The two most important English proficiency tests that Indian students take while seeking admission in an English country are: International English Language Testing System (IELTS), and Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL).
In Europe and Australia, IELTS is more popular while in the USA, TOEFL is more popular. However, scores of both the tests are now accepted as proof of student’s English proficiency by almost all the universities, irrespective of the continent where they are located.
If you are specifically targeting European universities and educational institutions, IELTS is more widely accepted there. Conducted jointly by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, British Council and IDP Education Australia, IELTS is considered slightly more difficult than TOEFL. Both TOEFL and IELTS evaluate student’s skills in English writing, listening and reading skills. But while TOEFL focuses on sentence structure in its paper-based and computer-based formats, IELTS focuses on ‘speaking’ skills of the candidates.
Non-native English speakers often find it difficult to face interviews and hence, consider TOEFL to be easier than IELTS. However, the new internet-based TOEFL test also includes a section to evaluate English speaking too.
Scoring patterns of IELTS and TOEFL are quite different too. While IELTS gives out scores in bands from 0 to 9 for each section (where 0 stands for ‘does not know English at all’ and 9 stands for ‘expert in English) and average them for the overall band, TOEFL scores are more exact. However, if you have already taken TOEFL, you can check with the university in Europe to see if it accepts the TOEFL scores converted to IELTS scores.
Typically, the duration of IELTS test is 2 hours and 45 minutes. Interviews to test the speaking skills of the candidates usually take place within a day of the written test.
Note: TOEFL is no longer accepted at UK universities due to a fraud controversy.