IELTS TEST Information The Boston School

The TOEFL or IELTS Test? A comparison to help you decide

Do you need to choose between taking the TOEFL or the IELTS but not sure what the differences are between them?

Some people may find comfort in the fact that TOEFL has been around for many years and is the “go to” exam for applying to attend an American university.  

However, more and more schools, universities and businesses accept both tests as valid proof of one’s language proficiency.  Therefore, it is left up to you to choose.

To help make your decision, it makes sense to compare specific parts to each other. 

Today we are specifically going to outline the differences between the second Writing Task in both the IELTS Academic and the TOEFL tests.

They are both essay questions.  But how do they differ?

MINIMUM LENGTH250 words300 words
QUESTION TYPES 5 types (see list below)6 types (see list below)
QUESTION TOPICSvarious topics with often a focus on general education, and daily life issues as well as university life in the USA.various topics with often a focus on family, leisure, business, education, communication crime and other issues affecting society.


There are a wide range of topics that can be covered on both the IELTS and TOEFL tests. However, since the TOEFL test was developed and used as part of admission requirements for foreigners studying at US universities, there are often questions that refer directly to the student university experience. 

IELTS Academic was developed for both university admissions and immigration qualifications in mind. 

Since not everyone immigrating to an English speaking country will be attending university but may need to attend job-related training sessions in English, it is clear that the questions tend to be less university-specific focused.

The best way to see the difference is to compare sample essay questions from both tests. 

Similar to deciding whether or not to buy a paperback book, I tell students to read the first page to get the idea if they can relate to the writer’s style and are interested in their storyline.

In the case of the essay questions, ask yourselves: Which questions seem easier for me to answer? “Easier” usually is a reflection of the fact that you can actually relate to a question and have something to say about it. This is one important way to decide for yourself – which language proficiency test would be best for you.


The first two questions, which are the most common IELTS question types, were taken from Cambridge English IELTS 11 Academic Authentic Examination Papers which will be used in The Boston School’s IELTS Test Preparation Course.


Governments should spend money on railways rather than roads. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?


Many governments think that economic progress is their most important goal. Some people, however, think that other types of progress are equally important for a country. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion


Scientists tell us about the activities which are good for our health and others which are bad. Millions of people all over the world know this and still do unhealthy activities. Why do you think this is and what can be done to change it?


Companies use a variety of methods to improve the sales of their products. What are those methods? Which is the most effective method?


In many cities today, most people live in large apartment blocks. Does this kind of accommodation have more advantages or disadvantages?


Taken from the Official Guide to TOEFL (4th Edition) which I can highly recommend for TOEFL test takers.


Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: grades encourage students to learn. Use specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.


It has recently been announced that a large shopping center may be built in your neighborhood. Do you support or oppose this plan? Why? Use specific reasons and details to support your answer.


What are some important qualities of a good supervisor (boss)? Use specific details and examples to explain why these qualities are important.


If you could study a subject that you have never had the opportunity to study, what would you choose? Explain your choice, using specific reasons and details.


Some universities require students to take classes in many subjects. Other universities require students to specialize in one subject. Which is better? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.


Which would you choose: a high-paying job with long hours that would give you little time with family and friends or a lower-paying job with shorter hours that would give you more time with family and friends? 

Explain your choice, using specific reasons and details.

We would be happy to answer questions like this either by you leaving a question in the form below or emailing us at if you need help quickly.

More information and a chart comparing the IELTS and TOEFL grades can be found here.

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