One of the most common questions either asked or debated by students planning to travel to America for higher education is: “Why do I have to take my IELTS or TOEFL?”

To help you understand why this is part of your visa requirements, here is an IELTS/TOEFL FAQ for you to read through:

What is the difference between taking the TOEFL and IELTS?

While the sole purpose of both tests is to show that people from non-English speaking countries can speak English, their intents differ slightly.

It’s important to note that both tests determine writing, reading and listening plus one additional skill. The difference lies in the additional skill, meaning, speaking is required for IELTS and structure, or checking for grammatical errors, is required for TOEFL.

IELTS: This test was traditionally designed for Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand to help students deal with a variety of accents and situations when planning to continue their higher education abroad.

The other intent of the IELTS is that the first version comes in the Academic version for students and the second version comes in the General Training Version for those headed to and English speaking country for work or immigration.

TOEFL: The TOEFL was originally designed for North American speakers and hearers with the questions formed and designed by Native North American speakers. This means that the spelling is a little different than questions asked on IELTS. For example, someone from North America will use American English to spell the word ‘Favorite’ while someone from Great Britain or Australia will use British English to spell it, ‘Favourite’.

Which test is easier?

Some students may feel more comfortable with their speech so perhaps IELTS are an easier route for them. Others, perhaps, feel more comfortable with writing in English so they might take the direction of TOEFL.

For those taking the IELTS, the score is based on individual criteria, whereas, the TOEFL is based word choice, grammar, logic, fluency and cohesion.

The great thing about TOEFL is that small, grammatical errors are often overlooked if the overall topic is well represented. Another fact to note is that TOEFL exams can be taken online as well as at designated locations which can help speed up the visa application process.

A positive for IELTS is that most non-English speaking countries often use British English making their test much more familiar in the use of the English language to international students.

IELTS are often believed to be the harder of the two tests; however, if the speaking section is delivered well, the written part of the exam can sometimes not be as strictly monitored. In the end, it’s all a matter of personal choice!

How do I know whether I need to take the IELTS or the TOEFL?

This really depends on what students feel more comfortable taking and only occasionally on the country and the university you’re applying to. Most colleges accept either/or so it’s up to you to decide which test you feel more comfortable taking.

If you’re still unsure, the best thing you can do is visit the International Student Office page of the university’s website to double check if there is a specific requirements or not.

What is the minimum score I have to achieve in order to pass?

Again, this depends on the university or college you’re applying to. While most universities in Canada require a 6.0-band for IELTS, most universities in America will require an IELTS score of 6.5-band. Some schools require only a 5.5-band for undergraduates.

For a passing TOEFL grade, the minimum is typically a cut-off score of 79 (IBT) or 213 (CBT).

In order to know the exact requirement, the best thing to do is find out directly from the university you’re planning on receiving your degree from.

Why is this a requirement?

There are several reasons why IELTS and TOEFL are required when planning on studying abroad. The most important reason has nothing to do with making those from non-English speaking countries feel inferior or self-conscious of their English speaking abilities; rather, to offer future international students more opportunities and better futures in the long run!

Can I waive my IELTS or TOEFL?

The only time a student from a non-English speaking country can waive IELTS or TOEFL is if they are a native English speaker themselves or have already obtained a completed degree from an English speaking country previously.

Look at it this way, these tests are designed to help provide you the best opportunities while studying and living abroad! At this point, you’ve taken many exams over the years so what is one more test that is designed to help fulfill your future goals and career?

What if I can’t pass the test?

Don’t worry! Most colleges will offer a non-credit ESL course to makeup for the points missed. This doesn’t mean you can take a lazy approach when taking your IELTS/TOEFL, it means try and retest if you need to so you don’t have to waste additional precious time and finances making up for it once you’ve been accepted into a university abroad.


If you have any other questions you’d like to have answered, feel free to post your questions at the bottom of this entry!

Also, don’t forget to stop by next weekend to check out what the top most common misperceptions Pakistani students have of travelling to the United States for higher education!

Until then, check out this great message by Stratford University’s Executive Vice President, Mary Ann Shurtz:

This entry was posted in IELTS/TOEFL, Studying in America and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to IELTS/TOEFLS – FAQ

  1. Mani says:

    My wife and I are planning to immigrate to Australia and need to pass the IETLS test. I have sat the test twice already but can’t get the resilts required for all 4 bands…7 in each band. Is there any chance of getting my visa even if I don’t pass the IELTS test?

    • Usually the minimum is 6.0 – to 6.5. If persons are having a hard time passing the requirements, there is usually a non-credited ESL class that the person can take. I work for the U.S. so you’ll have to do a little research for Australian universities. You can easily call up the university or google it. Good luck!

  2. Pingback: Write To Win | Stratford University, USA

  3. Hussain says:

    I gave my IELTS back in 2005. I scored an 8 band. I would say that its so easy that even with a week’s practice any one can get a great score at IELTS!


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