Although Educational Testing Service touts the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, as the best measure of English language proficiency in the world, university and college admissions offices are also increasingly using the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, for admissions purposes. Before you begin reviewing for either test, learn the differences between them, including price and availability, test format, score types and which colleges accept each test.

If you aren’t an English native speaker, you’ll almost always be required to sit an English language proficiency test as part of your application to study abroad at an English-speaking university. The two most accepted English language tests worldwide are the International English Language Test System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) tests. Whilst both accurately test your level of English and are widely accepted across over thousands of institutions worldwide, the two tests are different in their approach, structure and teaching criteria, so you should think carefully about which one you’ll choose to sit. Read this  guide to the differences between IELTS and TOEFL to help you decide which is best for you.

The IELTS is an English language test that is used for educational, immigration and occupational purposes, and is accepted by over 9,000 institutions across 130 countries worldwide. Jointly administered by the British Council, University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia, IELTS uses British English, and is more likely to be favoured by UK and institutions in Commonwealth nations such as New Zealand and Australia. Depending on the entry requirements of your study programme, you might need to take either the Academic or General Training IELTS exam.

The TOEFL test seeks to test your ability to communicate in English in specifically academic, university and classroom-based settings. It is accepted by over 8,500 institutions across 130 countries, including the UK, USA and Australia, as well as all of the world’s top 100 universities. TOEFL is administered by US-based organisation the Education Testing Service, and so is conducted in American English. This test is more likely to be favoured by American institutions.

Aside from the different styles of English each exam is are based on, TOEFL exam questions are almost entirely multiple choice, whereas IELTS requires you to respond to a range of different question types such as short answer, gap-filling and short essay tasks. The IELTS is significantly shorter than the TOEFL exam, taking approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes versus four hours to complete.

There is only one type of TOEFL exam that is done entirely on the computer, whereas there are two types of IELTS that are both completed on paper. Students applying for English-speaking tertiary programmes will need to sit the Academic IELTS exam, whereas the General Training exam is used to meet immigration and some occupational requirements.

IELTS and TOEFL favour different modes of thought and problem solving. As TOEFL is primarily multiple choice, students will need to be able to think analytically to weigh up the differences between their options. IELTS requires more use of memory, and draws on broader comprehension skills as students are faced with different question styles.


speaking exams
Whilst both exams have a speaking component, the IELTS speaking test is taken face-to-face with an examiner. In the TOEFL exam, you’ll answer six questions into a microphone which are recorded and later sent to a group of six reviewers. Your IELTS speaking score will only be determined by a single examiner. The IELTS test will take between 11-14 minutes and may not necessarily be on the same day as the other exam components, whilst the TOEFL will take about 20 minutes and is always on the same day as the rest of the exam.

Where the IELTS exam features a range of different accents speaking in English, TOEFL only features American speakers.


The written component of the TOEFL exam is typed as opposed to the paper-based IELTS exam. TOEFL requires you to complete two tasks, the first of which will be a five-paragraph essay between 300-350 words. For the second task, you will need to take notes from a section of text and lecture excerpt on the same topic, and use them to construct a 150-225 word response. The IELTS listening test also has two sections, the first of which however requires you to summarise or explain information presented in a graph, chart, table or diagram. In the second, you’ll need to write a 200-250 word response to a prompt that offers a point of view, argument or asks you to write in a particular language style.


The reading tests for both exams are quite similar: the TOEFL reading test is made up of three-five reading sections you will have 20 minutes to complete, each drawn from academic content you’d be likely to encounter in a classroom. You will have to answer a series of multiple choice questions testing how well you’ve understood the texts.

IELTS has three sections also each 20 minutes long and with texts academic in nature, but with a wider range of question types that could be anything from ‘fill in the gaps’ to short answer. Questions are also designed to test how well you’ve understood the text in its particular use of language, ideas and style.


