Choosing between the TOEFL and IELTS exams has become a dilemma for many international students wanting to pursue higher education in Canada. The truth is that both exams test the English proficiency of non-native speakers, but they are not equal in measurement and delivery. The question most students ask is, TOEFL vs. IELTS, which exam is more widely accepted in Canadian universities and colleges?
Generally, most Canadian universities prefer IELTS as proof of English language proficiency. However, IELTS and TOEFL are commonly accepted in all Canadian universities. If you are considering studying or moving to Canada, I recommend taking the IELTS as it is better for both academic purposes and general immigration to Canada. You can’t use TOEFL for immigration purposes only if you are planning to apply to study in Canada.
Read on to explore the differences between TOEFL and IELTS and help you make an informed decision. You might also enjoy reading: 13 Biggest Benefits of Learning English as a Second Language (Based on Science)
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What is TOEFL?
The TOEFL (AKA Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam is taken in two ways: iBT, an internet-based Exam, and a Paper-based exam, where the internet is unavailable.
TOEFL is considered to be the most recognized English proficiency test in the world, as over 11,000 universities in more than 150 countries accept TOEFL scores (Source: Columbia University)
About 90% of US universities accept TOEFL.
If you plan to live or study in the U.S.A, I recommend taking TOEFL since it is a US-based test and will familiarize you with American grammar.
What is IELTS?
IELTS (AKA International English Language Testing System) is a UK-based English proficiency test globally recognized by more than 11,000 employers, universities, schools, and immigration entities, including over 3,400 institutions in the United States.
Contrary to TOEFL, IELTS uses British English grammar. I recommend you choose IELTS if you plan to study in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.
Differences Between TOEFL and IELTS
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) both assess a student’s English skills in the areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. However, these exams differ in their delivery and structure.
Below are the key differences between TOEFL and IELTS:
- The TOEFL exam is computer-based, and your answers will be scored automatically. On the other hand, IELTS is a paper-based exam, and your answers will be scored by examiners.
- TOEFL also has a scoring system of 120, while IELTS scores on a scale of 1 to 9. In Canada, both exams are accepted by universities and colleges, and the choice of the test usually depends on the preference of the institution.
- TOEFL is considered more prevalent than IELTS in North America. It is widely accepted by universities and colleges in Canada, the USA, and other countries globally. If you are interested in studying in an English-speaking country, TOEFL is an excellent choice as it is recognized worldwide. The exam also has a higher assessment rate for speaking and writing, making it an ideal choice for students who want to improve their English writing and communication skills. The exam also assesses academic language proficiency, ideal for students who want to pursue undergraduate or graduate studies.
- On the other hand, IELTS is considered more holistic than TOEFL. The IELTS exam assesses a student’s ability to communicate in everyday English, making it an excellent choice for individuals looking to work or immigrate to Canada. The exam also evaluates the ability of the applicant to communicate in a broader range of accents and dialects, similar to real-life communication. IELTS is ideal for students who need to take the exam for immigration purposes.
- Aside from their exams’ structure, the cost of both exams may also be a factor that students consider. TOEFL costs between US$100 and $120, while IELTS ranges from USD 215 to USD 310; keep in mind that fees may differ depending on the testing center and location.
- Both IELTS and TOEFL scores are valid for two years.
- When it comes to difficulty level, the TOEFL exam is generally considered easier than the IELTS test as it measures academic English. The TOEFL exam is a multiple-choice test focusing more on grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. On the other hand, IELTS measures your ability to use English in everyday communication, and it includes various question types such as fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice, and essays.
The table below summarizes the differences between TOEFL and IELTS.
The table is a snapshot of the key differences between TOEFL and IELTS:
|Key characteristics||IELTS||TOEFL iBT|
|Test type||– Paper-based|
|Result expected time||– Paper-based: 13 days|
– Computer-based: 5-7 days
|– Computer-based: 10 days|
|Commonly accepted in||– Australia|
– New Zealand
|– North America|
– And worldwide
|Frequency||– Paper-based: weekly|
– Computer-based: daily
|Validity||– 2 years||– 2 years|
|Testing fee||– Between USD $215 and $310||– Between USD $180 and $325|
|Test format and duration||– Total time: 3 hours|
– Listening: 60 min
– Speaking: 16 min
– Reading: 40 min
– Writing: 60 min
|– Total time: 3.5 hours|
– Reading: 60 min
– Listening: 60 min
– Writing: 50 min
– Speaking: 20 min
– Extra: 30 min
TOEFL vs. IELTS, Which one is right for you?
Most students prefer the IELTS exam for the following reasons:
- Speaking test: Most people prefer to speak with a human instead of a computer.
- Listening test: With the IELTS exam, you will be given the question in advance to follow the conversation along. In TOEFL, you will be given the questions after hearing the recording, so you must remember the entire conversation.
- Reading test: The TOEFL material topics typically include challenging topics, such as economy, history, and biology.
- Writing test: Most test takers prefer a computer-based test to a paper-based IELTS test because they quickly edit their writing.
So, which one is the better choice for you? If you are more comfortable taking an exam on the computer and you’re confident with your grammar and comprehension abilities, then TOEFL could be the better option for you. If you want to use English for daily communication and are comfortable with paper-based tests, then IELTS could be the better choice.
For Canada, IELTS is better as it is recognized by Canadian universities, colleges, and immigration as proof of English proficiency.
Remember that there is no passing score for either exam. Each university or college may have its own set of requirements, so make sure to check with your prospective institution for their preferred test.
What to read next:
- What is ESL? A guide to understanding English as a Second Language!
- 7 Best Countries for Teachers to Live and Work In.
- 11 Best FREE Apps to Learn English Vocabulary.
- 14 Ways to Drastically Improve and Expand Your Vocabulary.
- Is Being an ESL Teacher a Good Career?
In conclusion, both TOEFL and IELTS are essential for international students seeking higher education in Canada. The exam preference usually depends on the university or college you are applying for and your goals.
TOEFL is better for academic studies, while IELTS is ideal for individuals intending to immigrate to Canada or work in the country.
Before choosing an exam, I encourage you to check with the institution you want to apply to.