The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are two of the English proficiency tests most widely accepted by universities. So, which factors should you consider before picking a date for your exam?
Tips on scheduling your IELTS and TOEFL test dates
- Application deadlines
One of the most important things you should do before deciding on when to sit the exams is check if the programme of your choice has a single deadline, admission rounds, or rolling admission. Some schools accept applications on a rolling basis, while others have very specific deadlines for submission. Some schools may have more than one programme start per year (and thus multiple deadlines), while others may have only one.
If your plan is to take the tests first and then select the schools where to apply, be advised that the test scores are valid for two years. However, don’t rush your decision: selecting the programmes best suited to your goals and potential doesn’t happen overnight, so plan for about six months to do that in a worthwhile way.
- Estimated time needed for score reporting
Once you do that, pick an IELTS and TOEFL date to ensure your scores are reported prior to application deadlines (more on score reporting below). Find out how long it takes for the official score reports to reach the admissions offices and when the programmes you are interested in require your application and your test score and plan backwards to schedule your exam. Don’t forget that you may need to take the exam more than once, so allow for that possibility as well.
- Test registration deadlines
Booking a test date also needs planning. Registration for TOEFL iBT is usually done online, but you may want to book your date several months in advance to make sure there are time slots available in the most convenient testing centre for you. Also, early registration ensures more choice of test dates and testing hours and the possibility to pick the time of the day when you feel you will be most productive.
In some locations, online registration is not available. This means that either there is a fixed date when you can register with a local test administrator or you should plan enough time for snail mailing your registration form and a test fee wire/bank transfer. Since the IELTS is a pen-and-paper test, registration is usually not completed online.
Check out: How to Choose GRE and GMAT Test Dates
To be on the safe side, check out registration deadlines as soon as possible. If you expect to sit a test more than once for a better score, find out how long it takes to know your score and then how soon you can register to sit the test again.
- Test preparation
Another important thing to bear in mind – estimate the time you will need to prepare for the exam. This will depend on many factors such as the overall level of your English skills, your learning style, your schedule, budget, test preparation options within your reach, etc. It may take between four and 18 months of preparation and several tests before you achieve your best competitive score.
Check out: How Long to Study for TOEFL or IELTS
Important facts about the TOEFL/IELTS score reporting
How often can I take the exams?
Select your test date and location.
You can take the TOEFL as many times as you wish. However, you cannot take it more than once in a 12-day period. If you already have a test appointment, you cannot register for another test date that is within 12 days of your existing appointment. But to start with, check out how often the test is given in your specific location.
Select your test date and location.
Much like the TOEFL, you can schedule a resit for the IELTS whenever you like. The IELTS places no limits on how many times you may sit the exam per year, or how frequently you may schedule a testing session. However, it is important to find out how often and how many times per year the test is given in your location. In some locations the test if provided just once a year, while in others – twice a month. Also, the creators of the tests advise students to take a moment to consider their options before applying for another test. Your score is unlikely to increase unless you make a significant effort to improve your English.
When and how are score reports sent?
Your TOEFL test fee entitles you to have four free official score reports sent to schools that you select before the test. Score report recipients can be added or deleted through the online registration system until 10 p.m. (local test centre time) on the day before your test. For selections made after the 10 p.m. deadline, there is a fee of US 20 dollars for each score report requested.
Official score reports will be sent to your designated recipients about 13 days after you take the test. Some recipients receive the results online, but some prefer to receive them by mail. In this case, ETS, the administrator of the TOEFL exam, advises students to allow 7–10 days after the mailing date for delivery in the United States, and 4–6 weeks for locations outside the United States.
The IELTS test centre will send a copy of your official score report to up to five institutions or organisations free of charge if you list them on your online registration within one month from the test date. If you request more than five reports, you will have to pay extra fees.
IELTS results are released 13 calendar days after you take the test, and you will receive one copy of your official score report by postal mail. The IELTS Administrator will mail your results to the address you entered on your online registration, so please make sure your address is correct.
Some universities may prefer to receive scores electronically, while others may prefer mail delivery. In most cases, universities can receive your electronic score report in five business days and paper score report in five to 10 business days.
Can I cancel my score?
When you finish taking the test, you can cancel your scores. Cancelling is free of charge, but you should consider carefully before doing so. If you cancel your scores, they will not be reported to you or any institutions and your test fee will not be refunded. Cancelled scores are not added to your permanent record.
While most standardised exams let you cancel disappointing scores, the IELTS does not. Of course, there is a way around this and it’s called a resit. If your score is far too low, you can simply resit the IELTS for a better score and still get accepted to the programme of your choice.
Evidently, there are many factors to consider before choosing IELTS and TOEFL test dates. Make sure you put some effort into the selection because picking the right date is an essential step to achieving a good score and therefore an important part of your application.