The International English Language Testing System or more commonly referred to as IELTS is an examination that measures the English language proficiency of candidates who wish to study or work in countries where English is used as the principal language of communication. The IELTS examination categories test-takers on a nine-band scale to accurately identify levels of proficiency, from non-users (band score 1) through to experts (band score 9).
IELTS Academic vs IELTS General Training
The IELTS examination is available in two versions for candidates. IELTS Academic is for candidates who are interested in applying for higher education or professional registration to countries that use English as their fundamental language of communication. The main purpose of the examination is to judge whether a candidate is ready to begin studying or training in the English language. Countries that widely recognize IELTS for studying are US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Whereas on the other hand, IELTS General Training is for aspirants who are looking to migrate to New Zealand, Australia, Canada, US and the UK or applying for secondary education, training programmes and work experience in an English-speaking environment. Here the examination focusses on basic survival skills of a candidate in a broad social and workplace environment. Candidates should be well informed that both the versions of the IELTS test are instrumental in providing a valid and accurate assessment of a candidates’ listening, reading, writing and speaking language skills.
- IELTS Exam Pattern
- IELTS Important Dates
- How to Register for IELTS
- IELTS Preparation Tips
- Top 10 IELTS Coaching Centers in India
IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training Test Format
As mentioned, the main purpose of the IELTS is to evaluate a candidates' abilities in listening, reading, writing and speaking in the English language in under three hours. The IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training examinations are divided into four parts, the test format of the Listening and Speaking Sections are similar to one another, however, the subject matter for the Reading and Writing Sections are different, depending on the test that a candidate opts for.
The Reading, Writing and Listening Sections of the IELTS Examination are held on the same day with no breaks in-between. However, the Speaking Section of the IELTS Examination can be completed a week prior to or after the other tests, depending on the availability of slots at the test center. The entire duration of the IELTS examination is for 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Speaking (Common to both)
About the test
The test format of the Speaking Section consists of a verbal interview between the candidate and the examiner. All speaking tests are recorded. The total duration of this section could last from 11-14 minutes per candidates. This section of the examination consists of three parts, each aimed to fulfill a specific function in terms of interaction pattern, task input, and candidates output. The main function of this section is to evaluate the candidates’ knowledge of spoken English.
The Speaking Section consists of three parts:
- Part 1: Here, a candidate would be asked general questions by the examiner on topics ranging from themselves to familiar topics such as interests, family, studies, and work. This interaction lasts for around 4-5 minutes.
- Part 2: For this segment, the candidate would be given a card containing a topic, he would have to speak on. The candidate would get a total of one minute to prepare on the topic and would have to speak for 2 minutes. The examiner would then ask questions on the same.
- Part 3: In this section, the examiner would probe the candidate further about the topic in Part 2. This particularly lasts for four to five minutes, where the candidate gets an opportunity to discuss abstract ideas and issues.
Check out the preparation tips on Speaking Section.
Listening (Common to both)
About the test
In this section, candidates would be required to listen to four recordings of native English speakers and answer a series of questions. The total duration of this segment is for a total of 30 minutes. The main motive behind this segment is to understand the candidates’ ability to comprehend the main ideas and detailed factual information, the opinions and attitudes of speakers, the purpose of an utterance and evidence of his ability to follow the development of ideas.
- 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.
- 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.
Check out the preparation tips on Listening Section
About the test
This section of the IELTS examination has been designed to test the reading abilities of the candidate and consists of 40 questions. The total duration of this segment is 60 minutes and the candidate would be asked to read a variety of passages and answer questions accordingly. This particular section is ideal for testing higher education aspirants or for professionals seeking work abroad.
The Reading Section would have three long paragraphs which can be either descriptive, factual or analytical. These paragraphs are basically excerpts taken from newspapers, research works, journals, books, or even magazine. The candidate would be asked to answer questions after having read the passages.
General Training reading
About the test
Designed to test the reading skills of the candidate, this particular section of the IELTS examination consists of 40 questions. The total duration of the exam is 60 minutes.
Similar to the academic format, candidates are provided with passages belonging to advertisements, company guidelines, brochures, and so on. The common trend suggests that this is relatively easier than the academic format as the selected text are generally something that one encounters on a day-to-day basis.
Check out the preparation tips on Reading Section.
About the test
Here candidates would be asked to write on topics revolving around undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Candidates would be required to perform two tasks in under 60 minutes.
The first task would include the candidate being handed a paper which would contain either a diagram, table or graph. He would be required to recapitulate and define the given data in his own words. Furthermore, he could also be asked to explain a certain data entry, process the given information or a flowchart to logically arrive at a conclusion. In the next task, the candidate is required to write an essay as a response to the deduction from the given data and support his argument with relevant examples, through the given data. It is important for the candidate to remember that the writing style should be strictly formal.
General Test Writing
About the test
Here the candidate would be required to write on topics of general interests. They would be required to execute two tasks under 60 minutes.
For the first task, the candidate would be required to write a letter as per the given situation. The letter could be formal, semi-formal or personal depending upon the situation presented. You will be asked to explain, request for something or support your argument to a certain authority. Based on the above viewpoint, you will be asked to draft an essay on the same for your second task. The arguments and opinions mentioned here should be supported by relevant instances and the writing style could tilt towards personal style.
Check out the preparation tips on Writing Section.