Tests vary quite significantly in their listening components. The TOEFL test is between 40-60 minutes long, and involves you listening to excerpts from university lectures or conversations on a university campus. You will be required to take notes whilst listening and answer a series of multiple choice questions afterwards. IELTS students can answer questions whilst they are listening to the recordings, and will need to respond to a number of different question types and exercises of different lengths.

The speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL are graded based on how they appear as a whole, including your range of vocabulary, writing style and grammar. Those of the IELTS are considered based on separate grades of individual criteria such as your use of logic, cohesion, grammar and fluency. For example, an essay with a logical progression of ideas but poor grammar will score higher in a TOEFL exam, whereas an essay with strong grammar and vocabulary that is weaker in expressing an idea will do better by the IELTS criteria.

The IELTS is graded on a band system from 1-9, with your overall score being an average of your separate scores in all four tests. Your overall score will be rounded to the nearest half-band, i.e. if your overall average is 6.25, it will be rounded up to a final score of 6.5. TOEFL is a single test that is graded out of 120 points.

So, which test will you take, IELTS or TOEFL?

by: Dahlia D. Sagucio -Ph D. Linguistics

How to Make Sure You Succeed in Online Courses

Make sure

Online classes have a lot to recommend . There’s no commute and the schedule is flexible. But the lack of regular face-to-face contact with an instructor can also make it challenging for some students to meet all the deadlines and make sure they’re absorbing all the material.

As an instructor  of Improving English As a Second Language on line, may I offer these tips for getting the most out of an online class:

Log in consistently
Self-discipline and good planning are keys to success in online on line
Logging in several times per week lets students see messages from the professor, go through the content and make sure they are on top of the due dates for class materials. Because the classroom is online, students who fail to log in often can find it difficult to keep up. Research has shown that the students that do log on consistently are far more successful than those that don’t,.Being present is really important.

Carve out time for classes
Most students who take online courses have other commitments as well, such as work or a family. Sometimes the online learning gets pushed aside, A key to success is to put several online sessions on the calendar each week . In a traditional classroom, students have a set time to attend and may hear reminders from the professor or other students about upcoming deadlines. With an online class, you have to go in and be proactive.
You will be more successful if at the beginning of the week you make a plan, as opposed to logging on ‘when I have time,’ which is usually never.

Look at the big picture
At the beginning of the course, students should read the outline and syllabus, printing it out if possible so it’s handy for reference. Especially with the first online class or the first course using a particular online system, there’s so much to take in — to find where things are located, to know what’s expected, to read the assignments — that you can’t assimilate it all at first. The syllabus is a good place to start for an overview.

Mark important due dates on your calendar
As they read the syllabus at the beginning of the class, students should write the due dates in their calendar. Time slips by when you’re working and busy. It is suggested tot add reminders a few days before each due date.

Jump into online discussions
Some students feel intimidated by discussion forums, but they’re a crucial part of online learning because they provide interaction with other students. Students should post an introduction if that’s part of the course and then contribute regularly to the discussions. It’s normal to feel a little bit hesitant at first, but it’s best to get involved right away than to do it on the sidelines. You’ll learn far more by getting involved.

Ask a lot of questions
Online courses are set up to provide a lot of information in a lot of ways — and sometimes it can be confusing to figure out who can answer which questions. For questions about uploading an assignment, for example, tech support is a good first contact. For questions about course registration or payment, check with the school’s administrative offices. For questions about completing an assignment, the instructor is the first person to ask, though first check to be sure the answer is not on the syllabus.

These tips may seem like common sense — many of them apply to classroom classes as well, though in slightly different ways. But it takes time to get used to a new medium It’s very different than the face-to-face class,. Once you do it the first time around, then it will start to be far more comfortable.

by Ms. D Sagucio, Ph D. Linguistics

How to Memorize a Speech : Techniques that work

You’ve probably heard that seemingly bizarre statistic before stating people are far more terrified of public speaking than they are of anything else in life, including death!

never forget your lines

This may sound ridiculous at first until you think of all the negative possibilities people associate with public speaking. People worry a lot about feeling embarrassed by messing up their speech or saying something unpopular in front of a large crowd, and many of these fears revolve around worrying about forgetting what they were supposed to say in the first place.

