If you plan to apply for a master’s program abroad, you must have come across a language proficiency test. There are already many requirements to meet to apply for higher studies abroad. A language proficiency test can not be neglected. It is one of the utmost requirements. But should you choose IELTS or TOEFL? What difference does it make to your application? Is it possible that your test score may not be eligible even with quality marks?


Established in 1989, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a standardized test designed to measure your English language proficiency. The test is designed for individuals seeking admission in an international English-taught program. IELTS is managed jointly by The British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English. IELTS test scores are accepted in over 11,000 institutes in over 140 countries worldwide.

Starting in 1964, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a standardized test that measures your English language expertise. TOEFL is conducted by Educational Testing Service (ETS). The test is majorly used among non-native speakers who are willing to apply to an English-taught program in abroad institutes. More than 11,000 institutes worldwide in over 190 countries accept TOEFL test scores.

Difference Between IELTS and TOEFL

These two major English language proficiency tests are not better or worse. The primary factors to consider while choosing between IELTS and TOEFL are your preference and compatibility. There are, however, some aspects in which one can grant you more scope per se, and vice versa. Understanding both exams and their use can lead you to a better decision. Keep in mind that both tests are used as an alternative to one another in almost all cases.

IELTS and TOEFL: Exam Pattern

Compared to TOEFL, IELTS has a much broader range of questions. IELTS test format lies with multiple-choice questions, fill the blanks, mix match, etc. You will experience a more subject-oriented approach while attempting for IELTS. Passages, grammar, word meaning, sentence forming, i.e. all necessary details of the English language, are highly focused on the test. Unless you are familiar with these questions, do not choose blindly. Based on your experience, IELTS may not suit regular competitive exam takers. However, if you are comfortable with more academic-based tests, you will find IELTS to be a straightforward approach.

TOEFL is more of a multiple-choice test. The significant amount of questions in most sections will be multiple choice. Apart from that, a few essential elements of the English language, such as word replacement, are integrated within the multiple-choice questions that may confuse you. Keep in mind neither IELTS nor TOEFL contains any trick questions. Therefore if you find any of those, try a different perspective. TOEFL is most suited for students that are familiar with competitive exams. If you have attempted different exams throughout your time, it is recommended to pick TOEFL. However, it may beat you in timing and confusion.

Test Language Approach

The IELTS test follows British English. Most students based in India are more familiar with British English as the country adopts it. This means you will need extra concentration on the language. British English does not simplify the language system and follows a more traditional approach. The good thing is, it is already adopted by the education system in the country, making students more comfortable with air. Therefore, if you are not sure about making a decision, IELTS can be the first choice.

The TOEFL test follows American English. American English is a more relaxed and dilated language. You will find sentences shorter and easy to grasp. There may be moments when a correct sentence seems missing bits of the language. American English does not load extreme grammar and technical aspects. So, if you are a Hollywood movie fan and see regular shows and stuff, TOEFL can be a better choice. In simpler words, TOEFL is more straightforward while IELTS is more standard.

Institute Preference

All significant institutes across the world accept both IELTS and TOEFL test scores. You can find it mentioned on the program page/brochure. However, it does not always guarantee that you can proceed with any language proficiency test. Even with both test scores being acceptable, institutes have preferences. You will find both exams mentioned as a priority and others as an alternative in different institutes’ descriptions. You can indeed carry out with any one of those; however, try to go with the mentioned one. TOEFL is more acceptable in USA-based institutes, while IELTS is more common in European institutes.

Test Exam Time

As a student, you know what time signifies for an exam. It’s not just a matter of longer duration, as some students prefer a longer exam time. Standardized tests like IELTS and TOEFL are not to take lightly. An exam strategy is necessary to carry out your planned structure. Different sections of IELTS and TOEFL contain different difficult levels and should handle differently. If you divide your time equally to each section, you may lose valuable time. For example, IELTS is a 2 hour 45 minutes test exam, while TOEFL takes around 4 hours. As per exam time, you can manage your preparation and focus on different ailments of the exam.

Internet Based Test (iBT)

Internet-based tests are more common nowadays. In the current dynamic economy, online media is much more spread and helpful in almost every sector. iBT is the latest assessment of TOEFL. Institutes worldwide prefer TOEFL iBT over the offline method conducted in test centers. On the other hand, IELTS has not developed much in this case. IELTS test scores are not subject to preference, whether online or offline. It is only a matter of institute preference and your comfort. Some students might not want to visit a location to attempt an exam, while others prefer a more tangible approach. However, it is safe to state that it will soon take over.


You get multiple chances to attempt both IELTS and TOEFL. However, records show not much difference in test scores for an individual student. Analyze your preferences and comfort and choose logically. These tests are also use in the immigration process given countries and conditions. It is always better to attempt a language proficiency test.

Author Bio: Abhyank Srinet is a passionate digital entrepreneur who holds a Masters in Management degree from ESCP Europe. He started his first company while he was still studying at ESCP, and managed to scale it up by 400% in just 2 years. 

Being a B-School Alumni, he recognized the need for a one-stop solution for B-School to get in touch with schools and get their application queries resolved. This prompted him to create Mentr Me, a one-of-a-kind portal with cutting-edge profile evaluation and school selection algorithms, along with several avenues to stay informed about the latest B-School Updates.