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Jul 19 2015

TOEFL or IELTS? You decide!

TOEFL or IELTS? You decide! Part 1 Reading

English Lessons Houston


There are two tests that are accepted in most American colleges and universities that evaluate an student’s proficiency in the English language, the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). These two tests have big differences and it is important to compare the two so that you can make the right decision about which one is right for you. Note: In this comparison, we are looking only at the IELTS Academic Test and not the IELTS General Test. Also, since the most common TOEFL Test is the iBT (internet-based test), we will examine this one.

Both of these tests cover four areas: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Both tests cost between $150 and $200. Over 6,000 educational institutions worldwide accept both of these tests. Be sure to check with the universities and programs you are interested in first to find out for sure and also to see what the minimum score is for acceptance into their academic programs. The IELTS is scored from 0-9 and most universities require at least a 6.5. The TOEFL iBT is scored from 0-120 and most universities require a TOEFL score of about 100. Some universities accept a lower score with an agreement to enroll in their ESL Intensive Courses.

In Part 1, we will examine the differences between the IELTS and the TOEFL Reading sections of the exam.


IELTS Reading Test

The IELTS Reading test is divided into three passages. There are different types of question formats:

  1. Fill-in-the blank with the word or words
  2. Short answer
  3. Multiple choice, choosing from answers A, B, C, or D.
  4. Matching two or more answers from a list
  5. Labelling plans, diagrams or charts with one or more words.
  6. True, False or Not Given

One of the major differences in the IELTS reading test is that the passages are organized from easy to difficult. Passage 1 is the easiest, Passage 2 more difficult and Passage 3 is the most difficult.  The first passage is the shortest, usually about 600-700 words and the third passage is usually more than 1,000 words. The Reading Test contains 40 questions. You have 60 minutes for the IELTS Reading Test.

How is it different from the TOEFL? The IELTS Reading Test tests different types of reading materials. For example, you may be required to read a passage and answer questions, but it’s also possible that you will be asked to study charts for information. There may be very little to read in one passage, but a lot of visual materials that require that you look at everything very carefully. You may be required to draw your own conclusions about the charts you see. Also, the IELTS has a larger variety of questions than the TOEFL.

Recommendation: If you get confused by long, reading passages, the IELTS may offer an easier Reading Test for you than the TOEFL. If you enjoy studying charts and making deductions, there is a good chance that one of the passages on the IELTS will have charts for you to study and answer questions. If you prefer to answer different types of questions, the IELTS offers a greater variety and it is my opinion that the multiple choice questions are easier than those of the TOEFL Reading Test.

TOEFL 3TOEFL Reading Test

The TOEFL Reading Test consists of reading three to five passages. All the questions are worth one point, except the last question is worth more than one point. The Reading Test is divided into three sections. In the Reading Test, you can choose to skip a question and come back to it later, but be sure to answer all of the questions.

There are different types of question formats:

  1.  Multiple choice with one correct answer.
  2. Insert a sentence where it best fits into the passage.  You will have four possible locations to choose from.
  3. Summary questions that contain six answer choices.  You will asked to choose three.  These questions are worth two points.
  4. A “category” chart with five to seven answer choices that fit into two categories.  This question is worth more than one point.

One of the big differences in the TOEFL test is that there is a lot of reading. It is recommended that you read the entire passage before answering the questions, but I know that many students prefer to “speed read” through the passage and go directly to the questions. Sometimes, this can result in a wrong answer, particularly when general or main ideas are being questioned.

How it is different from the IELTS Reading Test? The TOEFL Reading Test takes from 60-100 minutes and there are three timed sections. The IELTS has three reading passages but you have 60 minutes to complete all three sections. Both tests have about 40 questions. If you are a very good reader and enjoy studying reading passages very carefully for vocabulary, context, main idea and inference, you may prefer the TOEFL Reading Test.

Conclusion: Students have told me that the TOEFL Reading Test is very difficult and that they prefer the IELTS Reading Test which a greater variety of test and question formats. They have said that the time allowed in the TOEFL is not enough to study and answer all of the questions correctly.

Worldwide English teaches private lessons to expats and their spouses in their home or office in the Houston, Texas area. We can help you to prepare for the IELTS or TOEFL exams.

For more information visit http://www.englishlessons-houston.com or write to julie@englishlessons-houston.com 

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