First Things First- What’s Memory?

The first big concept we need to unpack to set the stage for memorizing any speech, any time is memory itself. Memory isn’t anything complicated, not really. It’s simply the total of the associations we build in our lives. This is a problem if you only have negative associations, but if you rewire yourself with positive associations memory will be your best friend.

There is a basic ‘recall’ function to memory, but this function is highly conditional on our associations. This is why you can memorize a long speech and recall it perfectly when practicing in the shower and then forget the very first line when speaking in front of a crowd. You’ve built positive associations with giving the speech in the shower but you haven’t built positive associations giving the speech in a lecture or conference hall.

The reason you have positive associations in private is due to practice and repetition. You obviously can’t practice your speech over and over again in front of a crowd so you need to rely on creating positive associations with that context using your imagination through visualization. Since memory is little more than association it stands to reason a visualized association is no less ‘real’ than a conventionally practiced association.

Creating the Right Positive Associations

visualize others

You need to repeatedly visualize yourself giving your speech in front of a crowd.
When you practice the speech do so with your eyes closed somewhere without a lot of sensory stimulation so you can deeply tune into imagining every facet of the environment you will eventually give your speech in.
Visualize the crowd, each individual face and the sea of people itself. Visualize the sounds in the room, the sound of your voice reverberating from the microphone. Visualize how you feel standing up there, visualize the lights and the podium if you’ll have one. Make this association as real as possible.
Create a positive visual association you can return to again and again when you practice your speech. By the time you actually give the speech you will have transformed your association from negative to positive and you will perform flawlessly.

Going Deeper

There are other techniques you can perform to make this process work even better for you. For example you can start by creating a visualization of watching yourself giving the speech as if you were sitting in the crowd, and you can visualize walking into that successful version of yourself to absorb their confidence and competence. You can deepen this positive association by performing the Three Fingers Technique, clasping the tips of your forefinger, your middle finger and your thumb together to anchor these positive feelings and associations to this physical action. When you step up to the podium and deliver your speech perform this slight physical action again and you’ll immediately return to that positive state.

Ultimately it’s important you use whatever techniques you need to create thorough and convincing positive associations with giving your fully memorized speech in the correct context, again and again. When you make these positive associations real enough you’ll find the actual moment follows suit.

Once your speech is together, find a quiet place and read it out loud. Read it slowly and carefully. The first time you hear your speech you might need to adjust some parts. Spend time to perfect the content, it’s your chance now to get it right.

focus on meanings

As you read aloud, listen to every word that you say – focusing on the meaning, and the point you are making. The more you practice you’ll find yourself remembering certain parts of the speech, look away from your notes as much as possible to reinforce your ability to recite from memory. If you wrote your own speech you’ll find you are soon able to recite most of the content. If someone prepared the speech for you, practicing the speech will help you get familiar with all of the words, and make you more confident when you present.

If you don’t have time to spend hours actively memorizing your speech, this technique is great to get it into your brain with the minimum of effort. Grab your phone and record one of the practice runs you make reading your script. Make sure it’s the final version, this technique uses rote learning and will have you repeating your speech word for word.

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
Practice makes perfect, and the more you practice the smoother your delivery will be. Go to your bedroom or somewhere there’s a mirror, stand up tall and deliver your speech. Don’t let yourself get distracted with your reflection, instead focus on the words you are speaking.

Watching yourself speak is a great confidence booster, and gets you ready for presenting to an audience. Time yourself as you are rehearsing, you want your delivery of the final speech to be perfect – not stretching too long or rushing through it too fast!

You will master your non-verbal communication as you speak to the mirror. It lets you easily identify your expressions so you can add enthusiasm and commitment into your delivery.

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