Last Updated: June 30, 2021

TOEFL v/s IELTS Score Comparison

TOEFL iBT and IELTS are two language proficiency tests taken by non-native speakers of English for academic and immigration purposes. Though there are other language proficiency tests available, TOEFL iBT and IELTS are the most common tests taken worldwide with over 4500 locations for the former and 900 locations for the latter. While the average cost and time duration for the exam is similar for both these tests, the scoring system is extremely different for them.

Candidates who have taken the test will often have to convert the scores between the two examinations during their application process for colleges and even employment opportunities depending upon which exam is accepted in different institutions. The TOEFL iBT test is calculated within a score range of 0-120 whereas the IELTS examination is scored in the form of bands from 1-9. The conversion process, though tedious, often enables candidates to understand where they stand with respect to the other examination and lets them apply to institutions accordingly.

TOEFL iBT and IELTS

Similarities-

TOEFL iBT and IELTS are tests that have similarities that go beyond them both being language proficiency tests.

Purpose: Both these examinations are used for both enrolling into institutions and for clearing immigration processes while moving to English-speaking countries.

Format: The test sections in both these examinations are Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening.

Differences-

Since both the TOEFL iBT test and IELTS are language proficiency tests, choosing between them depends on different factors that are subjective in nature.

Test centers: The TOEFL examination has the maximum number of centers around the world and is easily one of the most popular examinations in the US. But at the same time, when it comes to countries like Canada, New Zealand, Europe, and the like, IELTS is considered to be more popular than TOEFL.

Take at home version: The TOEFL iBT also offers a TOEFL iBT Home edition, which unlike the TOEFL iBT examination, is the home edition of the test that enables students to attempt the examination within the safety of their homes. It is an option provided by ETS in place of the in-person TOEFL iBT test where candidates can register for, take the examination, and procure the results without having to travel for the same. The take-home edition is currently available everywhere the TOEFL testing is provided, except in Mainland China and Iran. Though IELTS offers an online edition of their test called the IELTS Indicator, it is not accepted in universities and acts only as an indicator for the kind of result the candidate might get in the in-person IELTS. The score candidates receive in this test will not be interchangeable or used instead of the score candidates get after taking the in-person IELTS test.

Scoring: The score range in TOEFL is 0-120 whereas the score range in IELTS is from 1-9.

Scoring in TOEFL iBT

TOEFL iBT scores are calculated as the sum of the individual scores attained in each section of the test. Each section is provided a score within the score range of 0-30 providing the total score with a score range of 0-120. But this score range is generally divided into different proficiency levels which can be analyzed by the admission officers in colleges in order to understand where the candidate stands in their proficiency for the English language.

The proficiency levels for understanding the skill of the student in the Reading and the Listening sections of the test are similar though the score calculation differs for both. This is as follows-
Proficiency LevelReading Score Listening Score
Advanced24-3022-30
High-Intermediate18-2317-21
Low-Intermediate4-179-16
Below Low-Intermediate0-30-3

The proficiency levels used to calculate the scores for the Speaking and Writing section are also similar though they use different score ranges to depict the said proficiency levels. This difference in score ranges used for calculation are as follows-
Proficiency LevelSpeaking ScoreWriting Score
Advanced25-3024-30
High-Intermediate20-2417-23
Low-Intermediate16-1913-16
Basic10-157-12
Below Basic0-90-6

Scoring in IELTS

Scoring in IELTS is calculated as band scores which range between 1 and 9 where each band score depicts a certain level of language proficiency. Each of the four sections in IELTS is provided with a score and then these individual scores are averaged and rounded into the overall IELTS band score which is provided on the score report. This is unlike the scoring in TOEFL iBT where the individual scores are added to obtain the final score.

The highest band score of 9 implies that the candidate is an expert user of the English language whereas the lowest score of 1 depicts that the candidate has not answered all of the questions in the test or has not attended the test at all. The score that the candidate receives is always averaged to the nearest half-point for this examination.

Total Score Comparison of TOEFL iBT and IELTS Band Score

Since the TOEFL iBT examination is calculated using a score range between 0-120 and the IELTS is scored between 1-9, the comparison between the two total scores can seem tricky for candidates who require the conversion for their application processes to institutions. The conversion done for both the examinations are an estimate obtained from the research conducted by the ETS. This is not an accurate form of conversion since the test content and format associated with both the examinations are different despite them having the same test sections. The total score conversion chart provided by the ETS for both the TOEFL iBT and IELTS is as follows-
TOEFL iBT Total ScoreIELTS Band Score
0-310-4
32-344.5
35-455
46-595.5
60-786
79-936.5
94-1017
102-1097.5
110-1148
115-1178.5
118-1209

Section-Wise Score Comparison of TOEFL iBT and IELTS

While most institutions require candidates to only convert their overall score for TOEFL or IELTS into the other, some might require candidates to convert their sectional scores for the sections that are deemed important for the course they have applied to. The sectional scores for each of the sections in both examinations remain different due to the nature of scoring in each section.

Scores in Reading

The score comparison for the section of Reading in both the TOEFL iBT and IELTS are as follows-
TOEFL iBT ReadingIELTS Reading
0-20-4
34.5
4-75
8-125.5
13-186
19-236.5
24-267
27-287.5
298
298.5
309

Scores in Listening

The score comparison for the Listening section in TOEFL iBT and IELTS are as follows-
TOEFL iBT ListeningIELTS Listening
0-20-4
34.5
4-65
7-115.5
12-196
20-236.5
24-267
277.5
288
298.5
309

Scores in Speaking

The score conversion for the sectional score of the Speaking section is as follows-
TOEFL iBT SpeakingIELTS Speaking
0-110-4
12-134.5
14-155
16-175.5
18-196
20-226.5
237
24-257.5
26-278
28-298.5
309

Scores in Writing

The score conversion for the Writing Section in both TOEFL iBT and IELTS are as follows-
TOEFL iBT WritingIELTS Writing
0-110.4
12-134.5
14-175
18-205.5
21-236
24-266.5
27-287
297.5
308
308.5
309

Scoring Differences in TOEFL iBT and IELTS

The major scoring differences for both the TOEFL iBT and IELTS lie in how the conversion between the two examinations can provide them with a boost or a drop in their college applications. While both are internationally accepted examinations, only IELTS rounds the candidate's scores into the nearest high-point while the TOEFL iBT scores are oddly specific. Though this may not seem like an important aspect to candidates while attempting the test, college applications are often accepted or rejected with even a point difference thereby making an impact on the future of the candidate.

The margin between the score points in TOEFL iBT and IELTS is too high. A score difference as high as 46-78 only has a 0.5 difference on the IELTS band score. While this can be beneficial for candidates who have received a lower score in TOEFL iBT, it can cause a serious impact on candidates who have received a score close to the higher limit. A score difference of even 2 points in TOEFL iBT can affect a candidate’s admission process.

While choosing between the TOEFL iBT and IELTS, candidates have to keep in mind that while institutions may require sectional scores for students who have cleared their TOEFL iBT examination, candidates are only asked for their total band score when it comes to IELTS.


Exam Prep