. In TOEFL speaking section, the examiner is actually a computer.
  2. The test lasts around 20 minutes and 6 questions are being asked.
  3. 2 questions are based on known topics, taking account of your family or job. The next two tasks include summarizing a text, expressing your personal views on it and abridging information from a short conversation.
Writing section

The difference in the IELTS and TOEFL writing section is also in the way it is conducted.

IELTS Writing section

  1. IELTS Writing is a pen and paper test.
  2. IELTS conducts the test in two distinct types viz. Academic training and General training( if you are not actually going to attend the university and are just appearing for immigration purpose, IELTS General training is the right choice).

TOEFL Writing section

  1. The mode of input in TOEFL Writing is computer.
  2. TOEFL only has one type of exam. In TOELF Writing section an additional 2 minute lecture is given on the topic after you’ve read the text.
Listening section

There are several differences in IELTS and TOEFL listening section.

IELTS Listening section

  1. IELTS listening test is of 30 minutes duration.
  2. IELTS listening is in both academic and social context.
  3. IELTS asks a variety of question types viz. sentence completion, true false, match the headings etc.
  4. IELTS listening module is in an array of accents including Scottish, American, British, Canadian and Australian etc.
TOEFL Listening section
  1. TOEFL listening test is of longer duration (60 minutes).
  2. TOEFL listening is only in academic context.
  3. TOEFL asks only multiple choice type questions.
  4. TOEFL listening module is in customary American accent.
Reading Section

Reading section of IELTS and TOEFL differs in only two parameters.

IELTS Reading section

  1. Like the listening section, IELTS Reading section also has a wide variety of questions.
  2. IELTS gives you two broad exam choices, Academic and General training.
TOEFL Reading section
  1. TOEFL Reading section has all multiple choice type questions.
  2. TOEFL asks all questions in academic context.


Many students who have appeared for both of the exams have had varied views. Comparison between IELTS and TOEFL can’t be directly drawn. It depends on personal preferences and convenience.  But almost all the students prefer IELTS over TOEFL and many students have actually scored better in IELTS. But ultimately the choice is narrowed down to your preference. To find the test which is more up to your alley, take sample tests for both and decide which test suits you better.

Originally posted 2018-03-26 20:42:33.


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