As a college-bound international student you’ve probably heard of the TOEFL and IELTS tests. One of these tests is typically required as proof of English language proficiency for college or university entrance.
So which one should you take? Well, that depends. Most schools in the United States, the UK, Australia and New Zealand will accept either score, however, you should first check with the admissions department to see if there is a preference for one or the other. If there is no preference, it is up to you to decide which test would be best for you. There are similarities and differences to both.
The biggest difference between the two tests is that the IELTS is paper-based while the TOEFL iBT is online. Therefore, your ease with an English keyboard and confidence with spelling are factors. In addition, the TOEFL consists of more North American accents and English while the IELTS accepts both American and British English. The TOEFL is about 4 hours long and the questions are all multiple-choice while the IELTS is closer to 3 hours long and consist of many different types of questions. Both tests look at the four language skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing), but they are assessed in different ways.
When listening, TOEFL test-takers are asked to take notes and answer questions afterwards. During the IELTS, however, test-takers answer questions and fill in blanks while they are listening. TOEFL reading passages are all the same level of difficulty while the IELTS reading sections get progressively more difficult. The speaking section of the TOEFL is at a computer with headphones while the IELTS is in-person with an examiner. The writing sections of the TOEFL and IELTS both have essay sections on a single topic, but you have more time to write on the IELTS. The second writing section of the TOEFL asks you to take notes and answer questions from a listening prompt while the IELTS has you write from a visual, like a table or chart.
In order to decide which test is right for you, I would recommend that you look at a variety of practice questions and prep books. If you have anxiety about the tests, it may be helpful to take a prep class in order to learn more about the types of questions that are given and boost your confidence. Keep in mind that your TOEFL or IELTS score is only a part of the application. Admissions coordinators will review your entire college or university application to make a decision about your candidacy.
Best of luck in the college or university application process!