IELTS vs TOEFL

Posted on June 13, 2011

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International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are two popular English tests in the Philippines today. If you’re thinking that it’s because of the booming number of Licensed Nurses who are aspiring to work in the US, UK, AU and NZ then you are correct. These tests measure your English ability when it comes to Reading Comprehension, Listening, Writing and Speaking.

I recall that I started working immediately after taking the Local Licensure Exam for Nurses to save money for exams like these because I need it if I want to take NCLEX-RN. However, I was half- hearted in going abroad to work as a Nurse so I continued working in the corporate world and four years later, I still did not take any of the exams.

Last year, feeling burnout with my work and struggling with quarter- life crisis I decided that I should invest in myself more but it should be something different from traveling. I enrolled in various classes and one time I saw in the bulletin of the school where I was having Mandarin lessons that the place is also a testing center for TOEFL. I then mused to myself that it would be one of my short term goals for the year, to take either IELTS or TOEFL.

At first I was eyeing for IELTS, I thought it was more challenging because for the Speaking part you have to talk to real people on the actual test unlike with TOEFL where there would be a voice prompt giving you the topic then after a few seconds they would be recording your response to the said topic. However, I don’t want to take IELTS without enrolling in a review center. I searched over the net and the cheapest I was able to find is worth Php 5000 or around $100 for several sessions. It was April of last year. Time passed by and I wasn’t able to enroll in the review class because of conflicts in schedule. It was already October and I’m not making any progress with my goal. That time I got interested in scholarships in Korea, and coincidentally, they are asking for IELTS/TOEFL scores from applicants. I had to move quickly so I decided to take TOEFL.

I visited their site and registered online (http://www.ets.org/toefl). I filled out their online form, selected the date that was most convenient for me and paid $175.

Finally!

In preparation for the exam, I bought a CD reviewer from somewhere around the university belt. I know that I would not be able to use it that much but I’d like to know how the test works since I’m completely clueless. I was able to try one mock exam only from the CD though there are several in it.

On the day of the exam, I left our home very early (which made everyone wonder because I didn’t tell anyone that I’m about to take TOEFL). I made sure that I have my passport with me because I wouldn’t be allowed to take the exam without it (or your driver’s license). I didn’t go to the testing center immediately but had my breakfast first in a nearby fast food store. I had to eat even if I don’t have the appetite because we will only have a pee break and the exam will last for four hours.

When I arrived in the testing center, there were  a lot of other test takers already. There were three proctors. One of them asked me to sign the log sheet and to put my things in the locker aside from my passport. There were several security cameras inside. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to discuss how they ensure that the security is tight so I scrapped what I typed earlier but one thing I can assure you, it is very tight. If you plan to cheat they will surely catch you.

Before the test starts, the system prompted me to test the headset. This is when I realized what the challenge in the TOEFL speaking part is (aside from the topic of course). We are in an enclosed room and when someone talks you would clearly hear what the person is saying and it is highly likely that you will lose your focus. You could not expect the test takers to lower down their voice because the recording should be clear enough for the evaluators.

The test wasn’t easy. It was draining. Moreover, the test is under time pressure. The passages for Reading Comprehension were very long which at one point made it confusing for me. During the Listening and Speaking parts of the test, I was so grateful for being able to work in a call center because this is where I honed these skills. By the time I took the test for Writing, I was already feeling hungry and disoriented.

I can’t remember how many days I waited but I think it was just a week and the results were already available online. Fortunately, despite taking it without proper preparation I was able to get satisfactory scores.

This is how the online score report looks like. The test’s total is 120.

It was hitting two birds with one stone. I accomplished my goal and I was able to apply for a scholarship. It was a good investment indeed.

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