Overview of IELTS

What is the IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System or the IELTS exam is popular among people trying to migrate to the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK to work, live or study. The test is designed to test your fluency in the English language to be able to live in English-speaking countries. The IELTS is owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English.

The IELTS test is now preferred by 11,000 employers, universities, schools, and immigration bodies across the globe. It is scored on a scale of 1 to 9 and tests you in four areas - Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. 

Who can take the IELTS?

People who want to migrate to countries like the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, or the UK to work, live, or study can take the IELTS. The minimum age for taking the IELTS is 16 years. 

What is tested?

The IELTS is divided into two types - IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Both types serve different purposes. If you want to study abroad, you should take the IELTS Academic and if you are migrating for work on any other purpose, you should take the IELTS General Training. 

Now getting into the finer details of the test, it is made up of four sections - Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. The Listening and Speaking sections are the same for Academic and General Training but the Reading and Writing sections differ. 


The Listening test is the same for Academic and General Training. It consists of four sections and 40 questions. Four audio recordings of native English speakers will be played for you to listen and you will have to answer questions based on them. Listen carefully as the audio recordings won’t be played a second time. The first section will be an audio of two people conversing in an everyday social context. The second section will be a monologue in an everyday social context on a topic of general interest. The third section will be a conversation between 2-4 people in an educational context. The last section will be a long monologue on an academic topic. 

The recordings will be in different accents (British, American, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand).

You will have to complete the Listening section in 30 minutes. An extra 10 minutes will be given to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. 

The questions will be of different types - multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labelling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion.


The Reading section is different for Academic and General Training. 


For the Academic test, you will encounter 40 questions to be answered in 60 minutes. In this test, there are three passages taken from journals, newspapers, magazines, etc for a non-specialist audience. These passages are on general topics that students entering graduate or post graduate courses can comprehend. The passages are written in different styles like narrative, descriptive, and discursive/argumentative. They may contain graphs, figures, etc, and at least one logical argument. 

Each question in the Reading test is worth 1 mark and you won’t be given extra time to transfer your answers.

General Training

It comprises three sections. Section 1 will contain two or three short texts. Section 2 will have two texts and Section 3 will have one long text. 

The texts will be from books, magazines, notices, newspapers, advertisements, handbooks, etc. The texts are picked from these places so that you don’t face any difficulty in an English-speaking country.

They are on different topics like social survival, workplace survival, and general reading which tests your ability to read and interpret texts that you will encounter on a daily basis.

The questions will be of different types ranging from multiple choice, text completion, identifying information, matching headings, and matching words, to summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion, and short answers. 


The Writing test is again different for the Academic and General Training. Both tests have 2 writing tasks and a time limit of 60 minutes.


In Task 1, you will have to explain the information in a graph, chart, table, or diagram in your own words. The figures may contain information like the stages of a process, data, description of an event, etc. Task 1 should be a minimum of 150 words. You should describe the given graph, table, diagram, etc in a formal tone and should not spend more than 20 minutes on it (prescribed by ielts.org). At the same time, the text should reach a minimum of 150 words and you will be penalized if your text is too short. 

In Task 2, you will have to write an essay on a point of view, argument, or problem. The essay should be written in 250 words and must be completed in 40 minutes (again, recommended by ielts.org). Your essay should be related to the question and should not be off-topic as you will be penalized for it. 

Note that both tasks are compulsory to complete. 

General Training

The General Training test also contains two writing tasks. In Task 1, you will be required to write an informal or formal/semi-formal letter on a given situation. The tone of the letter will depend on the person you are writing to. If the letter is addressed to a friend, then you may keep the tone informal. If the letter is for your colleague or manager, it will be in a semi-formal/formal tone. The letter should be a minimum of 150 words and should take 20 minutes to complete.

In Task 2, you will have to write a discursive essay on a point of view, argument, or problem. As this is the General Training Test, the essay can be written in a personal tone. The topics will be of general interest like the negative effects of fast food, the effect of advertisements on purchasing decisions, whether children should do more sports, etc. You will be asked whether you agree or disagree or will be asked to discuss both views and provide your opinion.

This task should be a minimum of 250 words and take 40 minutes to complete. 


The Speaking test is the same for Academic and General Training test takers. It is divided into 3 parts and lasts for 11-14 minutes. 

In Part 1, the examiner will ask you general questions like What do you study? Where is your hometown? Who do you live with? 

In Part 2, you will be given a card that will contain a topic on which you will have to speak. You will be given one minute to prepare and two minutes to talk about it. After you’ve finished talking, the examiner will ask one or two questions about it.

In Part 3, the examiner will ask more questions on the topic discussed in Part 2. This may last for 4-5 minutes.


IELTS is all about testing your proficiency in using the English Language. We will be releasing a series of blogs about IELTS so stay tuned!





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