If you live outside of the United States and plan to attend a U.S. graduate school, you may need to take a standardized test, such as the TOEFL or IELTS, to prove that you can communicate effectively in English.

Whether you take the TOEFL or IELTS exam, earning a passing score is a common admission requirement for universities and graduate programs in English-speaking countries, including the United States.


The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) measures a student's ability to use and understand English at the university level. The exam consists of four sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. It is administered online and in person at testing centers around the world.


The IELTS (International English Language Testing System), another exam that measures English language proficiency, is accepted by many universities in the United States and other English-speaking countries. Like the TOEFL, the exam consists of four sections: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. It is also administered online and in person at testing centers in many countries.


Your decision doesn’t necessarily have to come down to, “TOELF or IELTS?” The Duolingo English Test is a newer online test that measures a student's English proficiency. It became increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, in part because it can be taken from home. The test consists of a series of exercises that evaluate a student's reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. The test is scored on a scale of 10-160.

All three exams are widely accepted by universities and graduate programs in the United States and other English-speaking countries as evidence of English language proficiency for non-native English speakers.

10 Tips to Prepare for the Duolingo, TOEFL or IELTS Test

  1. Practice speaking and writing in English every day. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with the language.
  2. Watch English language movies and TV shows. This can help you improve your listening skills and get a better sense of natural English conversations.
  3. Read English-language books and news articles. This will build your vocabulary and comprehension skills.
  4. Take practice tests. There are many online resources that offer practice tests for the Dulolingo, TOEFL or IELTS exams. Take advantage of them to get a feel for the exam format and types of questions.
  5. Work with a tutor. A tutor can help you identify your weaknesses and create a study plan tailored to your needs.
  6. Join a language exchange program. This can give you the opportunity to practice speaking with native English speakers and also allow you to help someone else learn your native language.
  7. Use English-language apps. There are many language learning apps available that can help you improve your English skills, such as Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone.
  8. Take an English-language course. Consider enrolling in an English-language course at a local college or language center to receive more structured learning and support.
  9. Surround yourself with English. Try to surround yourself with English as much as possible, whether that means listening to English music, writing in English, or speaking with English-speaking friends.
  10. Stay motivated. Mastering a second language can be challenging, but staying motivated is key. Set achievable goals for yourself and celebrate your progress along the way.

It doesn’t matter whether you decide to take the Duolingo, TOEFL or IETLS exam to prove that you can communicate in English well enough to live and study in the United States: The successful results you achieve will satisfy one of the most important requirements for studying in a U.S. graduate degree program.

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