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IELTS      TOEFL      Comparison


Recommended Online Resources:
  • IELTS Band Score Calculator
    This calculator can generate an overall IELTS band score by entering the score for each section of the IELTS.
  • Information for Candidates
    This official guide from ielts.org provides general information, such as preparation, format, and components, about the IELTS.
  • Net Languages
    This is an online platform for CUHK students to prepare and practice for the IELTS.
  • Road to IELTS V2 (Usage Notes)
    With over 100 hours of interactive activities, advice videos from British Council experts, hints and tips on question types as well as downloadable practice tests, Road to IELTS is comprehensive, up-to-date and aimed precisely at the challenges candidates face.
Recommended Print Resources:
  • How to Comment on Graphs and Tables
    Gilhooly, V. (2008). "Charts, Graphs and Diagrams," Learnwell Oy English Materials.
  • Cambridge University Press. (2011). Cambridge IELTS 8: Examination papers from University of Cambridge ESOL examinations. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. (PE1128.C3567 2011)
  • Jakeman, V., & McDowell, C. (2006). Action plan for IELTS. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.  (PE1128 .J334 2006)
Other Resources:


Recommended Online Resources:
  • TOEFL iBT Test
    This official website provides general information about the TOEFL iBT test.
  • Sample TOEFL tests
    This website provides a list of links to sample TOEFL tests.
Recommended Print Resources:
  • Educational Testing Service. (2009). The official guide to the TOEFL test. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. (PE1128 .O442 2009)
  • Sharpe, P. J. (2006). Barron's how to prepare for the TOEFL iBT: Test of English as a foreign language internet-based test. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's.  (PE1128 .S545 2006)
Other Resources:


IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, and TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language.  Both are well recognised standardised tests that provide an indication of your level of English proficiency.  Both of them are commonly used by many universities worldwide where English is the medium of instruction as part of the admission requirements for undergraduate and postgraduate studies.  There are 4 sections in both the IELTS and TOEFL tests:  Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.


Major Differences

The Listening Section
  • In the IELTS, you are required to respond to questions through various question types within 30 minutes while listening to the excerpts. In the TOEFL, you will have approximately 40 to 60 minutes to listen to the recordings while taking notes before responding to a set of questions.
The Writing Section
  • Responses need to be hand written for the IELTS and typed for the TOEFL.  You are required to complete two writing tasks within 60 minutes for the IELTS (150 words and 250 words) and 50 minutes for the TOEFL (150—225 words and 300 words).
The Speaking Section
  • For the IELTS, you will be recorded while being interviewed by an examiner.  For the TOEFL, you will need to record your responses without the presence of an examiner.
The Accents, Spelling, and Idiomatic Expressions and Variations
  • Since the IELTS is jointly administered by the British Council, University of Cambridge ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Examinations, and IDP (International Development Program): IELTS Australia, the test is conducted using British English.  The TOEFL, on the other hand, is administered by the Educational Testing Service, and it is conducted using American English.
The Length
  • The IELTS lasts for approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, and the TOEFL lasts for approximately 4 hours.
The Grading
  • The IELTS separates its assessment into different categories for the writing and speaking sections.  In the writing section, the IELTS evaluates the following:  Task Achievement, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource (use of vocabulary), and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.  In the speaking section, the IELTS assesses the following:  Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource (use of vocabulary), Grammatical Range and Accuracy, and Pronunciation.

    The TOEFL scores for the writing and speaking sections are based on the overall quality of the responses in each section in terms of the use of vocabulary, style, and grammar, and the expression of logic.

    The IELTS uses scoring bands from 0 to 9 and the TOEFL uses scores from 0 to 120.  The scores can be compared using the following tool:  http://www.ets.org/toefl/institutions/scores/compare


Making the Right Choice

For concrete learners who are more comfortable with memory recall and responding to different question types, the IELTS might be more suitable; however, for abstract learners who are more accustomed to entirely multiple choice questions, the TOEFL might be more suitable.  Also, if you are not confident in spelling, the TOEFL may be a better choice because spelling mistakes are penalised in the IELTS.  The decision to take either test, mainly depends on the institution that you will be applying to because each institution has its own admission and English language requirements and policies.  Generally speaking, institutions from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom prefer the IELTS while institutions from the United States and Japan prefer the TOEFL.  You should be aware, however, that many institutions now accept both types of test.


Attending ILC Workshops

The Independent Learning Centre offers several IELTS and TOEFL workshops throughout the academic year, including the summer semester.  During the workshops, specific strategies to tackle certain question types will be discussed and practice sessions will be provided.

Studying Suggested Online and Print Resources

Please refer to the ILC's IELTS and TOEFL sections for online and print resources.

Need Further Assistance?

Students who need further assistance can make an appointment for individual consultation sessions to meet with our ILC teaching staff.  Please call our general office and make an appointment at 3943 8733.


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