Bruce Rogers

The TOEFL©, TOEIC©, and IELTS© are the most important tests of English-language proficiency in Asia and worldwide. Students often ask: Which is the best test? Which one is easiest? Which one should we take? These questions can be difficult to answer, but in this presentation we will take a closer look at all three tests.

For many years, ETS’s TOEFL©(Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam has served as a gatekeeper for university admission, particularly for schools in North America. It has been taken by more than 27 million people. The standard form of the test is the iBT—Internet Based Test—but the paper-based version of the test is still given for a variety of purposes.  

In the UK and Commonwealth countries, the academic form of the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) serves much the same purpose as the TOEFL. In recent years, the academic IELTS© has competed with TOEFL© more and more successfully.For example, today the admissions departments of many universities around the globe—including those in the United States—accept the results of either TOEFL©or IELTS©. Currently available only as a paper-absed test, IELTS will soon be administered on computer. 

TOEIC©(Test of English for International Communication), another ETS test, is often used by corporations and other organizations as a criterion for hiring or promotion. (The general version of IELTS© is sometimes used for the same purpose.)TOEIC© is only a paper-based test. TOEIC© is by far the most commonly-taken test, being administered more than five million times a year—primarily in East Asia.

These three exams have many similarities. For example, all three test listening and reading comprehension. IELTS© and TOEFL© also test speaking and writing (and there are separate TOEIC© tests for writing and speaking). However, the three tests are by no means identical. In this presentation, we will discuss how the tests differ in terms of purpose, content, item-types, scoring, costs, methods of administering, and overall test designs. We will also discuss student perceptions of these tests. Finally, we will look at methods and materials used to prepare candidates for these three important exams.