You have a choice of two versions of IELTS: Academic or General Training.
Everybody takes the same Listening and Speaking components. It is the Reading and Writing components that differ.
Understanding the format of each section
You will listen to four recorded texts, monologues and conversations by a range of native speakers, and write your answers to a series of questions.
These include questions which test your ability to understand main ideas and detailed factual information, ability to understand the opinions and attitudes of speakers, ability to understand the purpose of an utterance and the ability to follow the development of ideas.
A variety of voices and native-speaker accents are used and each section is heard only once.
A conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
A monologue set in an everyday social context e.g. a speech about local facilities.
A conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.
A monologue on an academic subject e.g. a university lecture.
The Reading component consists of 40 questions. A variety of question types is used in order to test a wide range of reading skills. These including reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument, recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose.
The Academic version includes three long texts which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. The texts are authentic and are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. These have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for candidates entering university courses or seeking professional registration.
IELTS General Training
The General Training version requires candidates to read extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. These are materials you are likely to encounter on a daily basis in an English speaking environment.
The Writing component of IELTS Academic includes two tasks. Topics are of general interest to, and suitable for candidates entering undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration.
You will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.
You will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Responses to both tasks must be in a formal style.
IELTS General Training
The Writing component of IELTS General Training includes two tasks which are based on topics of general interest.
You will be presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information, or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style.
You will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The essay can be slightly more personal in style than the Academic Writing Task 2 essay.
11 to 14 minutes
The Speaking component assesses your use of spoken English, and takes between 11 and 14 minutes to complete. Every test is recorded. The Speaking component is delivered in such a way that it does not allow candidates to rehearse set responses beforehand.
The Examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics, such as home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between four and five minutes.
You will be given a card which asks you to talk about a particular topic. You will have one minute to prepare before speaking for up to two minutes. The examiner will then ask one or two questions on the same topic to finish this part of the test.
You will be asked further questions connected to the topic in Part 2. These questions will give you the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issue. The part of the test lasts between four and five minutes.