For International Students: The English Language Tests TOEFL And IELTS


TOEFL testIf you are an international student from a non–English-speaking country who is interested in studying at an American university, you probably have heard about the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS).   A score from one of these tests is typically required for international students. These tests measure how well a student can use and understand English at the university level.


There is good reason for this requirement—students without strong English skills usually cannot keep up with the demands of the college classes and have difficulty succeeding.


The test requirement for international applicants may be waived for certain students. Some schools waive the TOEFL requirement if students have achieved a certain score on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section of the SAT exam or the ACT English, Reading and Writing sections, or if the student has studied for at least three years in the United States or another country where English is an official language. Still, other colleges may waive the TOEFL requirement if the student has a high predicted score on the IB English A1 SL or HL exam, IB English B HL exam, or a high grade on the IGSE/GCE or “A” Level in English language. Students need to check the requirements of each college to which they apply. Schools are less likely to waive the TOEFL/IELTS test requirement for students who have attended an English-speaking school in a non-English-speaking country.


The TOEFL iBT test or Internet-Based Test evaluates how well you combine your reading, listening, speaking and writing skills to perform academic tasks. On the test, you may be asked to read a passage or listen to a lecture, and then write or speak about what you learned. The TOEFL test has over 50 test dates a year at authorized test centers around the world.

There is no passing or failing TOEFL score. Each school or scholarship sets its own score requirements. The most competitive colleges and programs typically expect a TOEFL Internet-based test score of 100 or higher. For some students, it will be good to know that some schools do not require a TOEFL score at all. However, without this score you may need to attend English classes at the college before being accepted into regular academic courses.  Your score on the TOEFL expires two years after the test date. The best way to score high on the TOEFL is to know how to read, write, and speak English well.


Similar to the TOEFL, the IELTS has four basic sections (reading, listening, speaking, and writing). The IELTS is a significantly shorter exam (2 hours and 45 minutes) than the TOEFL (3 hours and 10 minutes to 4 hours and 20 minutes because of the Reading section), but don’t mistake it as easier. Another big difference between the two tests is that on the IELTS test you will talk to a real person who will perform a one-on-one interview.  For the TOEFL test, you will speak to a computer.

A variety of accents and writing styles have been presented in test materials, and so students should be able to understand a variety of dialects to do well. The IELTS test is a handwritten test, so it is critical for test-takers to have good handwriting or it may result in lower scores.  


More information on the TOEFL and links to resources can be found at www.ets.org/toefl.

More information on the IELTS and links to resources can be found at www.ielts.org.

For additional information on the TOEFL or IELTS or for other information on college admissions, visit http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 954 414-9986.