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TOEFL or IELTS

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TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 10 Sep 2010, 01:08
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TOEFL or IELTS



Because universities want to make sure you have the English language skills necessary to study at their school, almost all institutes of higher learning require you to take a test of English. And TOEFL and IELTS are the two biggest standardized tests of the English language. One of the most frequent questions I hear is which test is easier or which test is better. The answer depends on what kinds of tests you excel at, as well as where you plan to apply. This article breaks down the differences between the two tests so that you can make your own decision.

Admissions


The IELTS test is administrated by the British Councils, the University of Cambridge, and IELTS Australia. That is to say, it is associated with the British government and traditionally was used by British universities, as well as New Zealand and Australian universities to determine the language capability of foreign students. TOEFL is administered by ETS, a US-based non-profit and is used widely by American and Canadian universities. However, these days, in order to make it easy on international students, universities all over the world take both TOEFL and IELTS. While you should check with the specific university you want to apply to, in general any school in the US, the UK, Australia or New Zealand will take either test score. So that's one worry off your mind. Pick the test you think will be easier for you to complete. To do that, you probably need to know the structure of each exam.

Structure of the TOEFL


As of last year, official TOEFL is almost universally given in the iBT (Internet Based Testing) format. It consists of four sections:

Reading


The TOEFL Reading section asks you to read 4-6 passages of university level and to answer multiple-choice questions about them (multiple-choice means you choose the answer from provided options). Questions test you on comprehension of the text, main ideas, important details, vocabulary, inferring, rhetorical devices and style.

Listening


The Listening Section presents long 2-3 conversations and 4-6 lectures. The situations are always related to university life i.e. a conversation between a student and a librarian about finding research materials or a lecture from a history class. The questions are multiple choice and ask you about important details, inferences, tone, and vocabulary. The conversations and lectures are very natural and include informal English, interruptions, filler noises like "uh" or "Uhm."

Speaking


The Speaking section is recorded. You will speak into a microphone and a grader will listen to your answers at a later date and grade you. Two questions will be on familiar topics and ask you to give your opinion and/or describe something familiar to you, like your town or your favorite teacher. Two questions will ask you to summarize information from a text and a conversation--and may ask your opinion as well. Two questions will ask you to summarize information from a short conversation. Again, the topics of the conversations are always university-related.

Writing


Finally, there are two short essays on the TOEFL. One will ask you to write your opinion on a broad topic, such as whether it is better to live in the country or the city. One will ask you to summarize information from a text and a lecture--often the two will disagree with each other and you will need to either compare and contrast, or synthesize conflicting information.

IELTS Structure


The IELTS contains the same 4 sections, Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing, but the format is very different.

Reading


The reading section of the IELTS gives you 3 texts, which may be from academic textbooks or from a newspaper or magazine--but all at the level of a university student. One will always be an opinion piece--i.e. a text arguing for one point of view. The variety of questions on the IELTS is quite broad, and not every text will have every question type. One question type asks you to match headings to paragraphs in the text. You may be asked to complete a summary of the passage using words from the text. Or you may have to fill in a table or chart or picture with words from the text. There may be multiple-choice questions that ask you about key details. One of the hardest question types presents statements and asks you whether these statements are true, false or not included in the text. You may also be asked to match words and ideas. Finally, some questions are short-answer but the answers will be taken directly from the text itself.

Some questions come before the text and may not require careful reading to answer. Others come after the text and may expect you to have read the text thoroughly.

Listening


The IELTS has four listening sections. The first is a "transactional conversation" in which someone may be applying for something (a driver's license, a library card) or asking for information (say calling for more details about an advertisement or a hotel). The second section is an informational lecture of some kind, possibly a dean explaining the rules of the university. Third is a conversation in an academic context and the final section will be an academic lecture. For all sections you may be asked to fill out a summary, fill in a table, answer multiple-choice questions, label a diagram or picture, or classify information into different categories. You will be expected to fill out answers as you listen.

Writing


There are two writing tasks on the academic IELTS. The first asks you to summarize a table or chart in about 300 words. You will have to identify important information, compare and contrast different figures or maybe describe a process. The second task asks you to present your opinion on a statement about a fairly open topic such as: "Women should look after children and not work" or "Too many people are moving to cities and rural areas are suffering."

Speaking


Finally, the speaking section will be held on a different day from the rest of the test and in the presence of a trained interviewer. The questions are the same for all examinees but some parts may be more in the form of a conversation than a monologue. The first part of the test will be a brief introductory conversation followed by some short questions about familiar topics. The interviewer may ask your name, your job, what kinds of sports you like, what your daily routine is, and so on. In the second part, you will be given a card with a topic and a few specific questions to address. You will have to speak for two minutes on this topic, which may be about your daily routine, the last time you went to the movies, your favorite part of the world or a similar familiar topic. In the last section, the interviewer will ask you to discuss a more abstract side of the topic in part 2--why do people prefer daily routines? Why do people like the movies? How does travel affect local life?

Which is Better for Me?


