TOEFL vs IELTS

TOEFL vs IELTS logo

Note: this post is about English test, so I appropriately wrote in English.

One important requirement in most scholarship applications is a valid and recent English test score. TOEFL and IELTS are two competing English test brands. Most scholarship provider will gladly accept any one result of the two. I will tell you how these two English tests compared to each other, boxing match style. Without further ado, on the red corner, we have TOEFL, a name that comes to mind when people in Indonesia speaks about English tests. Now on the blue corner, we have IELTS, an alternative English test that is also quite known especially for Indonesians who want to continue their study in Australia.

Round 0: Get the Official International Version

Before we begin, I must stress that for your scholarship applications always get the official international version of the English test. Do *not* get the institutional, mock-up, trial, prediction or anything else other than the internationally accepted English tests. If you don’t use the international versions, your chance of being awarded the scholarship will be next to zero. Get the international version of the tests from official test centres listed below.

Round 1: Test Format

Keyboard vs pen and paper

In Indonesia, there is no Paper-based TOEFL or Computer-based TOEFL anymore. ETS only offers Internet-based TOEFL (iBT) on its official test centres. What does this mean? If you want to take TOEFL you’ll have to be accustomed to doing the test using a computer over the internet. The speaking section is done with you answering questions into a microphone. The recorded answers will be marked by up to 6 individual raters. You will also have to complete the writing section by typing your answers with a keyboard. IELTS still adopts the old-fashioned paper-and-pencil format. The test takers will have to use a pencil (or two, or a pen for that matter) to write the answers on an answering sheet. The speaking section is conducted by answering an actual interviewer face-to-face, while still being recorded.

Round 2: Fees

Straight to the point, in 2010, iBT TOEFL costs USD150 and IELTS costs USD180 USD195 (as of September 2010).

Round 3: Test Centres

You should choose the English test with test centres most convenient to you.
TOEFL is offered in various centres in Bandung, Batam, Denpasar, Jakarta, Malang, Medan, Pekanbaru, Salatiga, Samarinda, Semarang, Surabaya, Yogyakarta.
IELTS is offered in Bali, Balikpapan, Bandung, Batam, Surabaya, Jakarta, Makassar, Malang, Manado, Semarang, Solo, Medan, Yogyakarta.

Round 4: Scoring System

iBT TOEFL has a band score from 0 to 120, with total scores around 89 considered minimum for a scholarship application. IELTS has a slightly simpler scoring system ranging from 0 to 9, with average score of 6.5 as a minimum for a scholarship application.

The Winner

Champions CupIf I were the judge of this match, I would declare IELTS as the winner of this match. Even though it is more expensive, the old fashioned paper-and-pencil format is more suitable for me. I also prefer doing the speaking section face-to-face with an actual living person. I also think that IELTS’ simpler scoring system may benefit test takers since the average score is rounded to the nearest 0.5 increment. TOEFL proponents will say that its speaking section is more objective (being graded by 3-6 independent raters) and it is more commonly accepted worldwide (which is technically not true since IELTS is also widely accepted). But I can’t decide for you. You should choose the most suitable test for yourself. I would say one thing though, be committed and put your efforts to be successful in any English test you take.

You can also read more information on TOEFL and IELTS (in Bahasa Indonesia). Any questions? Write your comments below.

Comments

  1. Galih says:

    Same here, I favor IELTS as well. Especially the face-to-face speaking test, for the reason that I need to see the expression and the mouth of any person I’m speaking to. If not, I cannot really catch what they’re actually saying and it usually leads to misinterpretation.

  2. Riza says:

    as for me, i don’t want such thing as face-to-face speaking test, it only made me feel uncomfortable.. i prefer talking to machine, as they won’t show any weird face when I’m making any mistakes in my pronunciation ..
    and it’s cheaper as well.. USD 30 difference is quite a sum for me..ahahaha..
    but may i ask something.. for IBT toefl to be accepted by university, they had to be sent directly by ETS, which cost roughly USD 17 per document.. does IELTS do the same, in a manner they had to be sent directly from IELTS, and charge you more for their service ?

    • raizamn says:

      As I’ve written in the article, I can’t decide for you. IELTS is just my preference.
      You could find more information on IELTS test result on the FAQ section of its website. A quick glance brought me to this page:
      http://ielts.org/test_takers_information/faqs/test_results.aspx

      Test Report Forms are valid for two years. Copies cannot be sent to candidates but IELTS will forward a Test Report Form to your relevant institution or embassy. Up to five copies will be sent free of charge. Additional copies will incur a small administration charge. Talk to your test centre for further details.

      In my experience, I sent a legalised copy (legalised by the test centre, paid around IDR10000 each). But that’s more than three years ago.

