Two of the most well-known standardized tests of English proficiency are the IELTS and the TOEFL. There are various reasons why learners decide to take either test and sometimes there are situations in which is it vital (or perhaps just interesting) to know where one stands within each scoring system. Since the two tests are generally similar, many students wonder whether it is possible to convert an IELTS score to a TOEFL score, and vice versa. The short answer is yes. There are some points to consider, however, when trying to determine which scores are equivalent and how the levels correspond for IELTS to TOEFL score conversion.
The Difference Between IELTS and TOEFL Scores
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First, let’s look at each test’s scoring systems. The IELTS and TOEFL tests do not contain any replicated content (ex. the sight passages and questions are different), so as expected, there are some key differences in their scoring methods.
The IELTS test divided into four sections: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. Each completed section receives a separate score on a scale of 0-9. For the IELTS test, a score is referred to as a “band score,” and the test-taker’s final band score is the average of their four individual scores. Overall band scores are always rounded up to the nearest whole or half band. If a test-taker’s average band score is 5.25, for example, their final score would be 5.5. If a test-taker’s average band score is 7.75, then their final score would be 8.
According to the British Council, the skill level description for each band score is as follows:
|Very good user
|Extremely limited user
|Did not attempt the test
A detailed description of each skill level can be found on the British Council’s official IELTS website.
Meanwhile, the TOEFL test is divided into the same four sections as the IELTS test (reading, listening, writing, and speaking), but each section consists of an achievable 30 points. The four scores of each section are then combined to produce a single score. Since each section is equally weighted, the test-taker’s final score is out of 120 points.
The TOEFL scoring for each individual skill is categorized as follows:
Below Low-Intermediate (0-3)
Below Low-Intermediate (0-8)
Below Basic (0-9)
Below Basic (0-6)
How to Convert IELTS Band Scores to TOEFL Scores
Since the tests are administered by different organizations throughout several countries and for various purposes, there is no official IELTS to TOEFL score conversion chart between the scoring of the two tests. The following chart is based on data collected by the Educational Testing Services (the creators of TOEFL) and provides the closest estimates.
Which Test is Easier TOEFL or IELTS?
The reasons for choosing one test over the other can range requirements from immigration applications to university admission to company policies. Some organizations or institutions may be strict about which test score they want while others will happily accept either. With that said, if it doesn’t matter which test is taken, then people would naturally prefer the “easier” test. So, which test is easier, then? The answer mainly lies in the test-taker’s own skillset and preferences. Generally, most test-takers aim for the equivalent of an IELTS’ 7-7.5 or a TOEFL 100. Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer to which of these scores is easier to achieve. Once again, it depends on the test-taker.
Some believe that the IELTS test is easier because the questions are less technical and focus more on overall comprehension and fluency. However, since the IELTS scoring system is based on a series of levels that are rounded up, there are fewer opportunities to “make up” for sections that a test-taker may falter in. The wider range of TOEFL’s 30 points per section allows test-takers to commit several errors in one section, but account for them in another.
Therefore, instead of comparing the scoring system directly, it would be more beneficial to consider the test-taker’s preferences, as well as their strengths and/or weaknesses. If a test-taker is typically more skilled while speaking without an active audience, they would likely benefit from taking the TOEFL test which does not require interacting with an examiner for the speaking section of the test. In this scenario, they may be able to score higher on the IELTS test.
An Important Note on Interpreting Score Conversions
It is important to consider that since both tests are divided into sections based on the four main skills, the different sets of final scores themselves may not necessarily be representative of each other. For example, a test-taker may score an overall 79 on their TOEFL test while performing poorly in the speaking section yet excelling in the other three. This does not mean that the same test-taker would be able to achieve a 6.5 band score on the IELTS test since there is no direct way of knowing how they would fare on each section, especially in speaking which is differently structured and administered for the IELTS test.
Additionally, some institutions may prefer to view individual scores depending on their own policies. A university may have a required minimum score for reading, but a totally different one for writing. So, even though total scores are commonly more significant, specific sections may need to be monitored as well. In this respect, IELTS to TOEFL score conversion charts may not be completely helpful.
In summary, converting test scores between the IELTS and TOEFL tests is possible, and can prove beneficial. Comparing scores can provide prospective test-takers a meaningful overview of each test, however, there will always be additional factors to consider. The information in the charts included in this article should not be taken as exact equivalents but viewed as general indications of one’s English proficiency. Ultimately, it’s up to the test-taker to figure out which scoring system suits them best.