Education, Language

TOEFL Listening vs IELTS Listening – Which is More Difficult?

Two English proficiency examinations are popular among non-native English speakers – the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). These two examinations are taken by thousands of individuals worldwide as a part of requirements needed for employment. Moreover, these examinations provide certification on the candidates’ English level. These will serve as guarantee to employers or hiring managers that their new hires are good at English which will result in productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

The TOEFL and the IELTS certifications are two exams most companies and institutions accept. Some have taken both exams and attest that both are different in terms of content and of their examination style. At this moment, let us understand how the tests differ when it comes to their listening examination.

In the TOEFL, the listening section is aimed to gauge one’s ability in understanding spoken English. The academic listening of the TOEFL has three purposes: basic comprehension, pragmatic understanding, and connecting and synthesizing information. Talking about the test format, the TOEFL listening section is composed of academic lectures and long academic conversations. The candidate is given about 60 to 90 minutes with 34 to 51 questions. There are 4 to 6 academic lectures having 6 to 9 questions, and 2 to 3 conversations having 5 questions per conversation. The test questions usually ask questions about the main topic, the details presented in the audio, the purpose of the conversation or lecture, how the ideas are organized and implied information from the conversation or lectures.

The IELTS listening section is the same for both Academic and General Training – the two modules of the IELTS exam. The content of the listening exam can be both academic and social. It is divided into four sections with ten questions in each part. The candidate for the test is given 30 minutes to complete the test and another 10 minutes to transfer the questions to the answer sheet. Question types for the IELTS can cover around multiple choice, shorts answers, sentence completion, notes/diagram/flow chart completion/matching/classification questions.

If we talk about the level of difficulty among the two exams, the TOEFL can be pretty challenging to the tasks in the IELTS. First of all, the conversations and lecture in the TOEFL are a lot than the IELTS. Furthermore, the content of both are focused on the academics. For example, you will hear a lecture on life science or a conversation between a teacher and a student about a report he is doing. Also, there are more details and examples on the audio recording that needs to be noted. Missing information on your notes can be pretty difficult once the candidate starts answering the questions. In the IELTS, listening questions are easier. For example, you will hear a conversation between to individuals trying to reserve a ticket for a concert. You will need to listen to details such as date, price, or even the venue of the said concert. Hence, it is much easier to write down details on recordings on social contexts than those of academic setting.

Both exams are important; hence, preparation is needed. For more information, visit TOEFL and IELTS review centers to acquire knowledge on both examinations.


Also refer to this site for IELTS and TOEFL:


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