The two main tests that check foreign language speakers’ English competency are IELTS and TOEFL. Although both tests are aimed at examining students’ knowledge and understanding of the English language usage, the two are by no mean identical and differs both in the delivery, scoring and difficulty.
The main similarity between the IELTS and TOEFL tests lies in the fact that they test students in three areas plus one additional skill. The three similar skill areas are writing, reading and listening; the area of difference is speaking in IELTS and ‘structure’ (sentence completion and error recognition) in TOEFL.
The scores calculation differs as well. IELTS tests are rated by the so-called ‘band’ scores (from 0 to 9 and the half-bands between) , which are given every section of the test and then are averaged for the IELTS band score. The latter is used by the universities and institutes as an admission prerequisite. In TOEFL numeral scores are assigned to different test parts and then totaled for the final TOEFL score.
One more significant difference between the IELTS and TOEFL tests is that the latter has its paper-based and computer-based version, which makes it easier for students to choose the kind of test and the time and the place of its completion which suits them the most. Although IELTS is developing a computer version of its test, doesn’t have it in use yet. Besides, speaking module must be completed in face to face manner or requires a high degree of technological development.
The final pressing question, which bothers the majority of the prospective test-takers, is which of the two is more difficult. There is no definite satisfying answer, for it depends on the knowledge and preparation of a test-taker, and tests itself (both tests change every time they are taken). However, it is generally believed that IELTS is more difficult because of its speaking section, where students are obliged to participate in something like an interview with a professional face to face. Besides, unlike the TOEFL test, IELTS doesn’t define strictly and exactly the criteria by which self-expression tasks of writing and speaking are judged, and listening and reading tasks tend to contain plenty of ‘tricky’ questions, as said by both teachers and students.
Nevertheless, such a question (which test is more complicated) is largely irrelevant, since most educational institutions clearly state what test the students must take in order to enroll in this very university, which means students usually know what they have to prepare for and should not lose time by developing fear for the speaking or any other test section. Practice and confidence always bring the most fruitful results.