Why do Indians prefer TOEFL to IELTS?

The IELTS and TOEFL exams taken by a majority of Indian immigrants to English speaking countries seems to be getting trickier to crack. Major Indian cities have set up IELTS and TOEFL classes that cater to students from across the country to learn the language. While some foreign institutes list the test required for admission in their eligibility criteria, most other institutes leave the choice of English test open to students. Here’s where the trend of TOEFL being more preferred than IELTS starts showing. Coaching classes train students to crack the English exam rather than mastering the language itself. Sadly, many Indians tend to think only till the gates of a foreign institute, and fail to consider the consequences of not knowing the common language once they’re there. A very primary reason why TOEFL wins in preference over IELTS is the speaking test round.

Taking the speaking test in TOEFL consists of a couple of minutes in a closed cubicle with a recorder and a question sheet. Students have to simply record their answers in a few sentences and leave the centre. In contrast to this simplicity, the IELTS is designed to be more challenging. The presence of an interrogator in a closed room makes the ambience more testing and stressful. Arindam Bhattacharya, a student who took the IELTS exam on June 4, 2016, said, “The interrogator can ask you broad questions about the world, sciences, philosophy, and you are required to answer in a few sentences. Meanwhile, you may also be cross questioned for your views, if you are unfortunate to have a strict examiner.”

Tricks to crack the IELTS reading, writing and listening tests are taught in coaching institutes, but the speaking test requires more skill than slyness. Shraddha Kakade, who has given both IELTS and TOEFL, says, “The interrogatory factor is what distinguishes an avid English speaker from a non-English speaker. Anyone who has had basic English schooling can pass the speaking test. Questions asked are not very intense or tough, but those who don’t know the language and expect to pass on the basis of learning tricks will not be able to fare well in this test.” The benefit of TOEFL is that students can prepare a set of answers for most probable questions based on previous exams. “As there is no counter questioning or the presence of an intimidating person in the room, recording mugged up answers becomes easier,” said another student who gave the IELTS this year.

Apart from this difference, the rest of the test rounds are similar for both exams and are equally tough or easy for the student. The preference of exam for a student will also largely depend on the eligibility norms of the institutes one is applying to. However, when it comes to professionals applying for work visa, the TOEFL seems to be a popular choice as the speech test is not very challenging.