IELTS Formats: Everything You want to Know

The IELTS examination is available in two formats – IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. An applicant can choose either one of the two formats based upon his/her requirement or the university/course he/she is applying to. The two formats of IELTS test are equivocal in providing a strong and clear assessment of candidates’ reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in the English language.

Types of IELTS

Following are the two types of IELTS Exam:

IELTS Academic

Candidates, who are willing to pursue higher education or applying for professional registration in countries that use English as the main language of communication, should opt for IELTS Academic format.

The main purpose of the examination is to judge whether a candidate is ready to begin studying or training in the English language. US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are countries that provide admissions on the basis of IELTS examination.

Also Check IELTS practice Test

IELTS General Training

IELTS General Training is for the candidates who are aspiring to migrate to New Zealand, Australia, Canada, US, and the UK for purposes like secondary education, training programs and work experience in an English speaking environment.

The main purpose of this format is to test the basic survival skills of a candidate in English in a broader social and workplace environment.

Highlights of IELTS Exam Pattern


ListeningIt encompasses four recorded monologues and conversations4 / 30 minutes
ReadingThree long reading passages with tasks. Texts range from descriptive and factual to discursive, and analytical includes non-verbal material like diagrams, graphs, and illustrations texts are authentic (taken from books, journals, and newspapers)40 / 60 minutes
WritingA writing task of at least 150 words where the candidate must summarize, describe or explain table, graph, chart or diagram, and another short essay task of at least 250 words2 / 60 minutes
SpeakingThe face-to-face interview includes short questions, speaking at length about a familiar topic and a structured discussion3 / 11 to 14 minutes


IELTS Section-wise Syllabus

  • Writing syllabus
  • Reading syllabus
  • Listening syllabus
  • Speaking syllabus 

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IELTS Writing Section

Writing: Candidates take an academic writing module. In this section, most problems are based in the form of short essays or general reports, addressed to an educated non-specialist audience. There are two compulsory tasks. Task 1 requires 150 words, and candidates are asked to look at a diagram, table or data and to present the information in their own words. Task 2 requires at least 250 words, and all candidates are presented with a point of view, argument or problem and asked to provide general factual information, present a solution, justify an opinion, evaluate ideas and evidence, etc.

Total no. of questions: 2
Total time: 60 minutes

Also Check IELTS Test Centers

Writing- IELTS Academic

  • This format consists of two tasks where the topics given are of general interest and understandable to candidates applying for an undergraduate or postgraduate program.
  • For your first task, you will be handed a paper that would contain a diagram, table or graph. You will be required to recapitulate and interpret the data in your own words.
  • In the next task, you need to write an essay as a response to your deduction from the given data and support your argument with relevant examples, through the given data. It is to be noted that the writing style of the candidate has to be strictly formal.

Writing- IELTS General Training

  • It also includes two tasks, yet, it is much easier than that of the academic format.
  • The first task will be to write a letter. It may be formal or semi-formal depending upon the question. The candidate can be asked to explain, request or support an argument based on the premises.
  • Based on the above viewpoint, you will be asked to draft an essay on the same. The arguments and opinions mentioned here should be supported by relevant instances and the writing style can be a bit personal.

IELTS Reading Section


The reading section has three texts which are on general interest dealing with topic suitable for candidates entering undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Reading modules in both formats include three texts with forty questions. The questions in a variety of formats like multiple –choice, sentence or summary completion, matching lists or identifying writers’ attitudes/views.

  • Total no. of questions: About 40
  • Total time: 30 minutes 

Reading- IELTS Academic

The reading section in this format consists of three long paragraphs which can be descriptive, factual or analytical in nature. These paragraphs are extracted from newspapers, research works, journals or books. With an aim to test a non-specialist audience, these texts are a perfect test for candidates of higher education or professional registration.

Reading- IELTS General Training

Similar to the academic format, here the excerpts can be passages from advertisements, company guidelines, brochures, and so on. With texts based upon topics that are based on daily life, the reading sections of this format are relatively easy.

IELTS Listening Section

Listening: The Listening module is divided into four sections. The first two conversations are concerned with social needs, while the last two are concerned with situations more closely related to education. They will all be around three minutes long. The conversations could be both monologues and dialogues. These conversations can be heard once only. A variety of question types are asked, like multiple-choice, short-answer questions, note completion, sentence completion, labeling a diagram, etc.

  • Total no. of questions: 40+
  • Total time: 30 minutes 

Sections 1 and 2 are about every day, social situation

  • Recording 1: The first recording would have a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2: The second recording would happen to be a monologue set in an everyday social context.

 Sections 3 and 4 are about educational and training situations

  • Recording 3 – The following recording would be a conversation between four people set in an educational or training context.
  • Recording 4 – And the final recording would be a monologue on an academic subject

 IELTS Speaking Section

Speaking: The Speaking section is like a structured interview to test the candidate’s ability on general speaking skills. It assesses whether candidates have the required knowledge and skills to communicate effectively with native speakers of English.

  • Total no. of questions: 3 parts – Personal Interview, Little Speech, and a Discussion
  • Total time: 11 to 14 minutes

Part 1 introduction and interview (4–5 minutes)

For the first five minutes, the candidates are asked some general questions about family, home, studies, hobbies and interests, and so on.

Part 2 long turn (2–3 minutes)

Next, the examiner will hand you a flashcard that would contain a certain topic. After a two minute preparation time, you would need to speak on that topic for about two minutes. The speech is followed by a question-answer round by the examiner.

Part 3 discussions (5–6 minutes)

This part explores deeper questions and abstract discussions on the given topic and your speech. This part usually extends to at least five-six minutes. 

Preparation tips for IELTS

There are two ways to prepare for IELTS: one was is self-study and another is attending coaching classes.

The language proficiency and comfort level in the English language form as a factor for choosing the preparation method.  If the Candidate is already fluent in English, self-study should be a viable option.

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