      • Riza Y says:

        yep.. as a matter of fact, i had taken the TOEFL IBT last July, and the result is enough to apply for EM. so i don’t need to take either the toefl or ielts again. I’m just asking out of curiosity.
        but still, it seems that ielts may be the better choice as it is need only a legalized copy, and only RP 10000,-. it’s so cheaaaap :)
        oh, and one more thing..
        from what i’ve known, another difference between ielts and toefl, is in their speaking test. the IELTS had more time preparing, hence their speaking period is also longer.

        • raizamn says:

          Regarding the speaking section of the tests, I think IELTS’ is shorter at 11-14 minutes as opposed to TOEFL’s at 20 minutes. It’s not much of a difference though.

          I’m not sure what you mean by “IELTS had more time preparing”. An IELTS speaking examiner may handle more than one test takers on a particular test date. That’s why (some) IELTS takers may have significant break time between the listening/reading/writing sections and the speaking section.

        • Marsellina says:

          Is that true IELTS test takers only need to pay IDR 10000 to get a legalized copy to send an additional IELTS score report? I heard additional score reports are free, but we need to pay DHL because the test center will send our test scores directly to the institutions.

          • raizamn says:

            Hi Marsellina, I’m not sure about this. You can of course find out yourself at your nearest IELTS test centre :)
            In my case, back in 2007, we only needed to pay some small amount of fee (I can’t even remember how much) to have our copies stamped/legalised. Then we can send the copies ourselves.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think you miss the most important part of comparision. Delivering the paper scores is also extremly important, because without proof of your score how good you did on the test is meaningless. Let me tell you my awful TOEFL IBT experience.

    I took the TOEFL test on July 23, 2010. Today, it is August 28, 2010 and I still didn’t receive my paper score. Normally, the scores arrive in 28 days, so probably my score is lost. The reason is TOEFL sends the paper scores via insecure mailing service instead of a registered mail (which proof of delivery is mailed to the sender). Although, the scores are very important, the customer service doesn’t assist you effectively. if you try to tell your problem to the customer service via e-mail, they answer you with almost automated responses without taking your e-mails into consideration and replying your e-mail can take 3-4 business days. They charge you 17$ to send the scores again. Even though you indicate that the situation is urgent, they say “it takes 7 business days to mail the scores”. Moreover, they say “delivery can take up to 4 weeks for international mail delivery”. I need the TOEFL test for student visa application and now, I may miss it and this will cause me to lose my chance to pursue my education in a very reputable university in UK. I regret not to take IELTS instead of TOEFL IBT.

    • raizamn says:

      Wow, that’s an awful experience. Where did you take the TOEFL iBT?

      When I took the IELTS test, I collected the test results from the test centre I sat the exam in. I think I did that because the place is very close to where I worked. I guess another benefit of IELTS is the decentralisation of application process. You can apply through your local test centre, pay in the nearest appointed bank, and then sit the exam. If there’s any problem, you can deal with you local test centre. Whilst for TOEFL, test takers should apply online (very centralised) providing a credit card. Payment in local currency can only be done in Jakarta (in Indonesia’s case), I’m not sure if vouchers can still be bought elsewhere.

      Another comment also pointed out that there is a confusion on where exactly (official/international) TOEFL test centres are located. Details of IELTS test centres (addresses, phone numbers, etc) can easily be found through IELTS website, whilst details of TOEFL test centres can only be found after registering on TOEFL website.

      Do you think this should warrant for another post?

      • TOEFLvictim says:

        I took the TOEFL test in Istanbul/Turkey. It is located in Europe. After, I asked them to send the test faster. Beside taking no action, they extend the delivery of time from 4 weeks to 6 weeks for international mail delivery. They have a terrible customer service, they are kidding with customers. I will sue them. And you are right I learnt that IELTS has a office in Turkey where we can conduct for these problems.

  4. dimana alamat toefl test centre di yogya? bagaimana cara kita mendapatkan beasiswa test toefl(kita bisa apply kemana)?terimakasih

  5. I think TOEFL is easier than IELTS, here are some strategies to pass TOEFL easily http://i-courses.org/?p=ttstrategies

  6. Riza says:

    Now, I will state the latest fact of what happened to me.
    I have ordered additional TOEFL score report on 5 November to be sent to KTH in Sweden. I applying for an Erasmus Mundus Program, and the deadline is 10 December.
    I also sent my other documents through EMS (posindonesia), on 15 November.
    And hear this, my documents which was sent through Post Indonesia arrived on 22 November. I am glad that Pos Indonesia, which actually has bad reputation, can deliver document fast enough.
    On the other hand, the TOEFL score report actually arrived at Sweden on 13 December. and it was way past deadlines. Now i don’t know whether my application will still be evaluated or not.

    How could an international company such as ETS lose in term of service with an Indonesian Post company ? what a joke.
    and what’s with the 2-weeks-work-days-delivery statement ? the statement should be like a month-work-days delivery, or we don’t accept delivery, or we are the slowest of all..it fits them right.

    I deeply regre that i’ve taken The TOEFL test. all of you should just choose IELTS