So now you have some understanding of what each test involves, but you might be wondering which is better for you. Maybe in reading about the structure, you thought, "Wow TOEFL sounds so easy," or, "Oh the IELTS sounds like it's kind of fun!" That might be a good sign that one test will be easier for you than the other. More concretely, there are a couple of key differences between the tests.

British versus American English


While both the UK and the US accept both tests, and while British English and American English are not as different as some think, the fact of the matter is the IELTS tends to use British English and the TOEFL uses exclusively American English. On the IELTS, this difference will have a larger effect because spelling counts, and that is one area where Britain and the US do not always see eye-to-eye. Obviously if you have problems with the British accent (and the test may include a wide variety of accents, including Australian, New Zealand, Irish and Scottish). On the other hand, American accents may throw you off. Certain terms are also different and you don't want to waste time in your speaking test asking what a flat or a lorry is. So whether you are used to British or American English is certainly a factor. If you are more comfortable with US English, the TOEFL is a good bet but if you are used to British English and accents, you'll do better on the IELTS.

Multiple choice versus Copying Down


For the reading and listening sections, TOEFL gives you multiple-choice questions, whereas IELTS generally expects you to copy down words from the text or the conversation word-for-word. Multiple-choice questions will tend to be require slightly better abstract thinking, but the IELTS favors people who have good memories and think more concretely. The good thing about multiple-choice is that it is easy to pick out wrong answers, whereas the good thing about copying down is that the answer is sitting there in the text. You just have to find it and repeat it. So, concrete thinkers will tend to do better on the IELTS and abstract thinkers will tend to excel on the TOEFL.

Predictable or Different Every Time


Of course, the TOEFL is also more predictable than the IELTS. The IELTS throws lots of different question types at you, and the instructions are often slightly different every time. That makes it harder to prepare for. The TOEFL, on the other hand, is pretty much the same test every time--pick A, B, C, D, or E. On the other hand, the IELTS certainly keeps you on your toes and that can keep you more alert.

Speaking to a Person or a Computer?


Another large difference is in how the speaking section is carried out. For some people, it's very relaxing to just record your answers into a computer because it feels like no one is listening. You just try your best and forget about it until you get your grades. Because the IELTS test is done in an interview format with a native speaker present, you might get nervous or feel you are being judged. And they take notes: Oh God, did he write down something good or something bad? On the other hand, you might feel more relaxed in a conversation, with a person there to explain if you don't understand a question, or simply having a face to look at, instead of a computer screen. Getting feedback from a native speaker can be helpful too, in order to correct mistakes and improve during the test. So it depends on what you are more comfortable with. If you like talking to people, the IELTS is a better bet. If you just want to be alone and not feel judged, the TOEFL will be more comfortable for you.

Holistic versus Criteria


Finally, the speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL are graded holistically. The grader gives you a score based on the overall quality of the essay, including vocabulary, logic, style, and grammar. The IELTS by contrast is marked by individual criteria and you are scored individually for grammar, word choice, fluency, logic, cohesion, and a dozen other criteria. In other words, if you write well but have a lot of small grammar mistakes, your TOEFL score might be quite good because graders will ignore small mistakes if the overall essay is logical and detailed. The IELTS will not overlook bad grammar. On the other hand, if your grammar and vocabulary are strong but you have trouble expressing your opinion or organizing an essay, you could end up with a low TOEFL score but the IELTS will give you good marks for language use. So while it may sound like the IELTS is much tougher since it grades you on everything, in fact you can get quite a good score if you are strong in a number of areas. The TOEFL emphasizes the ability to put together a logical and detailed argument (or summary) and looks at clarity, word choice, and style above all. If you don't feel comfortable writing essays but you think you have excellent grammar and vocabulary and overall are a decent writer, the IELTS will probably be easier for you.

I hope this essay was helpful in making your choice. In any case, I recommend you go to the websites of IELTS and TOEFL and get some more detail on each test, and also try out some practice problems on your own.
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 28 Sep 2010, 19:56
we cannot compare which is easier or better, any test have its own purposes
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 07 Dec 2010, 22:47
I think IELTS is bit easy as compare to TOEFL
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Custom Essay Writing [#permalink] New post 14 Dec 2010, 21:50
Great information you have shared over here. And jas1414 is absolutely right i am agree with him.
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 22 Dec 2010, 09:11
My friend got enough points from IELTS for the university; however, She could not get enough points from Toefl in her 3 attempts
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 23 Jan 2011, 04:22
MMMM interesting topic! As a non native speaker it is also part of my application... even if it is a part where business school are very flexible!

Why?

- 95% of the B-Schools give a conditional offer without TOEFL or IELTS? You just have to send your score before the intake an you are in.

- During an interview, it was in august for a september intake. An admission guy told me that he could see that my english was enough and that I did not need to tale an english tests.

- Specially UK/US universities, sell their product with the english language :-) If you can't get the right score you have to attent a 4-8 weeks of Summer courses to improve anf follow english classes in your topic. You than not need to take any english exams but pay about 8000 -15000$ more! I have seen a lot of people studying LLM (law degrees!!) in LSE without having IELTS nor TOEFL instead they attend 8 weeks of summer classes.

