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Test Format

The IELTS test assesses your abilities in all four skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking – in under three hours.

Test takers who understand the format of IELTS are at an advantage. Make sure you’re familiar with how IELTS testing works.

There are two IELTS tests available, IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Both tests are graded in exactly the same way. 

You’ll take the first three parts of the test on the same day, in the following order: Listening, Reading and Writing (there are no breaks between these tests). Your Speaking test will be held either on the same day or seven days before or after that, depending on local arrangements.

Listening

The IELTS Listening test is designed to assess a wide range of listening skills, including how well you

  • understand main ideas and specific factual information
  • recognise the opinions, attitudes and purpose of a speaker
  • follow the development of an argument
FormatYou will listen to four recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of questions.
Recording 1: a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
Recording 2: a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities
Recording 3: 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.Recording 4: a monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture
TimingThe IELTS Listening test takes approximately 30 minutes, and you are allowed an extra 10 minutes to transfer your answers from your question booklet to your answer sheet.
Number of Questions40 questions
Task TypesA variety of question types are used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labelling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion.
MarksEach correct answer receives one mark. Scores out of 40 are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole and half bands.

Reading

You will need to read quickly and efficiently, and manage your time. You will be asked to read three different passages and respond to related questions in your IELTS Reading test. The content of the Reading test is different for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests.

The IELTS Reading test is designed to assess a wide range of reading skills, including how well you

  • read for the general sense of a passage
  • read for the main ideas
  • read for detail
  • understand inferences and implied meaning
  • recognise a writer’s opinions, attitudes and purpose
  • follow the development of an argument

Academic Reading

FormatThree long texts which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. These are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers.  They have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for people entering university courses or seeking professional registration.
Timing 60 minutes including the transfer time
Number of Questions40 questions
Task TypesFill gaps in a passage of written text or in a table, match headings to written text to diagrams or charts, complete sentences, give short answers to open questions, answer multiple choice questions
MarksEach correct answer receives one mark. Scores out of 40 are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole and half bands.

 General Training Reading

FormatExtracts 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.
Timing 60 minutes including the transfer time
Number of Questions40 questions
Task TypesFill gaps in a passage of written text or in a table, match headings to written text to diagrams or charts, complete sentences, give short answers to open questions, answer multiple choice questions
MarksEach correct answer receives one mark. Scores out of 40 are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole and half bands.

Writing

The IELTS Writing test is designed to assess a wide range of writing skills, including how well you

  • write a response appropriately
  • organise ideas
  • use a range of vocabulary and grammar accurately

Academic Writing

FormatWrite in a formal style in the IELTS Academic Writing test. In Task 1 you will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram. You will be asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. This might involve describing and explaining data, describing the stages of a process or how something works, or describing an object or event. In Task 2 you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. You should find the issues interesting and easy to understand.
Timing The IELTS Writing test takes 60 minutes. Spend 20 minutes on Task 1, and 40 minutes on Task 2. You will need to manage your own time, so make sure you move on to Task 2 after 20 minutes.
Number of Questions2 questions
Task TypesTwo tasks: Task 1 and Task 2. You will be asked to write at least 150 words for Task 1 and at least 250 words for Task 2
MarksYour Writing test will be marked by a certificated IELTS examiner. Task 2 is worth twice as much as Task 1 in the IELTS Writing test. Scores are reported in whole and half bands

General Training Writing

FormatThe topics used in the IELTS General Training Writing test are of general interest. In Task 1 you will be presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. You can write the letter in a personal, semi-formal or formal style. In Task 2 you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. You can use a fairly personal style.
Timing The IELTS Writing test takes 60 minutes. Spend 20 minutes on Task 1, and 40 minutes on Task 2. You will need to manage your own time, so make sure you move on to Task 2 after 20 minutes.
Number of Questions2 questions
Task TypesTwo tasks: Task 1 and Task 2. You will be asked to write at least 150 words for Task 1 and at least 250 words for Task 2
MarksYour Writing test will be marked by a certificated IELTS examiner. Task 2 is worth twice as much as Task 1 in the IELTS Writing test. Scores are reported in whole and half bands

Speaking

You will talk to a certified examiner in the IELTS Speaking test. The test is interactive and as close to a real-life situation as a test can get. A variety of accents may be used, and the test will be recorded.

The content of the IELTS Speaking test is the same for both the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests.

The IELTS Speaking test is designed to assess a wide range of skills.

The examiner will want to see how well you can

  • communicate opinions and information on everyday topics and common experiences; to do this you will need to answer a range of questions
  • speak at length on a given topic using appropriate language
  • organise your ideas coherently
  • express and justify your opinions
  • analyse, discuss and speculate about issues

Make sure that you relax and talk fluently. You will need to speak naturally.

FormatPart 1: The examiner will introduce him or herself and ask you to introduce yourself and confirm your identity. The examiner will ask you general questions on familiar topics, e.g. home, family, work, studies and interests. This section should help you relax and talk naturally.Part 2: The examiner will give you a task card which asks you to talk about a particular topic, including points to include in your talk. You will be given one minute to prepare and make notes. You will then be asked to talk for 1-2 minutes on the topic. You will not be interrupted during this time, so it is important to keep talking. The examiner will then ask you one or two questions on the same topic.Part 3: The examiner will ask you further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2. These questions are designed to give you an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas.
Timing11-14 minutes
MarksYou will be assessed on your performance throughout the test by certificated IELTS examiners. You will be marked on the four criteria: fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, pronunciation. Scores are reported in whole and half bands.

Video-Call Speaking test

From July 2020, some of our IELTS test centres will start delivering the IELTS Speaking test via video calls. This means more flexibility and more availability of IELTS Speaking tests.

You will take the Video-Call Speaking test at an official IELTS test centre with the same high standard of identity verification. The test will be exactly the same as the in-person Speaking test in terms of content, scoring, timing, level of difficulty, question format and security arrangements.  Delivered by an IELTS Speaking Examiner, the video-call Speaking test will maintain the face-to-face feature of the in-person Speaking test.

This test is currently available in Albania, Egypt, Hong Kong, Malaysia, North Macedonia, Oman, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.