TOEFL vs other examination offered at ELA

16 Aug 2018

International Exams at English Language Academy Malta:  Making the right choice for you

Learning a language can be a huge, significant, and highly rewarding step in life; this can be even more significant if students get a formal and official qualification for their efforts. At ELA Malta we offer various exam courses and in this article we are going to help everyone understand the differences between them to help people make the right choices for their needs.

We’re going to take a look at the three most popular exam formats for International assessments of English: Cambridge English Exams, IELTS, and TOEFL and weigh them up to help prospective applicants choose an exam that is right for them.


How widely are these exams accepted?

Cambridge English Exams:

Accepted all over the UK and Europe, may be accepted elsewhere, but this normally involves asking for specific permission or applying for the qualification to be recognised by an accreditation body.


Recognized by tens of thousands of colleges, universities and agencies in more than 130 countries, including Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the United States. IELTS is more popular in Australia, with TOEFL being more popular in the US, Canada, and East Asia


VERDICT: IELTS and TOEFL seem to be the front runners, with TOEFL just edging forward to first place in terms of widespread acceptance. For university entry, in particular, we recommend the TOEFL.


How often do exams take place?

Cambridge English Exams:

held 3 or 4 times a year (depending on the exam)


held once a month throughout the year, with the exception of July, August and September. During these 3 months, the TOEFL exam is held twice per month.


generally held twice a month (there are some months when it is only held once).


VERDICT: For people who need a more flexible timeframe to sit for these exams, IELTS and TOEFL are the ideal, especially as they’re both held in widespread esteem.



How long does it take to sit for the exam?

Cambridge English Exams:

Multiple days, generally week days: Listening, Reading & Use of English, and Writing papers take up to a total of 6 hours. The speaking section of the exam normally occurs up to 5 days before or after the written portion of the exam.


Half a day, generally on a Saturday: Candidates are finished with all sections of the exam within 4 hours, unless they had been granted an allowance of extra time.


Multiple days, written sections generally weekends, spoken section generally week days: Listening, Reading, and Writing papers take up to a total of 6 hours. The speaking section of the exam normally occurs up to 5 days before or after the written portion of the exam.


VERDICT: People who may need to travel away from home to sit for an exam would be best served by the TOEFL exam, as the entire exam happens over the course of just a few hours. For candidates who are able to take the exam in their hometown, IELTS and Cambridge English Exams are viable options, however working adults will likely need to take more time off of work.


How long does it take for results to be issued?

Cambridge English Exams:

results can be obtained just 8 weeks after the exam


results can be obtained just 10 days after the exam


results can be obtained just 4 weeks after the exam


VERDICT: TOEFL results come out MUCH quicker than IELTS or Cambridge English results, with IELTS coming in at a distant second. We recommend the TOEFL for anyone who needs their results before a specific deadline, such as a university application.


Accessibility and differently-abled individuals:

Cambridge English Exams:

Mostly paper-based, some computer-based centres can be found. Applicants with different needs (e.g. people who have dyslexia) may apply for extra time in their exam. Applicants who are lucky enough to live or study near a computer-based exam centre may enjoy added accessibility, but these centres are the minority.


Computer-based. Applicants with different needs may apply for extra time in their exam. Applicants who have issues with handwriting don’t need to worry, as all input is through a keyboard, mouse, and microphone. Applicants who experience issues with reading or eyesight have the benefit of being able to see everything on a backlit LCD or LED screen, as opposed to paper.


Paper-based. Applicants with different needs may apply for extra time in their exam.


VERDICT: TOEFL is the clear winner, here, with the vast majority of test-takers being able to take the test with little difficulty, regardless of any special needs they may have.


Preparing for these exams at English Language Academy:

Our school has decades of experience helping prepare students for these exams, and we have a phenomenal track record with our alumni. Examination courses are some of the most popular courses that we have on offer, with many new students finding us through recommendations from friends, colleagues, and family members who had achieved success with us themselves.

We are also Malta’s only TOEFL iBT exam centre, meaning that students who join our TOEFL preparation courses are taught in the same room, and on the same computers, as the actual exam takes place in. When sitting for the exam itself, our students get to come to a location they already know, be greeted by school staff they have met and spoken to several times, and work in an environment that they are already intimately familiar with, helping to reduce anxiety and stress on the day.

While we see value in all exams, and have an amazing team of exam-specialist teachers ready to help students with whatever exam they choose, due to all the reasons we mentioned above (such as convenience, speed, widespread acceptance, etc.), we always recommend the TOEFL, as we truly believe it is the best option for the majority of our students.