Test Format

Test Format

The two types of IELTS – Academic or General Training – comprise four components: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. In both types the whole test is completed in under three hours, however, the order in which the four parts are taken may vary. The parts of Listening, Reading and Writing must be completed on the same day without breaks in between. In most occasions, the Speaking part will be taken on the same day as the other three components, however, on busier periods, it might be scheduled up to seven days prior to or after the other three parts.

The only distinction between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training lies in the subject matter of the Reading and Writing components. The other two parts of Listening and Speaking remain the same in both test types, however they are structured in such a way that does not allow test takers to rehearse set responses beforehand.

Duration: 30 minutes + 10 minutes transfer time

Test takers listen to four recorded texts by a variety of voices and native-speaker accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand and American. Those four sections include 40 questions (10 questions per section). The recordings are heard only once.

Section 1

A conversation between two people set in an everyday social context
e.g. a conversation in an accommodation agency.

Section 2

A monologue set in an everyday social context
e.g. a speech about local facilities.

Section 3

A conversation up to four people set in an educational or training context
e.g. a university tutor and his student discussing an assignment.

Section 4
A monologue about an academic subject
e.g. a university lecture.

The test takers are required to answer a series of questions, such as: multiple choice, matching, plan/ map/ diagram labelling, form/ note/ table/ flow chart/ summary/ sentence completion, or short-answer questions. These questions are designed in such way that the answers appear in order. Test takers are given 10 extra minutes, as they are required to transfer their answers to an answer sheet and extra care should be taken as poor spelling and grammar are penalised.

The difference concerning the Reading part between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training lies in the subject matter of the Reading components.

The Reading parts of both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training consist of a variety of 40 questions, including multiple choice, identifying information (true/ false/ not given)/ the writer’s views and claims (yes/ no/ not given), matching information/ headings/ features/ sentence endings, sentence/ summary/ note/ table/ flow-chart/ diagram label completion and short-answer questions. The questions are created to evaluate a wide range of reading skills, such as the ability to understand the main ideas, the detailed factual information, the writer’s opinions and attitudes, the logical argumentation and the purpose of a utterance.

Test takers are required to transfer their answers to the answer sheet during the time allowed for the test, as no extra time is given. Care should be taken when transferring answers, as poor spelling and grammar are penalised.

Academic Reading

Duration: 60 minutes

The Academic type of the test includes three long reading passages, which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical, with a total text length of 2,150 – 2,750 words. Each text is authentic, as materials are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. The content is based on academic topics of general interest, as it is selected for a non-specialist audience. In the case where the texts contain certain technical terms and non-verbal materials, such as diagrams, graphs or illustrations, a simple glossary is provided.

General Training Reading

Duration: 60 minutes

The General Training type of the test includes passages with authentic materials that are likely to be encountered on a daily basis in an English-speaking country, such as extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, instruction manuals, company handbooks and guidelines.

The Reading part of IELTS General Training comprises three sections. Section 1 may contain two or three short texts or several shorter texts relevant to everyday life. Section 2 includes two short passages focusing on work related issues. Section 3 contains one long text of general interest.

The difference concerning the Writing part between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training lies in the subject matter of the Writing components.

The Writing parts of both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training consist of two tasks of general interest, which both must be completed.  The test takers are assessed on their ability to write an appropriate response in terms of content, organisation of ideas, accuracy and range of vocabulary and grammar.

Answers must be given on the answer booklet and must be written in full. Notes or bullet points in whole or in part are not acceptable as answers. Extra care should be given as test takers will be penalised for irrelevant responses or plagiarism (material copied from another source). Test takers may write on the question paper, however this cannot be taken from the examination room and will not be seen by the examiner.

Academic Writing

Duration: 60 minutes

The Writing component of the IELTS Academic includes two tasks written in academic, semi-formal or neutral style.

Task 1

Test takers are presented with a graph, a table, a chart or a diagram and are required to describe, summarise and explain the data given to them visually in their own words. During a time-frame of approximately 20 minutes, test takers are called to identify the most significant and relevant points, describing the stages of a process, how something works, an object or an event, within at least 150 words.

Test takers will be penalised for writing less than 150 words, but not for exceeding the word limit. However, they should keep in mind that by writing an elongated response they might have less time for Task 2, which contributes twice as much to the Writing band score.

Task 2

Test takers are presented with a point of view, an argument or a problem and are required to provide a relevant academic or semi-formal response of at least 250 words. During a time-frame of approximately 40 minutes, the test takers should present a solution to a problem or present and justify their opinion by using well-organised arguments and by giving evidence or examples to support their ideas.

Test takers will be penalised for writing less than 250 words, but not for exceeding the word limit. However, they should keep in mind that by writing an elongated response they may not have time for checking and correcting at the end.

General Training Writing

Duration: 60 minutes

The Writing component of the IELTS General Training includes two tasks written in a personal, semi-formal or neutral style.

Task 1

Test takers are presented with an everyday situation and are called to write within approximately 20 minutes a letter of at least 150 words requesting information or explaining the situation.

Test takers will be penalised for writing less than 150 words, but not for exceeding the word limit. However, they should keep in mind that by writing an elongated response they might have less time for Task 2, which contributes twice as much to the Writing band score.

Task 2

Test takers are asked to write an essay of 250 words in response to a point of view, argument or problem. During a time-frame of approximately 40 minutes, the test takers should provide an accurate response by giving general factual information, presenting a solution and justifying an opinion. The essay can be slightly more personal in style than the essay of the Academic Writing Task 2.

Test takers will be penalised for writing less than 250 words, but not for exceeding the word limit. However, they should keep in mind that by writing an elongated response they may not have time for checking and correcting at the end.

Duration: 11-14 minutes

The Speaking component evaluates the test takers use of spoken English. Every oral interview between the test takers and the examiner is digitally recorded and consists of three parts.

Part 1

Test takers introduce themselves in order for the examiner to confirm their identity and answer a series of questions about themselves on a range of familiar topics, such as their home, family, studies, work and interests. This part lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.

Part 2

Test takers are given a test card which requires them to talk about a particular topic. Before talking, they have 1 minute to make notes in order to help them structure their talk for up to 2 minutes. The examiner may ask one or two questions on the same topic to finish this part of the test.

Part 3

Test takers are required to answer to further questions related to the topic of Part 2. The test takers have the opportunity to discuss in great depth about more abstract issues and ideas by expressing and justifying their own opinions. This part of the test lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.