TOEIC VS TOEFL: 4 Key Differences, FAQs and Comparison Chart

TOEIC and TOEFL are two English language tests owned by US based, Educational Testing Service (ETS). Results of these tests can be used by universities, immigration depts and workplaces to decide who they offer places, work or visas to. The main differences between the tests are as follows:

TOEFL is taken by students applying to universities and is geared towards proving your academic English language ability, whereas, TOEIC is used to assess language ability for the workplace.  

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language and TOEIC stands for Test of English for International Communication. We are going to be looking at the differences in format, task type, difficulty level and cost so you can be clear on which test is right for you.

What are the differences between TOEIC and TOEFL?




Acronym means:

Test of English as a Foreign Language

Test of English for International Communication


English testing for university study abroad, immigration and work.

To assess English-language skills needed in the workplace

Owned by:

Educational Testing Service, America (ETS)

Educational Testing Service, America (ETS)

More commonly preferred in:


USA, Japan, Korea, USA, Canada

Number of test takers per year:

2 million*

6 million+

Results available:

In your ETS account approximately 6 days after your test date, paper copy within 11 days if requested.

For the TOEIC Speaking and Writing tests your Score Report will be posted within 8 working days.

For listening and reading you choose either: standard (10-15 days), express (2-5 days), or super express (1-3 days).


45,000 centres across 150 countries

14,000+ organizations across more than 160 countries use TOEIC scores to make decisions

Retest policy:

As many times as you want but not within 3 days

As many times as you want but only once every 28 days.

Method of delivery:

Internet based (iBT) or paper based (PBT), home based test also possible

Listening and reading is paper-based or digitally delivered.

Speaking and Writing test is computer based.


TOEFL iBT Home Edition

TOEFL iBT (academic)

TOEFL Essentials (general)

TOEIC Listening and Reading

TOEIC Speaking and Writing

TOEIC Bridge

Cost to take in the US in $US:

$180 - $190

TOEIC Listening and Reading - $80

TOEIC Speaking and Writing - $70

TOEIC Bridge - $55

Maximum possible score:

120 points

TOEIC Listening and Reading - 990 

TOEIC Speaking and Writing - 400

TOEIC Bridge - 100

Test breakdown:

Overall score is total of reading, writing, listening and speaking scores, each out of 30.

Listening section 495

Reading section 495

Speaking out of 200

Writing out of 200

TOEIC Bridge

Listening section out of 50, reading section out of 50.

Listening format:

5-7 sections, 28-39 ques total, 41 - 57 mins total.

Question types: multiple choice, choose multiple, or single answers, and complete a table.

4 sections, 100 ques, 45 mins.
Question types: Test takers listen to a variety of questions and short conversations recorded in English, then answer 100 multiple choice ques.

Reading format:

3-4 sections, 30 qus, 54-72 mins.

Question types: Multiple choice only

2 sections, 100 qus, 75 mins.

Question types: Multiple choice only

Reading text types:

Academic texts only

Texts related to work and everyday life.

Speaking format:

4 sections, 17 minutes, answers recorded.

Part 1: Independent speaking

Part 2-4: Integrated skills tasks

11 ques, 20 mins, 200 points answers recorded.

Writing format:

500 words in 50 mins

Integrated writing 150 - 225 words. Independent writing 300 words

8 ques, 60 mins, 200 points. Write a sentence about a picture. Respond to emails.

Opinion essay approx 300 words.

4 key differences between TOEIC and TOEFL

#1 – Different Purposes

A company may request that you submit a TOEIC score to them as part of an application process so they can hire, train and promote the most proficient candidates to build a stronger team.

You may also do a TOEIC test proactively, i.e. you take a TOEIC test even though it is not requested just to prove how good your English is. This is particularly beneficial if you are seeking a job abroad.

In fact, 14,000 companies in over 160 countries use TOEIC demonstrating just how global and trusted this score is. I’ll be honest though, as a British person, I had never heard of this test previously and is not particularly popular over in the UK where IELTS is the preferred test for most people.

Some of the companies that use TOEIC as part of the recruitment and development process are as follows: Air France, China Southern Airlines, and Renault. 

In 2019 ETS made these claims too about TOEIC:

  • 7 out of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies use TOEIC.
  • 6 of the top 10 airlines as ranked by Skytrax use TOEIC.
  • 5 of the top 10 major banks in the Fortune 2000 use TOEIC.
  • 4 of the top 5 computer hardware companies in the Fortune 2000 use TOEIC.
  • The top 12 pharmaceutical companies in the Fortune 2000 all use TOEIC.
  • The top 9 consumer electronics companies in the Fortune 2000 use TOEIC.
  • 5 out of 5 of the top Oil and Gas companies in the Fortune 2000 use TOEIC.

