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What are the four parts of the IELTS? Difference between IELTS ACADEMIC and IELTS GENERAL TRAINING

IELTS is made up of four sub-tests. Candidates do all of them on one or two days. They are, in the order that they take place: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

The four tests are equally weighted, or if you think of it another way: worth 25% each. A band is given for each one, and there is also an average or Overall Band. A candidate receives a report within two weeks of taking the test with five scores on it like this:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
7 6.5 6 6.5

 

Overall Band = 6.5

You can see that the candidate above was best at Listening and worst at Writing. Reading and Speaking were the same. The majority of candidates receive a report like this. It’s very rare for one skill to be much better than another.

But what was the Listening test? What did the candidate need to do for Writing?

Read the table below about the IELTS Academic test to understand exactly what happens. GT is the same as Academic for Listening and Speaking, but a little different for Reading and Writing.

IELTS ACADEMIC

 

Test How long does the test take? What is its format? What question types are there?
Listening
  • 40 minutes
  • A recording lasts for 30 minutes.
  • There are 10 extra minutes to transfer answers from a question booklet onto an answer sheet after the recording has finished.
  • Around 40 questions in four sections. Each section has 10 questions.
  • Each question is worth one mark.
  • Questions are easy at the start and become more difficult as the test progresses.
  • On a test day, all candidates listen to the same recording and have the same questions, but these recordings and questions differ from test to test. There are different versions of all IELTS tests.
  • Multi-choice (choosing one answer from three possibilities)
  • Multiple matching (choosing more than one answer from a list of up to seven possibilities)
  • Choosing a graphic
  • Note / Table / Sentence / Summary completion (filling in gaps)
  • Labelling maps or plans
  • Providing one- to three-word answers
Reading
  • 60 minutes
  • Candidates transfer their answers as they read.
  • There is no extra time.
  • Around 40 questions in three passages.

Passage 1: (13 or 14 questions)
Passage 2: (13 or 14 questions)
Passage 3: (13 questions)

  • Each question is worth one mark.
  • Questions are easy at the start and become more difficult as the test progresses.
  • Words to be read in the passages: 2500-2750 (With questions, there are around 3500 words.)
  • Multi-choice (choosing one answer from four possibilities)
  • Multiple matching (choosing more than one answer from a list of up to seven possibilities)
  • Choosing a graphic
  • Note / Table / Sentence / Summary completion (filling in gaps) Labelling maps or plans
  • Providing one- to three-word answers
  • Completing a summary by choosing words that are given in a long list Indicating which paragraph contains information
  • Choosing True / False / Not Given for facts
  • Choosing Yes / No / Not Given for views or opinions
  • Choosing headings
  • Labelling a diagram or a flowchart
Writing 60 minutes Two short pieces of writing called tasks.

Task 1:

  • A report or description of a table, chart, process, or other visual input.
  • Words to be written: at least 150

Task 2:

  • An essay on a social or academic topic that is given.
  • Words to be written: at least 250
  • Task 1 is easier than Task 2.
  • Task 2 is worth twice as much as Task 1.

On a test day, every candidate gets the same two tasks, but these differ from test to test.

  • Task 1: Describing a visual input that could be one, two, or three graphs, tables, or charts; two plans or maps; or a process.
  • Task 2: Essays that discuss one or both sides of an issue, or offer solutions to a problem are the most common.
Speaking  11-14 minutes There are three parts.

Part 1: (4-5 minutes)

  • The candidate is asked one set of questions on personal information, and two sets of questions on simple topics.

Part 2: (3-4 minutes)

  • The candidate is given a random specific topic, has one minute to think, then two minutes to talk about it.
  • There may be one or two short questions at the end.

Part 3: (4-5 minutes)

  • The candidate is asked more general questions connected to the topic of Part 2.
  • A single band is given at the end of this.
  • In Part 1, candidates may be asked the same questions, but in Parts 2 and 3, each candidate gets different questions. These will be similar from test to test.

Part 1 is easy; Part 2 more difficult; and Part 3 is rather challenging.

Questions in Parts 1 and 2 are personal; in Part 3, they are more general or abstract.

Any topic of general interest may be discussed.

Candidates need to: agree or disagree; assess; compare; describe; explain; express possibility and probability; justify an opinion; narrate; speculate; suggest; and summarise.

Additional skills include: the ability to self- correct; to circumlocute; to paraphrase; and to ask for clarification.

 

IELTS GENERAL TRAINING

Test How long does it take? What is its format? What question types are there?
Reading 60 minutes

Candidates transfer their answers while they read.

There is no extra time.

Around 40 questions in three sections. The first two sections are divided into two parts, so there are five different texts to read in total.

Each question is worth one mark.

Questions are easy at the start and become more difficult as the test progresses.

Words to be read in the passages: 2000-2300.

(With questions, there are around 3000 words.) Note: There are fewer words in the GT than the Academic test, but candidates need to get more correct answers to be awarded the same band.

 

See Academic Reading above.
Writing 60 minutes Two short pieces of writing called tasks.

Task 1:

  • A formal or semi-formal letter.
  • Words to be written: at least 150.

Task 2:

  • An essay on a social topic that is given.
  • Words to be written: at least 250.
  • Task 1: Letters of: request, advice, offer, complaint, congratulation, or opinion are the most common.
  • Task 2: Essays that discuss one or both sides of an issue, or offer solutions to a problem are the most common.