Parlez-Vous Anglais: IELTS or TOEFL | Top Universities

Parlez-Vous Anglais: IELTS or TOEFL

By Moynaa Aparajit

Updated January 6, 2015 Updated January 6, 2015

Decision to study abroad is made. Research begins. Common denominator = English language proficiency test.

Of course this makes sense, considering you are applying to study courses that are primarily taught in English, for which you’ll need a basic knowledge of the language, with the ability to read and write fluently. The most commonly accepted tests are the IELTS exam and the TOEFL test. For the most part, you can pick which one of them you do.

IELTS exam

Co-owned by the University of Cambridge and the British Council, the IELTS exam is accepted in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. IELTS exam centres can be found all over the world; check the IELTS website to find your nearest one. There are two versions of the test: the general and the academic. The latter will be the one you’ll need to take for the purposes of getting into university.

Once you register, online preparation materials are made available. In some countries there will be centres that provide training for the exam. These are independent centres and will charge for their services.

There are four sections on the IELTS exam in which you are scored; reading, writing, speaking and listening. Coming from a background where English is the first language, I found that a degree of complacency did set in. While writing was a breeze, listening – due to daydreaming – did not prove to be a strength.

For the session on speaking, you are sent to a room with an examiner who asks you various questions, some of which were, of course, quite random. Try not to ummm and ahhh, as they take that as hesitancy and a lack of confidence with the language rather than a representation of your teenage cool!

Since universities specify the IELTS exam score that they require for each course, nerves and butterflies are a post-test side effect until you find out the results thirteen days later. An overall score is given along with the individual breakdown of each section.

TOEFL test

The TOEFL test can either be taken on online (at a supervised test centre) or – in countries where this option is not available – as a paper based test.

There are test centres all over the globe, and once you register you can access preparation material, some which is free and some of which is provided at a cost. The list of countries which accept the TOEFL test is the same as the one for the IELTS.

The four skills tested are also the same as the IELTS. No limits are placed on the number of times you can take the test. You will have to pay each time, though.

The TOEFL test started life primarily for students to get into US universities, but it is now much more global.

Required scores for the TOEFL test and IELTS exam differ from course to course. Most universities will set benchmark scores for both of them, and it is entirely up to the student which one to choose.

A common question is which one is easier? Being students, we always want the easy way out; less work, more time to procrastinate. The simple answer is that if you have a good knowledge of the English language, both tests should be quite straightforward. On the off chance that you do not get the grades you want, consider it an opportunity to improve your weaknesses and become better equipped to deal with your degree and life overseas.


  • Don’t become complacent and neglect to adequately prepare
  • Check out the course requirements
  • Do your research!

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in January 2015

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