IELTS and TOEFL exams: why are they needed and how are they taken?

Many students and those who want to leave to work in an English-speaking country are required to pass an exam on knowledge of the English language. However, there are a lot of specific exam titles, each has its own assessment system and there are different modules. The most popular exams in Russia are IELTS and TOEFL. Let's see what they are for, what they are made of and how they are handed over.

How to pass IELTS

The Cambridge IELTS - International English Language Testing System exam is often taken from the Cambridge IELTS exam for admission to a foreign university and migration. Yes, IELTS belongs to the Cambridge Examination Series! But he has completely different evaluation criteria, unlike other Cambridge adults exams. The IELTS exam assesses competence in language proficiency in four traditional aspects: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Each aspect is evaluated separately and by its criteria, and then an overall score, called band , is derived. The score varies from 1 (the person does not speak the language at all) to 9 (C2 level by CEFR), and intermediate points like 5.5, 6.5, etc. are possible. The exam lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes, while part of the Speaking is given separately.

IELTS is divided into two modules: academic and general . Academic you will need to enter higher education institutions abroad and to confirm your professional qualifications. Different universities have their own requirements for international students, but on average, the required minimum score varies from 5.5 to 7 (from B2 to C1 by CEFR). The general module is for those who wish to migrate to an English-speaking country and those who go abroad to get a secondary education. The parts of Listening and Speaking for both modules are the same, the key differences lie in the parts of Writing and Reading.

In the Listening section, you will be offered to listen to four recordings: a general subject dialogue, a general subject monologue, a conversation between several people in an academic context (for example, a conversation between students and a teacher) and a monologue in an academic context (for example, a lecture). Following the audition, you must answer the questions.

In the Speaking part, you will first tell about yourself and talk with the examiner on general topics (work, family, hobby), then get a card with questions on a specific topic and you will have to speak on it within two minutes (the examiner will ask you additional questions) and then discuss with the examiner the broader and more abstract aspects of the proposed topic.

Totally Listening lasts 30 minutes, and Speaking - approximately 15 minutes.

In the academic module are more complex parts of Reading and Writing. In Reading, the student is asked to answer 40 questions in 1 hour based on three large academic texts. The Writing part of the academic module consists of two parts: in the first you have 20 minutes for a description of the schedule or scheme, and the second for 40 minutes for writing an essay. It is important to note that the academic module involves the use of a formal style.

In the general module there are 3 sections of reading: in the first there are several small texts, in the second two, in the third one is a long text. As in the academic module, here you will be asked to answer a series of questions on the texts. Writing a general module also includes two tasks: a letter asking for information or explaining the situation and an essay. The difference between academic and general modules is in the topics: they are more serious in the academic module.

How to pass TOEFL

The TOEFL (Test of English Language as a Foreign Language) exam has only one module — an academic one. This exam is most often passed solely for admission to foreign universities.

Technically, he has two versions: iBT (Internet-Based Test) and Paper-delivered Test (as he has been called since June 2017). The difference in how to pass the exam: online or in writing. At the same time, the TOEFL system does not provide for written delivery where there is access to the Internet. In Russia, this exam is only online.

Like IELTS, TOEFL iBT has four parts: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Only you will not speak with a live examiner, but with a computer. The test lasts 4.5 hours. In the Reading section you will be offered 3-4 academic texts and questions for them. There is a nice bonus: a small glossary with an explanation of keywords.

The Listening part is significantly longer than in IELTS: it lasts 60-90 minutes and includes 4-6 lectures and 2-3 dialogues. Writing includes two tasks: one is the so-called integrated , when you need to read or listen to a small fragment, and then write an essay on its basis, and the second is independent , where you have to express your opinion on a topic. Speaking lasts 20 minutes and consists of 6 tasks: two independent, where you speak familiar topics, and 4 integrated, where you speak based on, again, read or listened to information.

Each part of the exam gives you 30 points, the total maximum possible score is 120 (corresponding to level C2 for CEFR). Universities, as a rule, set a minimum level of 60 points, which corresponds to level B2.

The TOEFL Paper-delivered Test consists of 3 parts, there is no Speaking, and it lasts much less - only 2.5 hours. In the Reading part, you will have to read 3 academic texts and answer 14 questions on each of them. There are 6 parts in Listening: 2 conversations and 4 lectures. Writing completely repeats the TOEFL iBT version with the same division into integrated and independent.

Differences between IETLS and TOEFL

As you can see, IELTS and TOEFL are radically different. IELTS you have to take in writing, and TOEFL - on the computer. The question of how it is more convenient and easier, quite controversial. Someone likes to talk with a living examiner, and they are frightened by the prospect of sitting in a large office with a dozen of those who donate, each of whom speaks into his microphone. Someone thinks that a living examiner is the embodiment of a school-university nightmare, and he will definitely “throw out”, and it is easier to talk with a computer. Here to each his own.

IELTS has two modules, TOEFL is purely academic. For high school studies or employment, it is easier to pass IELTS General. Moreover, TOEFL iBT lasts an order of magnitude longer than IELTS Academic.

Preparation for both exams must begin in advance. If the level is sure, then you will have half a year or a year to familiarize yourself with the structure of the exam and work out all its parts. If the level is low, then preparation should begin in 2 years.

Many believe that IELTS is valid only in Europe, and TOEFL - only in the United States. This is not the case; both exams are accepted worldwide. If you need an exam for admission, check the requirements of your university: most accept the results of both exams. However, there is a small catch with accents: IELTS, being a Cambridge exam, will be focused on British English, while TOEFL offers different accents for listening, not only American, as many people think, but Australian and New Zealand.

In addition to the different approach to the assessment of language skills, there are significant differences in the types of tasks. In TOEFL, all questions have answer options (so-called multiple-choice questions), and IELTS offers a variety of tasks, each of which must be carefully prepared. Since IELTS is written, in the Listening part, you can immediately run through the questions and highlight keywords for yourself, but the TOEFL is cunning in this regard: you first listen to the entire fragment, and only then the question page opens. If you are typing slowly on the keyboard, do not know how to quickly take notes, and the constantly ticking timer on the screen makes you nervous, it is better to choose IELTS.

On the other hand, TOEFL mixes different aspects in one part. As you can see from the exam description, the tasks of the integrated format force you to react to the information you have read or heard. In fact, it is much more useful than simply answering questions, because the language is primarily used for communication, and in an academic context you will have to rather actively work with controversial topics.

However, in one these exams are similar: the result has to wait about 2-3 weeks, and the certificate is valid for 2 years, after which, if necessary, you will have to pass the exam again. If you want to have an unlimited certificate, it is better to take the Cambridge FCE (First Certificate, B2), CAE (Advanced, C1) and CPE (Proficiency, C2) exams at Cambridge. We will write about them in the next post.

Share in the comments your experience of preparing and delivering IELTS and TOEFL!

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