8 Most Asked Questions About the IELTS Exam

Students always ask me what some of the differences are between the IELTS and TOEFL exams, and which test they should take. I can’t answer that question for them, I can only explain some of the differences between the two tests and what to expect in each. TOEFL’s structure and language is more academically focused, while the IELTS has a more real-world communication feel. However, this doesn’t mean the IELTS is easier; it is still a challenging exam, just not as academic as the TOEFL. One thing that students seem to believe is that IELTS is not accepted in American universities, but the majority of universities in the US do accept IELTS.  If you need a work permit or want to live in another country the IELTS General test is the only test that is accepted. The questions below are the questions I get asked the most. 

Is IELTS accepted at American Universities or only TOEFL?

A lot of people think TOEFL is the only exam that Universities accept, but IELTS is accepted in over 3,000 academic institutions in the USA. 

Why does IELTS have two test formats?

IELTS offers two different test formats – Academic and General. The IELTS Academic test is for people applying for University and the IELTS General test is for those who are going to English speaking countries for work experience or training programs. It is also a requirement for migration to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

What scores do I need on the general or academic test?

That depends on the requirements of the country, company or university you are applying to. Universities typically require a score of at least 6.5.

What is the test format and how long is the test?

The IELTS test has four sections: listening (30 minutes), reading (60 minutes), writing (60 minutes) and speaking (15 minutes). The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The first three parts of the test are on the same day, in the following order: listening, reading and writing. Your speaking test will be held either on the same day or one week before or one week after the written test. 

What is the difference between the Academic and the General test?

The listening and speaking are the same for both tests, but the reading and writing section of the Academic test uses academic language and assesses whether you are ready to begin studying. 

Is the IELTS test in British English?

IELTS Listening has speakers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and North America. Although these countries have a wide variety of accents, IELTS Listening only focuses on the “neutral” or “standard” accents of native English, so the accents should not be too difficult for students to understand.

Is IELTS easier than TOEFL?

That depends on you! The IELTS listening test is 30 minutes long whereas the TOEFL is 60 minutes long, which can cause some students to lose concentration and miss some questions. The TOEFL test is all done on the computer and IELTS is not, so you have to be sure you write neatly and clearly when writing the essays. All the TOEFL questions are multiple choice, but the IELTS has a range of question types which test a number of different skills.  The biggest difference between the two tests is the speaking section. In TOEFL you speak to a computer, which students may find very unnatural, but during the IELTS exam you speak to a real person, which makes it feel more like a real conversation. 

Which test, IELTS or TOEFL is right for me?

To summarize: if you prefer multiple choice questions, feel more comfortable writing on a keyboard, and find the American accent easier to understand, the TOEFL may be better for you. If you enjoy writing with a pen, feel more comfortable talking to a person rather than a microphone, prefer a variety of different question types, and like a shorter test length with both academic and general English then the IELTS is better for you.

Ellen Kemp is the both the Director of Studies and official IELTS Specialist at Manhattan Language. Ellen has been successfully preparing students for the IELTS exam for the last six years. 

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