How Important is it to Take IELTS or TOEFL if Planning to Study Abroad?

Most of the English speaking countries across the world like the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and many others attract a lot of young aspirants from all the countries around the world who seek job opportunities, education etc abroad. While planning to study abroad, the aspirants must show their proficiency in English to get selected by the university or college for pursuing higher studies. In case you are planning to take up a course that is taught in English and needs your proficiency in the English Language, then you must start preparing for IELTS or TOEFL exam which is widely accepted tests, especially in the English native countries.

Planning to Study Abroad

A higher score in these tests is required for getting admission to a university or while applying for the visa as well, whatever the case may be, you need to clear the exam. Both IELTS and TOEFL are similar in the manner and conduct and as far as repeating them is concerned, they are almost similar and hence have a similar timeline as well.

TOEFL and IELTS are considered as important tests for an aspirant who is planning to study abroad, especially in the English native countries. Both these tests help in evaluating a candidate’s English language proficiency and are widely accepted not only at the universities or colleges abroad but across many organizations including immigration departments. These exams have their advantages and both the tests are quite similar to each other in terms of acceptance and broad evaluation. 

However, a candidate must decide which test he/she is planning to give based on the requirements of the organization in which they are applying. Most of the foreign universities and colleges accept both IELTS and TOEFL and thus the students are advised to attempt any one of the tests, which seems more convenient to them.

Difference between TOEFL and IELTS?

TOEFL and IELTS exams are quite different from each other and therefore you must know which test is better for you. TOEFL is a language test for non-native English speakers and is mostly used as an entrance exam test by the universities and graduate schools to grant admission to international students. TOEFL is considered as an academic English test only while IELTS offers an academic and general test option as well and is considered as the most preferred test for immigration purposes to the UK and Canada.

There are two types of IELTS exams namely IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. IELTS Academic is for those aspirants who are planning to apply for advanced education and professional registration while IELTS General Training is for those individuals who are going to English-talking nations for secondary education, work understanding, or work involvement. The IELTS academic test and TOEFL when compared to IELTS general test are more difficult, but they are the only options left in case you are planning to study at any level higher than secondary school. No matter whichever test you are taking, make sure that the scores expire 2 years after your test date.


In case you are planning to study abroad, then remember that most of the universities across the world and all the universities and colleges in the UK accept IELTS/TOEFL test scores. Tier 4 student visa applicants can only apply to these universities in the UK in case they have a valid test result from any of the 1,000 IELTS/TOEFL test locations worldwide unless the institution has additional requirements.

Also while doing an undergraduate or postgraduate degree program in an English native country, you must take the Academic IELTS test as the General Training IELTS test is sufficient for programs that don’t need any degree. In case you are planning to study abroad and get an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree from there then you must take the Academic IELTS. If you are planning to do short term programs that will not grant a degree then you can also opt for the General Training IELTS.

In case you are moving to another country as a student, then you need to score high as you will be doing the entire course in English. Having a detailed understanding of the language will help you to have a better understanding of study material and course as well. The students planning to study abroad can check the entry requirement for an international student at the college or university at which he/she is planning to apply. As a future international student, you must demonstrate that you are an eligible candidate and have successfully completed a degree programme in English. The candidates, therefore need a higher IELTS/TOEFL score to get enrolled in degree programs like Masters or PhDs.

Importance of validity of the tests

Another important point which the students planning to study abroad must know is that both the exams are valid for 2 years only as against the validity of a GMAT/GRE score which is for 5 years. In some cases, you might need to give IELTS/TOEFL score to prove efficiency in the language at the university while in some courses; you might have to provide the score for visa purposes. 

For getting admission in an internationally recognized university, the candidate must have scored at least 12 months to 8 months ahead of the proposed intake when the application processes begin. 

For visa purposes, you might need the scores at the time of applying for a visa, which can be about 4 months before the session begins. Having an understanding of the test and when you need to provide the scores is very important. It is advised that the students must be ready with the scores at least 12 months before the intended sessions. This creates an option to apply to various session intakes across different countries that accept these test results, as taking the test too early can necessitate a re-take, and too late might cause unnecessary stress.

Studying for the IELTS/TOEFL

Essentially, both these tests including IELTS and TOEFL are the tests that enhance your proficiency in English. By analyzing the scores of the candidates in these exams, the immigration department gets a better understanding of your language proficiency, whether you are proficient enough in English to study in their country or not depends upon your score in these tests. You must start looking at these exams as more than just being an entrance exam and by understanding the importance of these tests, you will be able to sustain yourself in a foreign country once you have reached there. While preparing for IELTS/TOEFL, you are advised to pay detailed attention to the four aspects of getting proficient in the language which includes:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Listening

Starting to prepare for an IELTS/TOEFL is a simpler question to all your answers, the day you have decided that you will be going abroad for your studies, you must start preparing for these IELTS/TOEFL exams as well. These tests play an important role in getting admission in a university or college located in an English native country where you need to demonstrate your language proficiency through these tests. Moreover, since the exams are necessarily about learning a new language so preparing for the same will never get wasted. These tests help in brushing up your language skills, allow you to pay more emphasis on understanding the nuances, and help you in enhancing your communication skills both verbal and written, in the language.

Most of the migrants are unable to speak English as their mother tongue, so these English Proficiency Tests like TOEFL and IELTS were introduced to judge the speaking, writing, reading and listening abilities of the individuals planning to study in an English native country. So, even if you are still years from starting your study abroad journey, start preparing for these tests will never go waste.


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