What English exam should I take: TOEFL iBT (考托福) or IELTS (考雅思)?
Sep 19, 2010 TOEFL/TOEIC/IELTS 4080 Views
If you are thinking about studying overseas in an English speaking country or an European University, then you will probably need to take an English proficiency test. But which one should you choose?
The two most common English tests for university admission are the IELTS and TOEFL tests. This article will compare both to choose the best one for you.
Basic Information about the exams 雅思和托福的基本資訊
The IELTS exam, or International English Language Testing System, is developed by UCLES, University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES and delivered by the British Council and IDP Education Australia. The test is available in an Academic and General Training Module (only the writing and reading are different). Here, we are talking about the Academic module.
The TOEFL Test, or Test of English as a Foreign Language, is developed and delivered by ETS, the Educational Testing Service, a non-profit American company that has a virtual monopoly. The test is available in a paper-based version (PBT), a computer-based version (CBT) and an Internet-Based Version (IBT). Here, we only look at the Internet-Based Test.
All are non-profit organizations – but do occasionally make money.
The cost of the IELTS test can vary depending on whether the provider is IDP or The British Council, but currently it is NT$5,100 in Taiwan (around US$160) while the TOEFL is always US$160.
How many times I can take the tests? 我應該考幾次雅思 / 托福?
IELTS test is available on 48 fixed dates a year – for specifically available dates you need to contact your local center while the TOEFL is available in any 7-day period. There is no limit to the number of times you can take the test
It used to be the case that IELTS tests were only accepted by British, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian schools while TOEFL dominated in the US. How things have changed! Now, the two tests are literally competing with each other and nearly any school you wish to go to in any English-speaking country will accept both.
Students often ask which is more difficult. Unfortunately, the answer really depends on your individual situation and your learning experience. It can also depend on your learning style and how you think. In many cases, difficulty depends on the type of tasks in each test.
How are IELTS and TOEFL different? 雅思和托福的差異性?
In the IELTS exam, the speaking test is divided into three parts: (1) general topics, (2) the individual Long turn, and (3) discussion. Part one involves answering common English type questions on up to three or four topics such as flowers, the Internet, and your hometown. In part two, you are given a topic to talk about for two minutes and one minute to prepare for it. In part three, the examiner will discuss with you a variety of issues and ideas with you related to the topic. So, if you had to talk about a famous person you admired in part two, you may end up discussing the idea of fame, and whether or not famous people should consider how they influence society.
In the TOEFL iBT things are quite different. To begin with, you are facing a computer, not an examiner. You begin with 2 questions where you have to report and comment on what you hear. You then have integrated questions that require you to read some information and then listen to something. For example, you may read about library opening times, and then listen to someone talking about what they have to do that day. There is also a task that requires you to listen to someone talking about a problem and the test-taker has to summarize the situation, the problem and what they think the speaker ought to do.
Overall, many English learners prefer the Face-to-Face Interview in IELTS. You are able to ask the interviewer to clarify, explain words or repeat the question, which makes it easier to make sure that you answer the question properly. In the IELTS test, asking questions does NOT reduce your score. On the other hand the TOEFL test environment can be noisy and uncomfortable since you listen to pre-recorded questions and speak into a microphone in a room filled with other people. You also have a fixed time limit while the IELTS is more flexible.<p>The other thing to consider is the type of questions themselves. The biggest problem with the TOEFL speaking for some people is that it may be difficult to catch the ideas in the integrated speaking questions. That said, the TOEFL speaking questions are not as complex. IELTS questions can become quite sophisticated in part 3.
IELTS and the TOEFL iBT differ in question types, format, content, length and accent. First, in the iBT all questions are multi-choice format, checking or matching. IELTS, on the other hand, has a wider range of question types and it often asks you to write exactly the words you hear. Spelling is critical.
In the iBT test, apart from the first part, all are lectures or mini-lectures. While IELTS has a conversation in Part 1, a monologue on a topic of general interest in Part 2, a 2-4 person discussion in an academic context in Part 3 and a simplified lecture in Part 4.
