TOEFL or IELTS, which test is better for college admissions?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

TOEFL or IELTS, which test is better for college admissions?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

TOEFL versus IELTS: You're Sure to Have a Preference!

These are two very different tests put together and administered by two very different organizations. We often hear of TOEFL here in the United States because it is the product of the ETS, based in Princeton NJ. The TOEFL is a good test for individuals who like the challenge of multiple-choice questions and essays which are scored holistically (similar to the way the SAT essay is scored). The test has a speaking and writing component, but the student does not have to face anyone live. Most importantly, the test-taker listens to an American speaking English on tape. The IELTS features British English and is administered by an organization associated with British universities. This test would be preferable to a student who has learned or heard English spoken by someone with a British accent. Rather than responding to a listening section by speaking into a microphone, the test-taker speaks with a person on many broad topics. Both tests are accepted by U.S. colleges. Consult the target college's website for more details and expected score ranges.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Check with the college

Unfortunately, this question doesn't have a one-size-fits-all answer. Each college admissions office will provide a unique perspective. Many schools accept either test as a demonstration of English proficiency and therefore it is in a student's best interest to try both. However, English proficiency tests should not be used to project a student's likelihood of success at an individual institution. And, while a school may have identified a minimum score as demonstrative of English proficiency, colleges and universities will not supply a minimum score for admission, as these are not college entrance examinations.

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

Where are you applying?

Students who are international students and who studied English as a second language will be required to sit for the TOEFL for admissions to an American college or university.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services


We suggest that students take the TOEFL as it is very easy to find the minimum required score--either on the college's website on the international admissions page or at .

Helese Sandler
Savannah Educational Consultants

TOEFL or IELTS, which test is better for college admissions?

Check what each college would prefer. Also see what is required for English proficiency. Some colleges will give provisional acceptances and allow you to prove proficiency within the first year.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Which is better for you?

If you applying to American universities, either test for English proficiency is acceptable. The TOEFL is definitely more well known in the US. and the IELTS is more well known in countries related to the British commonwealth. The more relevant question is -- which test is better for you? Check out both exams and see which one feels more suitable to you. Both exams are very similar in their content, but the IELTS has a face-to-face interview component which students either love or hate!

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

Mostly TOEFL

TOEFL is still the reigning king for those students needing to take these exams but the IELS is becoming more popular and we will probably see students taking both.

David Allen
Managing Director Global College Counselors Ltd


I'd say any college will accept both so what I'd advise is to look online and see which one you think you can score better on, it might also be the case that only one of them is offered in your area - best to check. Colleges will have published scores they accept for either of these tests.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC

TOEFL Tells All

A recent article in the NYT suggests that tougher restrictions will soon be implemented regarding the TOEFL administration to attempt to attenuate the instances of cheating that seem rampant especially, the article states, amongst Chinese students.

Dr. Skarlis
Owner/President The College Advisor of New York


The Toefl is preferable for college admissions