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TOEFL vs IELTS – Which is the right path for you?

If you are about to further your English language skills, you may have found that there are several qualifications you can take. Let’s look at TOEFL vs IELTS so you can make an informed decision.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are the two most prestigious and widely accepted tests so it’s no surprise that most ESL/EFL/EAL (English as Additional Language) students choose one of those options.

What does TOEFL involve?

The TOEFL exam is made up of 4 areas – reading, listening, speaking and writing. Each section gives you a score of 0-30, which is then totalled to give you your final grade. The exams are not pass/fail. Your proficiency in each area will be graded, so potential employers will be able to check your proficiency in a required area is as needed for the job. For example, if you are applying to be a face-to-face salesperson, a high proficiency in speaking and listening would be needed.

TOEFL is taken online and you can do a practice test here. The whole exam takes 3.5 hours, with a 10-minute break between listening and speaking.

If you are planning on studying in the US, TOEFL is the most widely accredited.

What does IELTS involve?

IELTS is the most widely used ESL, EFL and EAL accreditation in Canada and is offered right here in historic Lunenburg. There are two variants you can take: IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Training.

The Academic qualification is for those wishing to apply for further education, such as through our Pathway Program, or those going onto a professional career. General Training is more suitable for those wishing to live in or travel to English-speaking countries for work, relocation or secondary education.

The exam consists of the same four sections as TOEFL – reading (academic reading for IELTS Academic), writing (academic writing for IELTS Academic), speaking and listening. The total test time is 2 hours 45 minutes.

The Listening, Reading, and Writing sections of IELTS tests are all completed on the same day, with no breaks in between the sections. You can complete your Speaking section, up to a week before or after the other tests. It takes just 11-14 minutes.

Each of the four sections of your test is given a score between 0-9. These are then averaged and rounded to find your overall English proficiency level.


There are benefits to both systems, but Canada have a preference for IELTS, while the US prefers TOEFL. If you are looking to move into a professional field or enroll in higher education, IELTS’ Academic certification can open doors that would otherwise remain closed.

If you are looking to immigrate to Canada through the Express Entry system, IELTS General Training is one of the few options permitted and TOEFL is not accepted.

The exams for both have potential benefits, depending on your needs. TOEFL questions are mostly multiple-choice, while IELTS tests use a wider variety of question styles. This is one of the reasons that prospective employers in Canada prefer IELTS as they feel it offers a more reliable result. The IELTS exam is also much shorter, making the day itself less intense.

Join us for IELTS

At Atlantic Canada Language Academy, we are proud to offer both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Our students have great success in both, and we couldn’t be prouder to send them into the world as proficient English speakers. We can also offer IELTS through our online Lunenburg Live program. If you would like to discuss our IELTS courses with us, we would love to hear from you.

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