As for accents, IELTS prides itself on the fact that it has a real range including British, Australian, and North American, while in the iBT students will hear British, American, and Canadian. Length also differs with the IELTS being considerably shorter at 30-40 minutes + 10 minutes transfer time while the iBT will be between 60-90 minutes since ETS (the test developer) may try out a new test on the tester.
Regarding content, TOEFL listenings tend to be more academically specialized. They are more likely to ask questions about cells, and molecular biology. Although IELTS listenings are also academic, they tend to be more general. The main reason why people find IELTS listenings difficult is that they require you to write down words and phrases, which is difficult because usually the keywords are synonyms or paraphrased AND you have to spell correctly! Finally, if you are used to American English, you will find the IELTS test to be a little more challenging just because of the wider range of accents.
Interestingly, the IELTS and iBT reading sections are fairly similar. You will face 3 readings in the IELTS and 3-5 in the iBT - again because of ETS' testing policy. this also means the iBT is longer at 60-90 minutes compared to the IELTS' 60. There are a greater range of question types in IELTS including multi-choice, writing words, matching, summarizing, Yes / No / Not Given and others. The iBT tends to have more multi-choice questions. It also has checking and matching questions along with some questions that test a students awareness of a passage's organization.
Again, the main difference is in the format of the questions. Again, the IELTS requires a much better control over your language. Some of the tasks require you to understand what types of words (verb, noun, adjective etc) could possibly fit in a space. There are also some challenging tasks – especially the Yes / No / Not Given questions! In other words, if you have a very strong passive vocabulary (you can understand the basic meanings of many words) and are good at eliminating options then TOEFL will be better for you. That said, if you have a wider general awareness of language and reading then you will understand more of the IELTS reading as the TOEFL iBT is more subject specific.
This is the part where the two exams differ the most. The TOEFL iBt requires an integrated writing task and a simple (independent) essay task while IELTS requires students to write one essay and one report based on visual information. Both are challenging and difficult in different ways.
Looking at the standard essay types first, in both cases, students are asked to write a formal essay in response to a prompt.
IELTS prompt types:
- Present and support an opinion (agree/disagree)
- Discuss problems/solutions
- Weigh two arguments
- Compare advantages and disadvantages
TOEFL prompt types
- Present and support an opinion (agree/disagree)
- Explain a preference
- Comparison and contrast
- Description and evaluation
- If / Imaginary
Generally, TOEFL questions are much easier to understand than IELTS questions. TOEFL questions need to be a little longer at 300 words to IELTS 250.
The IELTS (Academic) Task 1 question type is the one that gives many students trouble. Here, they are asked to describe a piece of factual information such as a table, chart, or process in 150 words. Students often find it difficult to work out exactly what they are supposed to be writing.
The iBT Integrated Essay is very different. Students need to listen to a speaker and read a short article that either supports or contradicts the speaker. They then need to write a short report summarizing the key points presented
The TOEFL integrated task is difficult since you need to read and listen and make notes about what you hear before writing. This can be difficult for students. However, it is balanced by the second writing task which is often much easier to understand than IELTS writing topics! In fact, the writing is nearly always the most challenging section for IELTS students, Not only do you have to master a wide range of writing styles for Task 1 where you have to describe data, you also lose marks in IELTS if you do not directly answer the question. This is a common problem!
It is also important to think about some practical matters. You currently need to <em>handwrite</em> your writing in IELTS while you use a computer in the iBT. Timing is also important. In the IELTS test, you have longer and the time is more flexible. You have 60 minutes and the student is able to divide the time as they wish. In contrast, in the iBT you only have 20 minutes to complete the first task and then 30 minutes to complete the second task.
So which is better? 哪一個考試較適合我?
It really depends, both are very widely accepted and they cost about the same. The real issue is if you feel that you will do better in one format or the other. For example, if you have terrible spelling, you WILL score lower in the IELTS Listening test. On the other hand, if you are a weak speaker and need a bit of help, then the IELTS speaking format will help. So, it is up to you!
What ever your decision, good luck with your test!