An estimated 900 million people worldwide speak English. Of these, about 350 million are called ‘native English speakers’. Meaning, English is the prime language of their countries. The remaining 550 million are termed ‘non native English speakers’, despite possessing excellent linguistic abilities.
Who are native English speakers….
Native English speakers are people from UK, US, New Zealand, Ireland and Australia.
Citizens of former British territories including Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago are also considered as native English speakers since there is no predominant language in these countries.
Canada is included in the list of native English speaking countries, but with some riders: Parts of Canada are predominantly French speaking. Hence, all Canadians are not categorized as native English speakers.
…and non-native English speakers
Citizens from all other countries are considered non-native English speakers. This is because English is not the prime language in their country.
English remains the world’s fourth most widely spoken language, despite its popularity. Mandarin Chinese (Potunghua), Hindi and Spanish rank as the top three languages of the world.
First generation migrants to Australia, Canada, US and New Zealand are not considered as native English speakers due to their foreign ethnicity.
One of the preconditions for studying or migrating to these countries is successfully appearing for the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.
A hot debate is being waged whether the language spoken in the US should be termed as ‘American.’
Those in favor of giving the language a new identity assert, several words are spelt and pronounced differently. A few words used in America also have different connotations when compared with conventional English.
TOFEL Vs IELTS
TOEFL and IELTS sets the standards for English
Variations in the way English is spoken, written and understood necessitated evolution of standardized testing systems for non-native speakers aspiring for higher education or migrating to the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The American education system requires students to be proficient in the language courses are conducted at colleges and universities.
Educational institutes in other native English speaking countries also required a similar test. Thus, TOEFL and IELTS were implemented.
Differences between TOEFL and IELTS
All non-native English speakers planning higher studies in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand are required to prove their language skills.
It is a prerequisite for admissions and granting a migrant visa.
Those desirous of studying in the US are required to successfully complete TOEFL.
Students and others who wish to study or migrate to the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand are required to pass the IELTS.
Understanding why TOEFL and IELTS are different
TOEFL and IELTS are held with different spoken accents of English.
IELTS: Variety of English
TOEFL: 4 HOURS
IELTS: 2 Hours, 45 Minutes
3) READING TEST:
TOEFL: Reading 4-6 passages in academic English and answering multiple-choice questions based on comprehension, ideas, details, vocabulary and style. Difficulty levels are same throughout the test.
IELTS: Reading three passages in academic English of 20 minutes each. Questions are taken from books, newspapers, literature and other sources.
A total of 15 questions, including filling in missing text/ words, writing headlines, locating text or words, multiple choice and others. Questions are easier at the beginning and get tough.
4) LISTENING TEST
TOEFL: 40 -60 minutes. All questions are in multiple choice format and based on listening to speeches and college lectures.
Questions are based on comprehension and details, inferences, dialect/tone and vocabulary.
IELTS: 30 minutes. Examinees are required to listen to four audios. These include a transaction, academic lecture, academic discussion and informative talk.
Questions are asked in different formats such as filling a table, naming a picture, multiple choice and classification of information.
5) SPEAKING TEST:
TOEFL: Consists of three modules over 20-30 minutes. Examinees have to answer six questions that simulate a college or university setting to the interviewer.
Two questions will be a topic familiar to both. Questions may include describing a topic or expressing opinion.
Examinees are given text to read. Two questions based on this text will be asked by the interviewer, which may include expressing your opinion.
The interviewer will ask you to summarize information gathered from a conversation.
IELTS: Consists of three modules over 15 minutes. The interviewer can ask you to describe something familiar such as yourself, your college, family, hometown etc.
In the second part, you will be given a card with a topic. You are required to give a brief talk on this topic.
The third part consists of is based on the topic mentioned on the card. The interviewer will quiz you on this topic.
6) WRITING TEST:
TOEFL: The first part consists of reading some text of around 300 words and listening to a short audio.
You are required to take notes and write answers about what you read and heard.
The second part consists of writing an essay of 300 words containing your thoughts and opinion on any particular subject or issue.
IELTS: The first part consists of transcribing and writing information presented in a graph or diagram or picture in 150 words.
The second part includes writing a brief argument and pros and cons of a situation or topic in 250 words.
7) Authorities that conduct TOEFL and IELTS
TOEFL: Educational Testing Systems (ETS), an American non-profit organization administers TOEFL around the world. Testing can differ according to countries.
ETS conducts TOEFL by partnering with various educational organizations around the world. Two types of the test are offered, classroom test and TOEFL iBT which is conducted online.
IELTS: IELTS is offered in two forms ‘Academic’ and ‘General Training’ by the British Council worldwide. IELTS is held at over 1,200 locations worldwide. IELTS tests also differ according to countries.
8) Enrolling for TOEFL and IELTS
TOEFL: The ETS website has a comprehensive list of TOEFL enrollment centers across the world. Applicants are required to choose the center best suited.
Fees are to be paid at the enrollment center. Again, fees vary according to each country.
IELTS: British Council offers IELTS worldwide. Applicants can apply for IELTS online through the British Council portal and select the test center of their choice. Fees can be paid online. Fees differ according to each country.
Preparing for TOEFL
The American government operates a wide network of offices worldwide that provide resources to students opting for higher education in the US.
A list of these centers is available online or from your nearest US diplomatic mission. Counselors at these centers guide aspirants on how best to prepare for a TOEFL exam.
Online guides, books, mock tests and other paraphernalia required to prepare for TOEFL are available online and through coaching classes. The ETS website is a goldmine for such information for TOEFL applicants.
Official TOEFL preparation guides and study material from ETC can be purchased from leading bookstores or online at Amazon.
Preparing for IELTS
British Council has presence in over 100 countries worldwide. It is the global cultural and educational representative of the UK. British Council’s global portal provides links to its country specific websites.
Applicants for IELTS can visit their nearest British Council to seek details about IELTS and request counseling, if needed. British Council’s website provides a wealth of information and resources to prepare for IELTS.
Official IELTS preparation guides and study material can be purchased from leading bookstores or online at www.cambridge.org
Private coaching for TOEFL and IELTS
Over the decades, thousands of coaching classes that train TOEFL and IELTS aspirants have mushroomed worldwide. Though fairly pricey, these institutes provide some degree of coaching for people to crack TOEFL and IELTS.
Passing the TOEFL and IELTS depends solely upon your English language skills. Hence, coaching provided by private tutors is limited to testing procedures only. TOEFL and IELTS tests can prove difficult to those deficient in English language skills.
TOEFL or IELTS or both
As described earlier, TOEFL and IELTS serve two distinct purposes. Only those planning on higher education in the US are required to take TOEFL. On the other hand, people looking at migrating to UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are required to pass IELTS.
For those undecided where to study further, preparing for both TOEFL and IELTS can prove beneficial. The scores however are valid for limited periods only, depending upon the country where the test is given.
More tests and exams
Students and prospective migrants who complete their TOEFL or IELTS may be required to clear further tests. Enquire with the college or university where you wish to study about such tests. Minimum scores required in TOEFL and IELTS also vary according to each college and university,
It is important to note schedules of TOEFL and IELTS tests. Mark sheets have to be submitted while seeking admission to colleges and universities.
Plan on giving the test in a manner that your mark sheet will be at hand and valid while applying for admissions. Tests are held around the year, which offers complete flexibility to applicants.