When to Start Preparing for IELTS or TOEFL?

When to Start Preparing for IELTS or TOEFL?

4 mins read97.5K Views 32 Comments
Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Jul 14, 2022 16:29 IST

If you belong to a country where English is not the native language, you will be required to take the IELTS or TOEFL if you wish to study, shift, or apply for a PR to a country where English is spoken. The question is that when should you do it? When to start preparing for the same? How long should yoy prepare for these exams? What is the best time to write the exam?

To start answering one or all of the above, let us quickly recap the important aspects of the two exams.




Conducted by

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is conducted by British Council, IDP IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English Language Assessment.

Test of English as a Foreign Language is conducted by Educational Testing Services (ETS)

Accepted by/ for

Across Europe, Australia, Canada as well as USA and Singapore.

Across the USA and also in Europe, Australia, Canada but might vary from institute to institute

Test Structure

IELTS Academic Divided into 4 sections:
Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking

TOEFL is also broadly divided into Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking

Score Range

IELTS is scored on a band range of 0 - 9 with 9 being an expert user.

TOEFL Internet-based test  (iBT) is scored on a range of 0 - 120

Score Validity

Valid for 2 years

Valid for 2 years


Can be taken multiple numbers of times (on the days given)

Can be repeated multiple numbers of times provided there is a gap of 12 days between two consecutive attempts

Summarily, both the tests are similar in manner, content, and test the candidates in same areas. As far as repeating them is concerned, they are similar too and hence would necessarily require a similar timeline. So, when should you start preparing and when should you write the exam?

Score Predictor

Predict your English proficiency score by sharing few details

Share 12th Board, Percentage, english score
Get estimated scores or IELTS, TOEFL & PTE

The important point to note about both the exams is the validity of 2 years as against the validity of a GMAT / GRE score that is for 5 years. Moreover, since a normal timeline for study abroad aspirants – from deciding to go abroad to actually going abroad, is about 18 months, this validity is of great importance. In addition, while some courses would require you to prove efficiency in the language, while for some courses you might have to provide the score for visa purposes. Again, for admission processes, you would have to have the scores at least 12 months to 8 months ahead of the planned intake. For visa purposes, on the other hand, you might require it only at the time of applying for a visa, which would be about 4 months before the session begins.

You must be clear when you have to provide your IELTS score or TOEFL score. What we recommend is that you should be ready with the scores 12 months before the intended sessions. This provides the candidate with the option of applying to various session intakes across different countries where the scores are valid. Taking it too early could necessitate a re-take, and too late might cause unnecessary stress. Moreover, different universities have different timelines. In order to meet those timelines, you must be prepared with your application documents well before time.

You might be interested in these free downloads
Free TOEFL Online Preparation Course by Shiksha.com
Free TOEFL Online Preparation Course by Shiksha.co...
Canada Student Visa Guide: Requirements, Fees, Application Process
Canada Student Visa Guide: Requirements, Fees, App...45k downloads
Study in Canada: Timeline for September 2024 Intake (Fall Intake)
Study in Canada: Timeline for September 2024 Intak...36k downloads

If the course, that you are applying to, does not require you to provide an IELTS/ TOEFL score, and you only need it for visa purposes, we suggest you keep it till the time you have started with the application process. Once the letters start to arrive, you can always register and write the exam. A word of caution though…do not keep it for the last minute. You might not get a date and the delay might cause a delay in your visa application as well. Hence, either way, a 12-month window before your intended departure is suitable. We always recommend that if you are planning to study abroad, starting early is the mantra for success.

Having said all this, it is safe to that that day you decide to go abroad for your studies is when you should ideally start preparing for these exams. Unless and until you have taken up a course which removes the necessity of a language proficiency test, these tests might be asked of you at any point. Hence, you can start preparing for these exams. Moreover, since the exams are necessarily about learning the language, preparing for them can never truly go waste. Just brush up your language, pay more emphasis on understanding the nuances, and make it a point to communicate – both verbal and written, in the language. So, even if you are still years from your intended study abroad journey…start working on your language.

If you have doubt about which test to choose, you might want to read the following articles:

IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE Academic: Which test you should take

Choosing between TOEFL and IELTS: A Comparison

IELTS Pattern

TOEFL Pattern

IELTS Preparation

TOEFL Preparation

Download this article as PDF to read offline

Download Guide
About the Author
Written by
Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert

Rahul Singha is a seasoned editor with Shiksha Study Abroad, specializing in overseas education. With over 8 years of domain experience, he has made a significant impact in contributing to the study abroad industry ... Read Full Bio




Abel Chikezie

6 months ago

If a student is coming from a country where English language is their spoken language, does the student require to write iELTS or ant other english proficiency text?

Reply to Abel Chikezie


aditya verma

3 years ago

I qualify jee advance recently and planning to go in iit , can i go to ug in foriegn universities in first or second year?

Reply to aditya verma


Gohul Kannan

3 years ago

For doing ms in germany which level German proficiency is required and plz give me tha syllabus

Reply to Gohul Kannan

Shilpa Saxena

3 years ago

Dear Gohul, For applying to a technical course that is taught in English, German proficiency is not required.


Gohul Kannan

3 years ago

I have 6.5 cgpa in mechanical engineering ( bachelor) course but I want to purse ms in mechanical engineering in germany for that is it any possibility to gat the university

Reply to Gohul Kannan

Shilpa Saxena

3 years ago

Hi Gohul Please check the university requirements and your eligibility to meet the same here https://studyabroad.shiksha.com/germany/ms-in-mechanical-engineering-colleges-ds. All the best!


Gayatri chabre

3 years ago

Hiii.... I'm recently doing my bachelor in b. Com 2nd year... I have planned to give Gmat exam after 6 months from now... So that i can do my mba just after the 3rd year of bachelor... When should I give my toefl exam??

Reply to Gayatri chabre

Shilpa Saxena

3 years ago

Dear Gayatri Since the validity of both IELTS and TOEFL scores is only two years, it is recommended that you give your exam within 12 months of the application to a university. Applying to an abroad university is a lengthy process and you certainly don't want your score to expire before or during th


We use cookies to improve your experience. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.