What are the TOEFL and IELTS?

What are the TOEFL and IELTS?

If you’re an international student applying from an LL.M. in an English-speaking country, chances are you’ll have to take one of these English-language tests. Here’s some essential information on the TOEFL and IELTS

If you're applying for an LL.M. from outside the English-speaking world, you'll probably have to prove to the schools you want to attend that you can speak, write, read and comprehend English. How will you prove your English prowess to the schools? Through your TOEFL and IETLS scores, of course.

What are TOEFL and IELTS?

TOEFL—Test of English as a Foreign Language—and IELTS—International English Language Testing System—are two standardized tests, administered around the world, that evaluate students' ability to speak, read, write and understand English.

Do I have to take the TOEFL and/or IELTS?

If English is your native language or you hold a law degree from a school in an English-speaking country, then you don't need to take the TOEFL or IELTS. However, if you don't fit one of these requirements, most schools will require you to take one of these tests.

Where can I take the TOEFL or IELTS?

The TOEFL is offered as an online test 50 times per year at testing sites throughout the world. The paper TOEFL test is currently only offered in parts of the world where Internet testing is not available. The IELTS, on the other hand, is still administered on paper, 48 times per year at sites around the world.

How much do these tests cost?

As of November, 2015, the IELTS costs a flat rate of $225 per test. The TOEFL's cost varies from country to country; it costs $190 in the United States, $175 in Vietnam and $255 in Sweden, for example.

What should I expect from the TOEFL test?

The TOEFL is a 4.5 hour test that evaluates students on reading, listening, writing and speaking. TOEFL activities include reading from a textbook, listening to a lecture, and speaking and writing in response. The test is graded by a combination of automated scoring and human raters. The speaking portions of the test, for example, are recorded and evaluated by three to six professional raters.

What should I expect from the IELTS test?

The IELTS test evaluates students on reading for 60 minutes, listening for 30 minutes, writing for 60 minutes and speaking for 11 to 14 minutes. The speaking portion of the test is evaluated by a face-to-face instructor, and is administered either the same day as the rest of the test, or seven days before or after the test, depending on the testing center. There are two types of IELTS tests: the academic version and the general version. The reading and writing sections of the test differ depending on which version you choose. The academic version is geared towards potential students; the general version has a wider audience including those who are going to English-speaking countries for training programs.

How are these tests scored?

The TOEFL is scored on a scale of up to 120, with each of the four sections accounting for 30 points. For the IELTS, each of the four sections is scored on a scale of up to nine. Students receive a final score, called the band score, which is an average of their scores on the four sections, rounded to the nearest half number.

What are the minimum scores required by LL.M. programs?

Many American law schools require students to achieve a minimum score of 100 on the TOEFL, with at least 25 on each section. Many schools caution applicants that their admitted students often score much higher. Some schools deviate slightly from these requirements, such as New York University, which requires students to score a minimum of 26 on the reading and listening sections and a 22 on the writing and speaking sections. Some schools, such as Boston University, will allow students with a TOEFL score under 100 to apply, but may ask promising students to retake the test. Other schools, such as the University of Southern California, don't have a minimum TOEFL score for applicants. And still others, like the University of Kansas, will admit candidates with a TOEFL below 100 on a case-by-case basis, but those students may be required to take extra English classes upon enrollment.

Many schools will not accept students with an IELTS band score below 7.

Do all schools accept both kinds of tests?

No. In general, more schools recognize the TOEFL than the IELTS. Harvard Law, for example, does not accept IELTS scores, and other schools, such as Duke Law, prefer the TOEFL, but will accept IELTS band scores of 7.5 or higher. 


Image: "In preparation for TOEIC and TOEFL exam…" by KniBaron on Flickr / Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 (cropped, rotated)

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