Source for above information.

On the other hand, the TOEFL test is largely for academic purposes. The test utilises much more academic language and content throughout the exam making it more applicable to university admission processes.

You can check if the universities you are interested in accept TOEFL and what the required TOEIC scores are right here.

It seems as though ETS and their two main tests TOEIC and TOEFL are both highly trusted although designed for different purposes.

I mention ‘trust; though as the organisation that runs TOEIC, ETS, also runs TOEFL and both tests were involved in a rather large scandal that rocked the world of English language testing.

Although it was a few years ago in 2006, you can read all about it here and it is worth considering the reputation of whichever test you are going to invest your hard earned money into.

This scandal is the main reason that these English language tests are no longer accepted for the purpose of being issued a UK visa. You might want to try IELTS UKVI for that, those test are video recorded and done in a more secure manner befitting an important high stakes test.

#2 – Different number of tests

TOEIC is offered in two separate tests, reading and listening, and speaking and writing. This allows a company to request the score of whichever test is most relevant to the position they are recruiting for.

For example, an airline would most likely be more interested in an applicant’s English speaking skills rather than their reading and listening skills and so may request that test score only.

Personally, though I would find it rather unsatisfactory to complete only one of the test as the skills are very complementary, i.e. you would struggle to have a conversation with anybody if you had brilliant speaking skills but poor listening skills.

That saii, it appears that the reading and listening test is often the only TOEIC test that is required to be taken which actually makes it a much cheaper alternative to IELTS.

You can read more about TOEFL vs IELTS here.

#3 – Vocabulary

TOEFL typically covers topics normally associated with student life, such as: sciences, history, sociology and the like, and the format also reflects university life using discussion between course mates, lecturers and students, as well as everyday university life type situations.

In contrast, TOEIC covers more business and workplace related topics, such as: meetings, replying to emails, presentations and so on. This means that you need to be much stronger in business/workplace based vocabulary to do well in TOEIC.

#4 – Acceptability

TOEIC may not be enough to prove your English language ability to gain a place at the university of your choice. It is simply not considered relevant enough by some universities and so you should also check before booking a test which one is going to be most useful for you.

Remember, neither of these scores will be enough to apply for a UK visa.

Can you use TOEIC for a UK visa?

TOEIC cannot be used to apply for a UK visa because it is no longer considered a secure English Language Test (SELT). However, some UK universities may accept it as proof of English language ability but this is not helpful as you still need another test for the visa.

Remember though, the TOEIC test is not the right test for university anyway, TOEFL is more appropriate for those purposes. Some universities will accept TOEIC and you will have to check with your university directly but this is still not the norm.

I suggest that if you have TOEIC already and you want to go to a UK university then you simply accept that you will have to do another test and do an IELTS Academic UKVI test instead or PTE test instead.

You can read my detailed comparison guide of PTE vs TOEFL vs IELTS here.

Is TOEIC harder than TOEFL?

TOEFL is generally considered harder than TOEIC as its texts are more densely packed with information, academic language and concepts. Furthermore, a wider range of vocabulary is required as a greater range of topics could appear, such as biology, history and social sciences, not just work based vocabulary.

However, in all honesty you should choose the test that fits the purpose of you wanting to take a test. Typically that means taking TOEFL for university and academic purposes and TOEIC for career based reasons.

Where is TOEIC accepted?

Currently, TOEIC is being used in over 160 countries and 14,000 companies including the likes of: Air France, Renault, and China Southern Airlines. In fact, TOEIC claims that 7 out of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies use TOEIC (Source).

Many universities worldwide also accept the test although TOEFL test is generally considered more appropriate for this purpose IELTS, or PTE may be a better option for the UK as those tests can be used for visa purposes.

Is TOEIC harder than IELTS?

TOEIC is usually considered as being easier than IELTS because often you are only required to take the reading and listening test whereas in IELTS you have to test all four skills Furthermore, TOEIC features more everyday workplace vocabulary whereas the IELTS test covers a wider range of topics and vocabulary.

You may also want to read IELTS vs TOEFL: 14 Key Differences, or A Grad Schooler’s Guide To GRE, IELTS And TOEFL, here

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