English-Language Testing With TOEFL and IELTS

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What's this "toe-full" test people keep talking about in college admission? It's the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and along with the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), it tests international students' English-language abilities.

Here's an introduction to the basics of these two common English-language testing systems. For more info, visit the International Students section of CollegeXpress.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

Nearly every college/university requires that students whose first language is not English demonstrate their English proficiency. The most commonly accepted test is the TOEFL, and the TOEFL Internet-based test (iBT) is administered in most countries, though the paper-based test (PBT) is available on a limited basis. Check the TOEFL website to find out which versions are offered in your country.

  • Evaluation: English-language proficiency in Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing
  • Duration: About four and a half hours for the iBT and three and half hours for the PBT
  • Score validity: Two years
  • Maximum score: 120 for iBT and 677 for PBT
  • Test fee: Varies by country; check the TOEFL website for the test fee in your country.
  • Mode of payment: Credit card, money order, or check; please visit the TOEFL website for additional information about acceptable forms of payment, as not all testing locations accept the same forms of payment.
  • For more information or to register: TOEFL Educational Testing Service, PO Box 6151, Princeton, NJ 08541-6151 USA; phone: +1-609-771-7100; e-mail: contact form available here; Web: ets.org/toefl

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) 

An increasing number of institutions accept the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), offered by the British Council. Like the TOEFL, the IELTS measures students’ English proficiency. Many schools accept an IELTS score from their international applicants, but not all, so you should check the admission requirements of the college/university before applying. Students pursuing an education abroad take the Academic Reading and Writing Module, and they may choose from almost 50 test dates throughout the year. The speaking portion of the test can be taken a week before or after the written test.

  • Evaluation: Listening, reading, writing, and speaking in English
  • Duration: About two hours and 45 minutes
  • Score validity: Two years
  • Maximum score: A Band Scale score of nine
  • Test fee: About $225 USD (though it varies by test center location)
  • Mode of payment: Credit card, check, or bank transfer
  • For more information or to register: IELTS USA, 825 Colorado Boulevard, Suite 221, Los Angeles, CA 90041 USA; phone: +1-323-255-2771; e-mail: ielts@ieltsusa.org; Web: ielts.org

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