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IELTS test format 

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) evaluates you on all four language skills - listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The total test time is 2 hour 44 minutes plus 10 minutes of transfer time. The Listening, Reading, and Writing components of the test are always completed immediately after each other and with no break. You will do the Listening component first followed by the Reading and Writing components of the test. Depending on the test center, the Speaking test may be taken up to 7 days either before or after the test date.

There is no difference in the content, format or level of difficulty and scoring between IELTS General Training and Academic Test. The Listening and Speaking tests remain the same for both the versions. 

Why is the IELTS format fairer?

You deserve a fair chance to do your best. That’s why, unlike other tests, IELTS gives you a quiet room for the Speaking test with no distractions or interruptions. IELTS also recognizes that candidates have different approaches to answering questions. For example, with IELTS you can answer questions in the order that suits you and you can make changes to your Reading answers and Writing responses at any time during the Reading and Writing sections.

How IELTS examine the four language skills?

Both versions of IELTS (Academic and General Training) cover all four language skills: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking as outlined below:

IELTS Listening test (30 minutes)

You will have to listen to four recordings and then answer the questions asked. The recordings are of native English speakers and the duration of the test is 30 minutes.

  • Recording 1: You will listen to a dialogue placed in daily life and context.
  • Recording 2: You will listen to a monologue about everyday life or social context. For instance, a talk on the condition of streets in an area.
  • Recording 3: You will listen to a conversation between more than two people placed in a training or educational context. For instance, a teacher discussing an assignment with students.  
  • Recording 4: You will listen to a monologue on any academic subject. For instance, a college lecture.

 In your Listening test, you will be assessed on your ability to comprehend the ideas, facts, attitudes and opinions of the speakers, the purpose of the recording and how well you follow the development of ideas.

IELTS Reading test (60 minutes)

The IELTS Reading test requires you to answer 40 questions and is designed to test you on an array of reading skills. You would have to read for gist, main ideas, details, logical arguments, skimming, and figuring out the writers’ attitudes, opinions and intentions.

  • The Reading test for Academic module consists of three long texts which can be descriptive, factual and analytical. The texts are taken from magazines, books, newspapers or journals and are apt for individuals who want to pursue university education or professional registration overseas.
  • Excerpts in the Reading test for General Training module are taken from the newspaper, books, notices, company handbooks, advertisements, and magazines. You need to read them well to answer the questions that follow. 

IELTS Writing test (60 minutes)

The IELTS writing test requires you to complete two tasks. It covers topics of general interest based on the module you are taking.

  • IELTS Academic comprises topics suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate students
    • Task 1: There will be a table, chart, graph or diagram that you will have to describe, explain or summarise in your own words. You might also be asked to explain the data shown, and stages and working of a process.
    • Task 2: You will have to write an essay as a response to an argument, problem or opinion 
    • Make sure you respond to both tasks in formal style
  • IELTS General Training module consists of excerpts on general topics from books, magazines, notices, company handbooks and guidelines that you are likely to face on a regular basis in an English speaking environment
    • Task 1:  You will have to write a letter to request information on, or explaining the given situation. You may choose to write it informally or formally.
    • Task 2:  You will have to write an essay as a response to an argument, problem or opinion. You may choose to write it in informal style.

IELTS Speaking Test (11-14 minutes)

The IELTS Speaking test assesses your spoken English skills. The test is recorded and conducted in three parts.

  • Part 1: You are asked questions about yourself and generic topics like family, home, work, interests and studies. This takes about 4-5 minutes.
  • Part 2: You are given a card with a topic written on it. You have to talk on this topic for about two minutes and will have a minute to prepare before you start speaking.
  • Part 3: The examiner will also ask a few related questions on the topic allotted in part 2. This allows you an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas.


For sample test questions, download our free IELTS Essentials preparation pack.

How to Prepare for IELTS

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