IELTS or TOEFL iBT - Which Is Better?

IELTS or TOEFL English Exams - Which Is Better?

To start with, both IELTS and TOEFL are acknowledged and accepted by most universities and institutions for higher studies across the globe. .. There are many who ask which one is better, or which one is easier, though the choice purely relies on the target country of work or study. Understanding the differences between TOEFL and IELTS can help in this regard.

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IELTS & TOEFL Requirements for Hong Kong Universities

In Hong Kong most universities accept both for entry into their undergraduate and post=-graduate programs. HKU, for instance, requires a minimum overall Grade 6.5, a TOEFL iBT score of 80 or a TOEFL Paper Based Test Score of 550 for entry into its MBA Degree Course. Other faculties, such as science, as for a lower IELTS score of 6.


Both TOEFL and IELTS are exams taken by students from countries where English is not the main language. These exams are aimed at judging the English skills of a student and if or not they can meet the required standards of esteemed institutions in countries where English is the main language. IELTS is the most popular English entrance test in the world - but some universities and colleges in the USA only accept TOEFL so always check with the course director before booking your test. IELTS is also accepted for Immigration and their is a specific module for this: The General Training Module.

About the IELTS Exam

IELTS is conducted by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, British Council and IDP Education Pty Ltd. In short, the test is conducted in UK English and quite popular in the UK.

About the TOEFL Test

As for TOEFL, it is conducted by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is quite popular in the US and Canada. For this reason, most students take both tests to be able to relocate to any country they get an opportunity in. Only the Internet Based Test (TOEFL iBT) is conducted in Hong Kong - which means that students have to speak to a computer. This can be off putting for many students as talking to a machine is not a real life situation and there is no visual feedback.


The two English exams have entirely different structures and demand different skills for their respective candidates. However, both these tests are no different with reference to recognition and esteemed universities across the globe accept the results from either exam.

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IELTS Writing Paper Task 2 Tips

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The IELTS Writing Paper 2 (Academic Module) tests your written English abilities in many areas relevant to further study. The proper use of vocabulary, grammar, organisation and coherence is included and this is the more difficult of the two writing papers.

  • Analyse the question. It is often in two parts: a background statement and specific aspect of that. Make sure you are answering about that aspect not the general topic.
  • Paragraph your answer. A good answer should be 3 or 4 paragraphs. As a guide, the intro should be approx. 50 words; main body 170; and conclusion 30 to 40. But these amounts are guides not rules.
  • Use a variety of sentence lengths and types. In particular, the use of complex sentences (ones with subordination/dependent clauses) are considered a sign of good writing.
  • Link paragraphs and sentences well. Your paragraphs should not be able to be 'moved' within the essay and the sense and progress of it maintained. Sentences should be linked, but do not overuse conjunctions. Good writing does not endlessly use the same subject for sentences. Rather, pronouns or synonyms are substituted for it.
  • Don't copy the question. This will not count.
  • Spend about 40 minutes on this task (Compared with 20 minutes for Writing Paper 1)

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The best way to learn to pass the IELTS exam is to take an IELTS Preparation Course

IELTS Exam Sample Papers-Free Downloads - Hong Kong

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How to get ready for the IELTS SpeakingTest

IELTS Sample Test Speaking Paper Download (Click for PDF)

A good method is to use IELTS Practice Exam Books. Cambridge University Press publish a great series: Cambridge Practice Tests for IELTS Self-study student's book IELTS Practice Tests: Authors Vanessa Jakeman, Clare McDowell. There are 5 books in the series! Most good Hong Kong bookshops have them.

However, preparing on your own has major disadvantages - especially for the speaking and writing papers since you will no have any feedback on your performance or advice on how to improve your exam skills to get a better score. The IELTS exam is also quite expensive (about HK$1500) and your time may be limited so it is better to prepare properly and take an IELTS Preparation Course before your exam to make sure.

Remember you may have to wait another year to get into university if you cant get the test score that you need this time.
An expert IELTS tutor (often these are actual IELTS examiners) can help you prepare and improve your test scores by giving exact strategies and tips for success. For speaking and Writing it is especially important to make sure you are up to standard before taking the exam. They will teach you all the tricks to get the highest score! is a leader in IELTS Tuition in Hong Kong. We have been providing IELTS tuition to local HK residents since 2001 and have experienced native expert IELTS tutors. Do you need IELTS Score 7 or 8? Our tutors can help you get it quickly!

