IELTS Exam: Test structure and format

IELTS Exam: Test structure and format

IELTS (I - International E - English L - Language T - Testing S - System) is an international standardised testing system of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. The exam is usually taken for further studies, work, emigration abroad. IELTS is accepted by the majority of academic institutions in English-speaking countries and by various professional organisations across the world.

What is IELTS?

IELTS test is managed by these three organizations:

  • Cambridge ESOL Examinations
  • British council
  • IDP: IELTS Australia.

IELTS is the most popular and requested English Language test for studying and immigrating to Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. IELTS certificate is used by non-native English language speakers for admission to schools and universities in English-speaking countries like Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, etc.

The IELTS certificate could be mandatory for those who intends to immigrate to an English-speaking country through the professional or educational migration. The certificate may also be necessary for obtaining certain types of visas to the UK, and for other purposes related to living, studying or working in English-speaking countries.

IELTS Structure

There are two modules of the test:

  • Academic Module
  • General Training Module

There's also a test called IELTS Life Skills:

IELTS General (IELTS Gt)

for those who want to undertake non-academic training or to gain work experience,

for immigration purposes to an English-speaking country

IELTS Academic (IELTS Ac)

for those who who want to study or practise in an English-speaking country,

enroll in universities and other higher education institutions.

IELTS Life Skills

for those who need to prove their English skills at Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR),

it can be used to apply for a certain types of UK visas, indefinite leave to remain or citizenship in the UK.

- What is the difference between Academic and General Modules?

Both of them consist of 4 parts:

Listening — 40 min.

Reading — 60 min.

Writing — 60 min.

Speaking — 11-14 min.

Listening and Speaking parts are the same for IELTS Academic and General. The tasks and the timing are the same for both modules.

The key difference is in the Writing and Reading parts.

General Reading:

Texts on general topics which are relatively easy and short.

For example, you read restaurant advertisements, a list of employee responsibilities, a hotel services description etc.

General Writing:

You write a letter to a friend, boss or organization.

Academic Reading:

Academic and long texts: articles about whales, space, etc.

Academic Writing:

You write about this:

More about diffirences and similarities of IELTS Academic and IELTS General:

IELTS Test Format

IELTS will test 4 essential skills:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
~3 hours
  • Speaking
~11-14 мин.

As a rule, Listening, Reading and Writing parts you complete in one sitting. The Speaking test may be taken on the same day or up to 7 days before or after the other parts (usually three days before or after). It is possible if you take Speaking on the same day as Listening, Reading, Writing.

Listening Part is the same for IELTS General and IELTS Academic.

     Duration: 40 minutes
     30 minutes to listen and answer the questions in the booklet,
     10 minutes to copy the answers from the booklet to a special examination sheet

Reading Part

60 minutes / 40 questions
3 sections: 3 texts from 650 to 1000 words

Writing Part is DIFFERENT for IELTS General and IELTS Academic.

60 minutes / 2 tasks

Speaking part

11-14 minutes
3 sections
You and the examiner

You won't have any gadgets on you, they are taken before the exam starts. You will be given a pencil, pen and a booklet with tasks where you can make notes. You can go to the toilet, but you lose time in this case. If you have finished earlier, you wait for the end of the test

How to master IELTS Writing: Task 1 & Task 2

Full IELTS Writing (Ac) Course
14 lessons / 7+ hours of video content
  • How to write an answer to ANY type of Essay task
  • How to write an answer to ANY type of Graph task
  • How to structure your answer
  • What to write in each paragraph
  • What grammar to use
  • How to link your ideas
  • What vocabulary to use
  • What you should write to get a high score

Bonus: IELTS Punctuation PDF Guide
Everything you want to know to have correct punctuation in your IELTS Writing for 7.0-9.0 Score
(31 pages, .PDF)