The Crazy Acronyms of ESL: TOEFL and IELTS

When you’re learning English, you hear a lot of letters get thrown around. ESL? EFL? ESOL? What do all these terms mean? In this blog post we’ll look at the most commonly used acronyms, including TOEFL and IELTS.

The Basics

The most commonly used acronym for English learners is ESL. ESL stands for English as a Second Language. When people ask me what I do for a living, I normally say, “I teach ESL” or “I’m an ESL teacher.” Although this is the most commonly used term internationally, some people prefer to use the terms EAL or EFL. EAL stands for English as an Additional Language. EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language. Some people argue that these terms are more accurate, since many English learners already know more than one language. Is English your second language? Third? Fourth? Let us know in the comments below!

The Tests

Many English learners study English because they need it for their jobs or for their universities. If you want to attend a university in an English speaking country or get a promotion at work, you may need to take a standardized English exam. The two most popular ESL exams are the TOEFL and the IELTS.  Both of these exams will test your ability to speak, write, listen, and read in English, but there are a few differences between them.

IELTS Preparation  IELTS

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing Service. There are actually two IELTS tests: IELTS Academic and IELTS General, but both are managed  by The British Council. As you might have guessed, the IELTS Academic is more difficult and is recommended for people who want to attend university in the UK or Australia. The IELTS General is a little easier and is recommended for people who want to live in the UK or Australia. Since these tests are organized by The British Council, they use British English. In the listening section you might hear British, Irish, Australian or other “British English” accents. The English Bug will offer an IELTS preparation course soon!

TOEFL Preparation  TOEFL

TOEFL stands for Test Of English as a Foreign Language. The TOEFL test is the most commonly accepted ESL test in the USA. In the TOEFL test, the accents you will hear are American. You might see the letter iBT after TOEFL. This stands for Internet Based Test, since the TOEFL exam is conducted online. During the speaking section of the TOEFL, test takers talk to a computer instead of a real person! You speak into a microphone and your words are recorded to be evaluated later. The English Bug offers a TOEFL preparation course to help you ace the test!

Which is best?

Are you preparing for the TOEFL, IELTS, or some other test? What’s the best way to study? Which test is best for your needs? Let us know what you think about all these crazy acronyms!

-Teacher Mary

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