HK IELTS Exam Speaking Paper - Overview-HK

Hong Kong IELTS Exam Speaking Paper - Test Overview IELTS Preparation Course - Click Here

It is designed to test your English level: General Training IELTS Module for immigration and Academic Module for entrance to university. The Academic IELTS Exam module is sometimes also used to screen job applications in companies and in the HK Government promotion system as well . Both have 4 papers:

  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing

All candidates take the same Speaking and Listening test but there are different Reading and Writing Papers for the Academic or General Training option.

The Speaking test takes 15 minute and has 3 parts. Each section gets progressively harder.

Speaking Test Sample Questions

Part 1 Sample Questions - General Introductions and easy questions on common topics such as home, work and study. To get higher marks candidates have to answer in complete sentences giving full answers and yes/no answers are not acceptable.

  • How did you get here today?
  • Are you working or studying?
  • Why are you taking the IELTS test?
  • Can you tell me about your family?
  • Where do you live?
  • Can you describe the area where you live?
  • What do you like most about living there?
  • What do you think about the traffic in your city?
  • How could the transport system be improved?

Part 2 Sample Questions - The student has to give a brief talk (mini presentation) lasting 1 to 2 minutes on a familiar subject making sure they cover all the points on the question sheet. 1 minute is given for preparation and the candidate can take notes.

  • Describe a party that you once attended, You should say:
  • Where it took place
  • Why it was held
  • How you felt about it
  • Describe a book that you read recently. You should say:
  • When you first heard or read it
  • What you particularly liked about it
  • Why you think it was popular
  • The examiner will stop you when its time to move on and ask a follow up question such as "Do you read a lot of books?"

Part 3 Sample Questions - This is an extended discussion following on from the topic in Question 2 and the student has to give their opinions with reasons as well as discussing wider issues related to this.

Do you think people should read more books?
Should books be cheaper do you think?
Are books still important in the age of the internet?
Do you think the information of the internet is reliable?
Should there be more control over the internet and things published there?
Is the internet influential on young people?
Should governments censor the internet? What about newspapers and books?
How has the internet changed peoples lives?
How to get ready for the IELTS Test

A common way to prepare for the examination is by practicing past IELTS papers. You can buy IELTS Practice Test books from most good bookstores including the Bookstore at However, this has major disadvantages - especially for the speaking and writing papers since you will no have any feedback on your performance or how to improve your English and examination skills in order to get the highest marks. The IELTS exam is also quite expensive (about HK$1500) and your time may be limited so it is better to prepare properly and take an IELTS Preparation Course right before your exam to ensure that you can get the IELTS certificate before your University, College or School deadline. Why wait another year?

An expert IELTS tutor (often these are actual IELTS examiners) can help you prepare and improve your test scores by giving exact strategies and tips for success. For speaking and Writing it is especially important to make sure you are up to standard before taking the exam.

IELTS Writing Paper 1 - Academic Module

IELTS Writing paper Task 1

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Activities on the IELTS test are very in tune with the actual needs of the candidate. Being able to describe such information is an important skill that every university or college student needs to be able to master.

Part One of the IELTS writing paper (academic module) deals with describing graphical information, a table, a map or a process. Nine out of ten times the question will be on graphs, however. This article focuses on describing graphs and tables.

The whole IELTS writing paper takes 1 hour, but you should only spend 20 minutes on this part. It is easier than part two and marks are allocated accordingly.

It is important to read and understand the question, as well as follow the instructions carefully. You usually have to write a report for a university lecturer so your style should be formal. Remember to use proper paragraphing as well as you will get higher marks for this. Leave a line between paragraphs to clearly show the breaks. Proper paragraphing will push your IELTS band score up.

You must write at least 150 words, so make sure you count the number you have written as less than this will carry a penalty.

Start by writing a one sentence description of the chart or table. Try to use different words than those used in the actual title printed on the graph.

The examiner will assess your ability to:

1. Describe the change or trend (i.e. whether it is a rise or fall, an increase or decrease)
2. Write about the interval of time depicted in the chart or graph
3. Compare and contrast the groups of information presented.

Sometimes the graph or table will contain very detailed with complex information, which makes it impossible to describe everything in detail. You should therefore concentrate only on the major trends and most significant information.

IELTS Reading Tips - HK

IELTS reading paper IELTS Preparation Course - Click Here

This is one of the most difficult papers in the IELTS test to handle.

Why is it so difficult? Because on the surface it looks so easy! In reality, the structure of the questions is such that only an advanced reader can get high marks in this part of the IELTS exam. Of course, that is the whole idea of the IELTS test in order to differentiate between the level bands.

