As an international student applying for admission to postgraduate programs abroad, one of the requirements you must meet is to obtain a minimum score on the TOEFL or IELTS. In addition to the exam to prove your command of the English language, you must take the GRE or GMAT. Deciding which exam to take first will help you create a more effective study strategy.
First assess your level of English.
According to TOPSCHOOLSINTHEUSA, the GRE or GMAT are complex tests that require an excellent understanding and command of the English language, even in the mathematics section. Therefore, having a good level is a prerequisite for obtaining competitive scores. If your English is not that good or you do not feel so sure of it, first make a diagnosis to determine your level and start preparing for the language test. This will refresh you basic knowledge and give you vocabulary.
Determine the first goal.
Make sure you score at least 100 points on the TOEFL IBT or 7 points on the IELTS. Check bridgat for more about IELTS exams. Focus especially on reading and writing, and score at least 25 points in each section. However, if your math level requires urgent attention, don’t postpone studying until you’ve perfected your English. Keep in mind that studying math and the basics for the GMAT or GRE takes time.
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Having a good level of English helps you keep your eyes on the goal.
If you don’t need to study a lot for the TOEFL or IELTS, pay attention to the format and the sections that will not evaluate you on the other exam (listening and peaking). Take the exam a few weeks before the GMAT or GRE. The experience of taking a standardized test in the same place / city where you will take the GMAT or GRE can help you coordinate logistics issues, especially if you have to go to another city. Meeting the language requirements allows you to dedicate more hours to the verbal and essay section of the GMAT or GRE. TOEFL or IELTS results take several weeks. It is not advisable to take the exam too close to the application deadline for the programs of your interest. As for the distance between exams, schedule them close to be better prepared; your study on the GRE or GMAT will help you get a better score. Once you have taken the standardized language test and have the score, redirect all your concentration to the GRE or GMAT. Remember that the TOEFL is valid for two years. Another good option for those who have an excellent level of English is to take the GMAT or GRE before the TOEFL or IELTS so as not to be distracted by reviewing the test formats. Finally, keep in mind that if you are looking to enter a competitive graduate degree, you may need to take the GRE or GMAT more than once. For this reason, it is essential to create a work schedule that takes this contingency into account.
Note: IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for definitions of more test acronyms.
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- University of Leipzig (Germany)
Current information: Since April 2, 2020, the TOEFL can be taken from home due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you want to study in the USA or Canada, you have to prove that you have good knowledge of English when you apply. But grades alone are not enough. Universities in North America can also do very little with the different levels of competence from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (B1, B2, C1, etc.). They almost always want to see a score on a standardized language test that they are familiar with. And until a few years ago that was primarily the “Test of English as a Foreign Language”, or TOEFL for short. In the meantime, however, another English test has become established, which is also accepted almost everywhere in the USA and Canada, the “International English Language Testing System”, IELTS for short. Foreign applicants can therefore choose between the two tests. TOEFL or IELTS: What are the differences? Which one is heavier? Here’s a little comparison.
Academic English is required
First the similarities: Both tests measure the four basic language skills: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, writing and speaking. That means you have to read texts, listen to lectures and dialogues and answer questions about them. You also have to write a short essay on a given topic and speak a little yourself. The texts and audio samples come from the academic context and deal, for example, with the geological process of desertification or the psychological basis of aggressive behavior. This is the high level that is expected in the course. You don’t need any prior knowledge, but you do need a good vocabulary. The dialogues are often conversations between professors and students.
Also in terms of fees, TOEFL and IELTS do not take much. The TOEFL currently costs 255 US dollars in Germany, the IELTS 226 euros (as of January 2019). Both tests are offered several times a month at numerous locations in Germany. In both cases, registration is via the Internet: for the TOEFL with the organizer ETS and for the IELTS with the British Council. The results are then sent electronically to the universities to which you wish to apply. Incidentally, you cannot fail either of the two tests; at most it can be that the number of points achieved does not meet the requirements of the universities.
American English vs. World English
And that brings us to the differences. Because while the point scale for the TOEFL goes up to the maximum score of 120 points, the IELTS measures language competence in so-called “bands”, with band 9.0 (“expert user”) representing the best result. Most universities in the USA and Canada require foreign applicants to have a TOEFL of at least 79 and an IELTS of 6.5. However, it is often at least 100 points or a result in the band 7.0-8.0, especially at the more renowned universities. A table for converting TOEFL and IELTS scores is available here.
There are also some differences in the test procedure. In Germany, the TOEFL is only offered in the “Internet-based testing” (iBT) variant, ie the entire test is carried out on the computer. With IELTS, on the other hand, you still work the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. In addition, the TOEFL is almost entirely in multiple-choice format, while other test forms are also used in the IELTS, such as labeling graphics or completing diagrams. In addition, American English predominates in the audio samples in the TOEFL. This is hardly surprising given that the test originated in the USA. The IELTS, on the other hand, was developed by an international association under British leadership. From the outset, therefore, emphasis was placed on representing the entire spectrum of English as it is spoken around the world. Consequently, in the IELTS you hear flawless British English, but also audio samples from Australian or Kenyan speakers. So if you get along best with American English, you might be better served with the TOEFL.
The oral part: man or machine?
However, the key difference between TOEFL and IELTS relates to the “speaking” component, i.e. oral expression. With the TOEFL, it is very impersonal: You are asked a question on the screen, have a short time to make notes and then speak the answer (2-3 minutes) into a microphone, i.e. into nothingness. There is no interlocutor. What is said is stored digitally and then evaluated anonymously. And so that not all test participants in the room speak at the same time, this section is carried out at different times, so that someone is actually always speaking into their microphone. Many find this somewhat disturbing.
With the IELTS, the communication situation is much more natural: You sit with a real-life examiner for about 15 minutes and have a real conversation in which things go back and forth, questions are asked, etc. (here is an audio sample). However, this one person then also decides on the evaluation, and as always with human communication, body language, mood or (sometimes unconscious) sympathies and antipathies can have an influence. In addition, these discussions do not take place during the test, but afterwards. Depending on the number of test takers, you may have to wait a long time before it is your turn. By then, the concentration can already be gone. And although the IELTS is shorter on paper with a pure test duration of 2 hours 45 minutes than the TOEFL (3 hours 30 minutes, from August 2019: 3 hours ), it can also take longer depending on the waiting time.
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