The International English Language Testing System – measures the language proficiency. Required for immigration, employment or education purposes in English-speaking countries.

Candidates level is determined by the test score, all candidates take the same exam.

No pass or fail results – candidates are awarded a band on a scale from 1 to 9. (Band 0 is only possible if a candidate didn’t attempt even a single answer/didn’t sit the test).  You get the score for each component as well as the overall result that is the average of all parts and the information of which level on the CEFR it corresponds to.

Two formats – general and academic.

Total test time (all parts): 2 hours 45 minutes

The exam is valid for 2 years from the date of the exam.


1. Reading

Different kinds of texts are used for general and academic IELTS.

In academic IELTS candidates read 3 longer texts that may come from books, newspapers, academic journals, or magazines. Though they are aimed at non-specialist audience, their focus is visibly more academic than the ones in general IELTS.

In general IELTS you read 3 different types of texts, starting from the most straightforward “survival English” in section 1, which may be a timetable, a  brief notice, or an advert. Next, in section 2  “work survival”  competency is tested, and candidates may read a job description, training materials or a contract. Section 3 focuses on “general reading”, which means reading a fragment of prose of a descriptive, rather than argumentative nature.

In both general and academic IELTS the questions (exercise) types vary and may include such tasks as questions to answer / sentences to finish with a few possible answers to choose from (multiple choice questions), completing sentences with one or more word (according to the instructions given), matching headlines with the paragraphs, deciding if provided information is discussed in the test or not, completing a summary, a table, a flow chart or a note. You may also be asked to briefly answer some questions about the text or label a diagram, match the beginning of sentences with their endings, or decided whether the author agrees with / the text support the statements provided – and you can choose from the options yes, no, or not given.

2. Listening

4 parts, each a different recording, some of which are conversations and others  – monologues. The test is the same for both general and academic IELTS. There may be different tasks including questions with multiple answers to choose from, labelling a diagram, completing information in a table, completing a summary or sentences, matching fragments of the text with correct information, answering questions.

3. Writing

You write 2 texts, one shorter and one longer. In academic IELTS task 1 is a summary of the information illustrated on 1 or  more graphs. The minimum word limit for this task is 150. Task 2 is writing an essay, minimum 250 words long.

In the general IELTS task 1 is a letter in which you give or request some information, minimum 150 words. Task 2 is an essay, but unlike in the academic IELTS, the essay here may be fairly personal in style. The essay needs to include a minimum of 250 words.

4. Speaking

Is an individual task, the same for general and academic IELTS. It is always conducted face-to-face, even for the computer-based exams. It is timed and recorded to be marked by a different person to the one who examines you. There are 3 parts, including a few questions on familiar topics, a monologue on a given topic, and a discussion based on the topic of the monologue. The test lasts between 11 and 14 minutes.

The exam can be either paper-based, or computer based. As not every centre provides both options, ask which ones they have available.

Who marks it?

The reading and listening parts are marked by a computer, hence it’s crucial to complete the answer sheet correctly.

The writing and speaking tests are marked by a human, an external marker who does not meet you, or even know who you are.

You can see a sample test here.

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