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Writing Sections at International English Tests. TOEFL and IELTS Review

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John Milovich
John Milovich
ScamFighter Expert
Former college customer turned freelance writer, shares insider insights on the essay industry.

TOEFL and IELTS are the most widely-recognized tests confirming your solid English knowledge. As a rule, you cannot apply to a university abroad without a high score in one of these exams.

More than 10,000 colleges and other educational institutions in over 130 countries around the world take both TOEFL and IELTS certificates. But the first one is based on American English, so it is mainly accepted by American schools, while the second one is preferable in the UK and Australia being developed in accordance with British English. You have two options to check which document allows you to study at your chosen university:

  • contact the school and ask an admission officer directly;
  • find your college in the TOEFL base or IELTS base.

Besides, you should consider that universities have different score requirements. The tools we provide you with in the previous paragraph will show you the minimum score for application to a particular program.

What is Easier to Pass?

If your institution accepts both TOEFL and IELTS, you get on well with both American and British English, and there is no difference for you to talk to the monitor or a supervisor, then choose IELTS. A brief survey of the answers on Quora, forums for English learners, and blogs have shown that IELTS is slightly easier to take.

If you still have doubts which English proficiency testing system is suitable for you, decide whether statements from our infographic are true for you or not to find out.

Both exams test the main language skills: reading (how you understand written information in English), listening (how you perceive native speakers’ pronunciation), speaking (how you express your thoughts verbally), and writing (how you build sentences and follow grammar rules). Today we will focus on the last one.


The main peculiarity of the TOEFL writing section that you are supposed to type your answers instead of writing them by hand. It is a perfect solution for students whose handwriting is really bad. The paper-based variant is also possible, but it is taken where the computer-based one is not available.

The structure of the writing test is following. You read a short text, listen to a 2-minute-long lecture on the same topic, and write a response to a specific question related to that topic during the first 20 minutes. This part is called Integrated Writing. The length of your answer should be about 200-275 words. The next 30 minutes are given to create an academic essay (Independent Writing) on a particular issue (350-400 words).


This section of the IELTS exam lasts 60 minutes and divided into 2 parts. At first, you describe a chart, graph, table or diagram in your own words. The answer contains at least 150 words. The Task 2 is similar to the TOEFL Independent Writing. The minimal length of the essay is 250 words.

How to Prepare for Your Exam?

Even if you are confident with your knowledge of the English language, you may be puzzled with the procedure itself and lose the precious time devoted to complete the tasks. Read our tips to make your preparation process as smooth as possible:

  • start studying 6 months ahead of the test day;
  • buy a preparation book with a CD to get familiarized with the types of questions;
  • find and do old tests to understand what you will face at the exam;
  • use a stopwatch when practicing.

In conclusion, I would like to share with you this video about 5 common mistakes students make in the TOEFL & IELTS writing section. And may the force be with you!

Writing Section Features