- You can negotiate, by saying you have had a workexperience or an education in english during a couple of years.

- I don't believe a good english can improve your application. It is just a standart, so once you have the level adcom are neutral.

In addition, I believe that basically 7,5/9 IELTS equals +- 100/TOEFL IBT it is what the most neutrals (European non us non uk) universities ask and you can choose wether taking TOEFL or IELTS.

But If you applied in the UK, they ask you to get a 6.5-7.5 IELTS (LSE asks for 6.5 or 7 it depends from the major) or a 108-115 at the TOEFL, which is I believe totally unfair as somebody who score a 115/120 at the TOEFL has a better english than somebody who scored a 7 at the IELTS. I believe it is the way UK universities say "we just want you to take the IELTS" so if you are applying in the UK take the IELTS don't put useless efforts by achivieving a top TOEFL score if IELTS is enough! US universities are more fair bys asking 100/120 or 7.5 at the TOEFL.

Finally, I personally believe IELTS is easier. I scored 91/120 at the TOEFL with an intermediate english B2+. (It was 1,5 years ago before staying 6 month in the UK) In the UK enrolled to an english class and I was C1+. A friend of mine was B2, he has a certain fluency when he spoke, but I could hear at least one rudimentary mistake in one out of his 5 sentences! Guess what? he scored a 7.5... I think he studied well before taking the test, he told me he scored an 8 and the reading and 6.5 in speaking etc But it confirms what a lot of people say IELTS is quite easier... maybe a 7/9 would worth a 100/120... Who knows...
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 08 Feb 2011, 09:28
Thanks alot rid82 for the info,

I was wondering about the two alternatives. As an English major, I personally don't have any problem with IELTS but I think it's far harder than TOEFL, esp speaking, reading and listening and again especially Academic IELTS. longer readings, varied accents in listening and face-to-face speaking make IELTS tougher.

And a question, do top bschools consider any kind of priority between these two? even a nuance in preference?
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 08 Feb 2011, 15:44
saeedt wrote:
And a question, do top bschools consider any kind of priority between these two? even a nuance in preference?


Hi saaedt,

Sincerely I don't know anyone that has taken the IELTS instead of the TOEFL. I suggest you to ask directly to the schools.

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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 30 Apr 2011, 20:54
Hi,

I have taken the IELTS and scored a 7.5.

What I can tell you is that in the UK they clearly prefer the IELTS; asking score of 6.5-7.0 and TOEFL score of 108 etc I can assure you a 6.5 is much easier to get than a 108. (I know by experience)

Other european country they generally ask for IELTS 7.0- 7.5 or TOEFL 100+, with no real preference between the two. For those I recommend you taking the IELTS, as it is in my opinion quite easier. (no multiple choice, you oral test is in front of a human person,etc)

So far, just one business school I was interested in told me they do not recognize the IELTS.


Good luck
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 19 Jul 2011, 08:13
I took both of them for different purposes..IELTS Score: 8 with lower grade being 7 in Writting (they´re are pretty strict when you don´t "respect" the question)..;TOEFL Score (Paper-Based Test): 634..so it´s pretty much the same thing,though TOEFL was easier for me
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 25 Sep 2011, 03:45
i prefer ielts
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 20 Oct 2011, 06:39
Very valuable post! thanks for sharing.
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 08 Nov 2011, 10:38
Based on my own experience I should say that there are certain differences between TOEFL and IELTS.

First of all, TOEFL is well-accepted between the United States universities and colleges for those students who want to continue their studies int he US.

Moreover, TOEFL is more optimized for academical evaluation; it means that a student with a high TOEFL score has the advantage of getting accepted as one with very good knowledge of English so that his/her professors should not be worried about his/her abilities of understanding and expressing in English as a second language.

These two facts are well-known and well-accepted so there is a difference between a student with IELTS or TOEFL degree.

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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 22 Jan 2012, 08:29
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I still haven't decided which one. Probably the cheaper one :)
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 04 Feb 2012, 22:57
same question here. i got ielts but not toefl. should i do both or just ielts is enough? I think there is time bar for ielts, is this true?
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 09 Feb 2012, 00:28
Very good post. I was alwalys confused about which one to take up. Now post might help me decide. Thanks a lot for sharing.
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 09 Feb 2012, 05:55
I always believed IELTS is harder that TOEFL. But it turns out to be, that it's the opposite. Interesting ;) Then I've taken te right decision to sit for the TOEFL (assuming it gives me a better "image")

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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 09 Mar 2012, 08:28
Well My vote is pertain to IELTS (International English language testing service ) The one main reason is that I got a degree of IELTS...:D:D
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 14 May 2012, 22:55
very helpful post
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Re: TOEFL or IELTS [#permalink] New post 19 Aug 2012, 02:13
For people who dont have experience in taking either, and in short of time, I suggest taking the IELTS :)
Re: TOEFL or IELTS   [#permalink] 19 Aug 2012, 02:13
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