The IELTS exam reading section consists of three reading passages from a variety of sources such as newspapers books and magazines. Although the content is not specialised, the articles are fairly high level. Even though they may be scientific, they are of general interest and you do not need any prior knowledge of the subject to be able to answer the questions. One will probably contain a chart or diagram, and at least one will contain a complex argument

One of the main obstacles is the fact that the articles are quite long (about 900 words each). There is only 1 hour for the whole test, so its impossible to read the articles and understand every unknown word.

As with the rest of the IELTS test, you must have a good understanding of the types of questions you have to answer. There are ten types of questions including multiple choice, sentence completion, short answer questions, completing sentences, classifying, yes/no/not given, labeling paragraphs with headings, matching, identifying the location of information, and labelling a diagram or completing a summary.

You should also learn which reading skills you should use to answer each type of question. For instance, if the question requires you to label paragraphs then using skimming to get a general idea of each paragraph is the appropriate skill. For the sentence completion tye questions you need to use scanning to get a deeper understanding of the text.

Like the rest of the papers, the IELTS reading texts get more difficult as your progress through the test. Time is limited so if you cannot answer a question, do not waste time trying to find the answer but just leave it and go on to the next question. You can always come back to it and even guess if needed (there is no penalty for wrong answers).

When answering questions be careful about spelling and grammatical mistakes as these will reduce your marks. Be extra careful with plurals as well. And if the question says "write no more than 3 words" then do not write 4!

The IELTS reading test booklet is designed rather like the listening test but in contrast there is no separate answer sheet. You must write all your answers in the test booklet and there is no extra time at the end to transfer your answers. Be sure to write your answers legibly and if you need to change your answers, indicate clearly which is your "final" answer.

IELTS In The USA - IELTS Preparation Courses in Hong Kong


Are you planning to study in the USA? Then you need to get ready for the English entrance exam. An IELTS preparation course is the right choice for you to make sure you get the grade you want for entrance to your university or college course.

THE IELTS exam is now accepted for entry by more than 1000 universities and professional organizations in the USA including UCLA, University of San Fransisco, Columbia University and Duke.

It is also accepted by many universities in Hong Kong such as the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The City University of Hong Kong and The University of Hong Kong to mention just a few. The Hong Kong Government also accepts the IELTS exam as part of its recruitment and promotion system.

Each year there are over 700,000 people taking the exam and using it as their passport for entry to university and also for immigration. The exam is held several times a year and you can retake the test after three months to try to obtain a better grade.

It is a four part exam which tests speaking, listening, reading and writing. It is geared to resemble the type of activities you will have to do in a foreign country. For instance, in part one of the writing test the academic version may ask you to write an report describing a set of graphs. The general training version, which is used for immigration purposes, tests your ability to write such things as a job application letter instead.

There is no pass or fail in the exam, but rather a grading system. Grades range from 0 (where the candidate cannot use English at all) to 9 (where the candidate is at the same level of English proficiency as a native speaker).

IELTS - preparation for University and a new job

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The IELTS exam (International English Language Testing Scheme) is the most widely used English test in the world. It is your passport for entry into thousands of universities, colleges and schools world-wide. It is also a basic requirement for immigration to many countries. And today, many Hong Kong employers now use it as a screening test for their HR recruitment process. The test covers all four areas of English proficiency: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Grades are awarded according to test performance and therefore there is no failing grade. A score of 9 indicates an expert user whereas a score of 0 means that no English communication is possible at all. Most overseas universities require a grade 6.5 to 7.5 for entry into their courses, whereas for immigration purposes a lower score may be accepted.

Proper preparation is necessary to enable candidates to obtain the highest possible score and the best way to do this is by 1 to 1 private tuition by an experienced IELTS teacher. Large classes of 20 or more students mean that you will be practicing with the other students most of the time and the teacher will have little time to spend with you individually.

About IELTS in Hong Kong

IELTS Exam in Hong Kong - Overview

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam is a four part test covering all four English language skills: Listening, speaking, reading and writing. Each year in excess of 1.5 million candidates sit for the exam which is their passport for entry into Universities and Colleges worldwide. It is also the favoured language test for many immigration bureaus.

There are IELTS examination centres in 135 countries, and it's popularity is growing, especially in the USA, as more educational institutions adopt the test as a pre-requisite for entry into their programs. Usually a grade of 6.o to 7.5 is required for Undergraduate programs, but the required grade varies so check with the Universities you are interested in first. IELTS Preparation Course - Click Here