The IELTS vs TOEFL dilemma

For Geology students, the Earth is their classroom and rightly so. It isn’t surprising when these students choose to travel all across the globe to further their education or careers. There’s truly no stopping them, save for the IELTS vs TOEFL puzzle that can put the best of us in a fix.
Having done my research thoroughly and wholeheartedly, let me share my finds with you without further ado.

What are the IELTS and TOEFL tests?

The IELTS and TOEFL are standardized tests to check an individual’s proficiency in the English language. You may take either of them if you are interested in going to an English speaking country for studies, work, immigration or simply put, if you wish to check your progress in learning  English.
You will need to take ONE of these tests. They are both conducted by different organizations and differ in terms of test structure and delivery.
You will need to choose which one you want to appear for, based on the eligibility criteria stipulated by your foreign college,university or company.

Who can take these tests?

Just about anyone!
Students or Professionals who hail from countries that do not have English as their first language are required to take either of these tests to fulfill one of many eligibility requirements.

India is the second largest English speaking country in the world. Why is it necessary to take one of these tests?

True, but our native language varies regionally. This makes learning English as a second language very challenging. We therefore need to prove our English skills to demonstrate that we will be able to survive in an English speaking environment.

What if one were educated in an English medium school throughout?

Unfortunately, if you have studied in an Indian school,college or university  whose medium of instruction was English, you would still have to appear for either of these tests in order to apply for higher education or employment in a Native English speaking country.

Some universities accept Grade XII scores in English from students who studied in schools affiliated to ISC,AISSCE or IB boards but this is rare.

What are my test taking options when it comes to IELTS and TOEFL?

IELTS Academic and IELTS General

The IELTS Academic is for students who wish to apply for admission in institutions of higher education i.e. colleges or universities.

The IELTS General is compulsory for people who are looking to migrate to the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand or Canada. However, if you are seeking admission in schools, looking for work experience or training in your field in an English speaking country, this is the test you will be require to take.


The TOEFL iBT  is conducted online in its entirety.

The TOEFL PBT is a paper-delivered test. This test type is only offered in select locations where the TOEFL iBT cannot be organised due to the lack of an internet connection. It is not offered anywhere in India so we shall not talk more about it.

How do these tests differ in structure? 

The IELTS assessment has four sections; Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. You will be asked to sit at a desk and chair in a spacious hall with other test-takers just as traditional examinations are conducted. The Listening,Reading and Writing components of the test are conducted in one sitting and take a total of 2 hours 45 minutes to complete. There shall be no breaks in between.

The Speaking section is a face-to-face interview and can be held on the same day or on a  different day altogether . Your test centre shall inform you when to come as your Speaking test could take place either in the week before or after completion of your other tests.

The IELTS Academic and IELTS General tests differ greatly from one another too! I shall discuss the differences in detail in a later post.

Your TOEFL test will have four sections;  Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing and these shall be conducted on a computer with a QWERTY keyboard in the said order. There shall be a 10 minute break after the Listening test. The test duration is 4 hours and 30 minutes approximately.

Who conducts these tests?

The IELTS assessment is organised by the British Council and IDP Australia. You may  register for your test with either of these organizations through their website. Be assured that the test structure does not change irrespective of what organization you choose to register with.

The TOEFL is administered by  ETS or Educational Testing Service which is based in California. 

How much is test registration going to cost?

Currently, the cost of registration for both the IELTS and TOEFL are as follows:

IELTS Academic/ General-  ₹ 11,300 until 31st March,2017 and ₹ 11,800 INR from 1st April,2017 , organised either by the British Council or IDP Australia. 

TOEFL iBT- 170 $ , organised by ETS. The fee can only be paid in U.S dollars. 

Can I take these tests in my Indian city?


The multiple IELTS test locations in India are split between its organisers; the British Council and IDP Australia.
For instance, the IELTS test in Ahmedabad, is conducted by the British Council but if you wish to take it in Vadodara, it will be organised by IDP Australia. Please check the official IELTS website to see which of these organizers offer the test in your city. 

The TOEFL is organised almost 50 times throughout the course of one year in several Indian cities. Please check the official ETS website for more information.

How are these tests scored? Can we pass or fail these tests?

No, as a matter of fact, you cannot pass or fail these tests. Though, they are scored differently. Your scores indicate your level of understanding of the English language. You need to check with your foreign institute of learning or company to see what minimum scores they accept.

The IELTS is scored in bands. Each section in the IELTS test is scored between 0 to 9 bands. You can also receive a .5 band. Your total band score is your average of the four band scores you received in the individual (listening, reading, writing & speaking) sections.

Say, Veronica receives a total band score of 8.5 and Gregory receives a 5.0. It is implied that Veronica has a fully operational command of the English language and seldom makes errors, whereas Gregory has a partial command of the language and can only make basic conversation.

The TOEFL test has a total score of 120. Each of the four sections (listening, reading, speaking& writing) is scored on a scale of 0 to 30.  

Do these test scores expire? 

Yes. Both your IELTS and TOEFL test scores will expire 2 years from your test date. After score expiration, you will need to re-take the test of your choice in order to prove your English proficiency.

Can one have multiple attempts at these tests?

Yes, there is no limit on test taking attempts for an individual.

You can resit for the IELTS test as soon as you feel prepared enough to take it.

If you’re considering resitting for the TOEFL test, you can only register ONCE in a 12-day period.

The author has taken the IELTS Academic test offered by the British Council in 2013 and 2015 and has scored an overall band score of 8.5 and 8.0 respectively.

Have further questions? Feel free to ask in the comment section below!

Important links:

The official ETS website for TOEFL:

The official IELTS website:



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