TOEFL or IELTS? Which one should I take?
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Most colleges in the United States accept both TOEFL and IELTS, but there are some colleges only recognize TOEFL as a measure of English proficiency.

Most international students will be required to take an English Proficiency Test when they apply colleges in the United States. If you have not attended schools at the secondary level or above where English is the principal language of instruction for at least three years full-time, you may also need to take an English Proficiency Test to prove your English skill. There are two standard English Proficiency Tests, TOEFL and IELTS. Which one should you take? What is the difference? Maybe one is easier than the other?

Let’s take a close look.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination

Total Score: 120
Reading: 60-80 minutes

Students need to read 3 or 4 passages from academic texts and answer 36-56 questions.
Listening: 60-90 minutes
Students will listen to lectures, classroom discussion and conversations, then answer 34-51 questions.
Speaking: 20 minutes
There are 6 tasks in this section.
Students should be able to express an opinion on a familiar topic, and the topic will be based on reading and listening tasks.
Writing: 50 minutes
There are 2 tasks in this section.
Students will write essay response based on reading and listening tasks. Student should be able to support an argument in writing.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination (academic modules)

Total Score: 9.0 Listening: 30 minutes Students will listen to four recorded texts, monologues and conversations and write answers to a series of questions.

Section 1: A conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
Section 2: A monologue set in an everyday social context e.g. a speech about local facilities.
Section 3: A conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.
Section 4: A monologue on an academic subject e.g. a university lecture.

Reading:60 minutes Students will read three long texts, which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical, and answer 40 questions. The texts are authentic and are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. These have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for candidates entering university courses or seeking professional registration.

Writing: 60 Minutes The students will need to write 2 essay responses in this section.
Task 1:Students will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and asked to describe, summarize or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describes an object or event.
Task 2:Students will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Responses to both tasks must be in a formal style.

Speaking: 11-14 Minutes
Part 1: The Examiner will ask students general questions about themselves and a range of familiar topics, such as home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between four and five minutes.
Part 2: Students will be given a card, which asks them to talk about a particular topic. Students will have one minute to prepare before speaking for up to two minutes.
Part 3: Students will be asked further questions connected to the topic in Part 2. These questions will give students the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issue. The part of the test lasts between four and five minutes.

Now, let’s see the TOEFL and IELTS requirements from different colleges.
University of California
• TOEFL : 80 or better (Out of 120)
• IELTS : 7.0 or better (Out Of 9.0)
• Please note: for admission selection, a UC campus may require a score higher than the minimum. For example, the average TOEFL score for UCLA is 110.
• The scores must be received no later than January if you’re applying for the fall term.

Cal States
• TOEFL : 71 or better (Out of 120)
• IELTS : 6.0 or better (Out Of 9.0)
• Again, for admission selection, a CSU campus may require a score higher than the minimum.
• The scores must be received no later than January if you’re applying for the fall term.

Stanford
• Interestingly, TOEFL is not required at Stanford, but it is strongly recommended for non-native speakers of English.
• Also, students may submit their IELTS scores but Stanford does not recognize the IELTS as a measure of English proficiency.
• The scores must be received no later than January if you’re applying for the fall term.

Santa Clara University
• TOEFL : 90 or better (Out of 120)
• IELTS : 6.5 or better (Out Of 9.0)
• Students are exempt from this requirement if you are from a country whose official language is English or if you attended your entire high school career at a school whose instruction is conducted in English.
• Students who do not meet the required language proficiency may apply for conditional admission through EC Language Centers.

Most colleges in the United States accept both TOEFL and IELTS, but there are some colleges only recognize TOEFL as a measure of English proficiency. Students should double check the school requirements before applying and register for TOEFL or IELTS two-to-three months before the test administration date. Students should have their test scores send to the colleges before the college application deadline.

By Qiao-Liu , ThinkTank Learning Admissions Consultant and Academic Counselor