Can TOEFL be a replacement of IELTS?

Certification: TOEFL - Test of English as Foreign Language

You find that if you are not a native English speaker and applying to university in an English speaking country, you may be required to take a standardized test. The standardized rest mainly assess ones English speaking skills and capabilities. Many schools require applicants where English is not their first language to do the tests. There mainly two English test accepted by most universities around the world, which include:

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing Service)
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

For some time now, people have wondered what the difference in these two exam is, do they assess the same skills? Or are they just the same? To be able to understand this, let shave a brief summary each exam:


IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. Similar to the TOEFL, this is also a regulated English test. Its main purpose is to test the candidates' in their proficiency in English. The IELTS is managed by IDP Education PVT Ltd, Cambridge English Assessment and the British Council. The test was started in the year 1989. The IELTS has two versions:

Academic version - This version is usually for applicants who want to enrol in colleges or universities and other institutions of higher education. It is also for professional, including nurses and medical doctors who want to practice or study in English speaking.

General Training Version – This version is for those who are planning to take the exam for either work experience, immigration reasons or non-academic training.

The exam is accepted mostly in New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and Ireland and over 3000 institutions in the US.  The IELTS has no pass mark or a minimum score to pass. The score report for the candidate is usually from band 1 (non-user) to band 9 (expert user), you find each academic institution has set their gauging point. The test results are usually considered invalid after two years by most institutions.

The structure of the IELTS is almost similar to the TOEFL. The applicant is required to complete four sections (modules), and this includes, Writing, Speaking, Listening and Reading. All candidates take the same Speaking and Listening module, but the Writing and Reading module may be different depending with whether one is taking the General or Academic Versions. The three first parts are usually without breaks, making the IELTS longest exam without breaks (total of 180 minutes).


TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a regulated exam that tests the candidate in his proficiency in the language of English. It is mainly done by students who are will to enrol to the U.S universities who are non-native English speakers.  This test was introduced in the year 1964. The paper is both internet based and paper based. TOEFL is accepted by various professional and academic institutions. The Test is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which is a non-profit organisation. The scores that one gets on the TOEFL are usually valid for two years, after that they are no longer available for reporting. The exam a crucial English language test, which will help many applicants get into some of the great universities. For one to do so, they need to obtain a high score. The internet based test of the TOEFL was introduced in 2005 and has gradually grown, the paper-based is still available in limited areas. The internet based test is usually three hours 20 minutes to four hours 20 minutes while the paper-based is usual between 2 hours and 20 minutes or 30 minutes. The Internet-based and paper based by vary a little bit but they assess the same skills, usually Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.


Both the TOEFL and IELTS act as ideal Pre-university assessment test for the English language. It is both for students who are aspiring to enhance their higher education studies. The TOEFL and IELTS both examine the skills of speaking, writing, listening and reading in English. Both exam may require a fee to be paid before taking them, it can be different for both, but they vary between 150 US dollars and 250 US dollars.

The differences

The exam may seem similar to each other, but they have many differences, and this leads to many applicants confusing on which one is better. One of the differences that is clear between the two tests, is the Speaking section. For the TOEFL, the test has a total of six questions which should be answered in to a microphone. For the IELTS, one is required to take the exam with a supervisor face to face. The scoring structure is also different for the two exams. The IELTS has a scheme that rates between 0 and 9. TOEFL gives a more numerical score like most other standardized tests.

Which one is better and can TOEFL replace IELTS

Knowing which one is better depends on the reason that one is taking the exam for. This entirely depends on you. You find that the IELTS plays a bit of a different role when compared to the IELTS. So depending with what your reason is for taking the exam, you will be able to know which one is right for you. Also, it depends with whether the institution or university that you want to apply to accepts both or just one of the regulated exams. Some institutions accept both while some only want just one. You may find that TOEFL may not be able to replace IELTS since they are a bit different in that the IELTS has a different structure of testing, especially when it comes to the purpose for attempting the paper. As an applicant, you should be able to know which of the English exam is ideal for you depending with your preferences.

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