IELTS Format

As we mentioned earlier, the IELTS exam is distributed into 4 “modules” or sections: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking; and is offered in two formats – the Academic version and the General Training version.

It is important to note that both versions of the test have the same Listening and Speaking sections – only the Reading and Writing portions differ in each version. The Academic version is often regarded as more difficult, because of its higher level of vocabulary and content (which makes sense, considering the results are aimed towards an academic setting.)

The modules are broken down as follows:

Duration: 30 minutes

The IELTS Listening module consists of four sections, each of which give a brief introduction about a certain situation and the speakers and you will be prompted to answer questions testing your comprehension of the given scenario. For a better idea of the sorts of scenarios you might listening to, here’s what each section may be about:

  • Transactional conversation – you might hear a conversation in which someone is asking for more information about something (think of an exchange at the deli or at the register while shopping)
  • Informational – you might hear something more academic related, possibly an announcement by a professor or something of the sort.
  • Academic Conversation – you might hear an exchange between students about an upcoming assignment
  • Academic Lecture – you might hear a professor, dean, professional giving a lecture about a certain topic

*As far as instructions for this section, note that you will hear instructions first followed by a sample question. You will then be prompted to read the questions on section 1 first, listen to the audio after and then answer the questions. You will follow this procedure for setion2, 3, and 4. In the final 10 minutes, you will be asked to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

Duration: 60 minutes

The IELTS Reading module is slightly different for each version of the test. The Academic version, for example, consists of 3 different sections with 3 texts that you are prompted to read and answer questions to. The number questions for each particular text is around 13 or 14 (40 in total). The General Training version, however, might simply have shorter texts to read (maybe 5 or so).

Duration: 60 minutes

The IELTS Writing module is also presented differently in each version of the test (as far as the difficulty of level is concerned), but mainly consists of two sections, one being an essay.

Duration: 10 – 14 minutes

The IELTS Speaking module consists of three sections.

  • In the first section, you will be asked in an interview style what your hobbies and interest are, about your family and friends, why you are taking the IELTS and other general questions.
  • In the second section, you will be given a card with a topic on it. Then, you will have a brief moment (about a minute) to prepare and then you are asked to discuss the topic.
  • In the third section, you will have an exchange with the examiner that usually relates to the subject previously discussed. The examiner might ask you general questions about it to see how well you respond.

Keep in mind that the Listening, Reading and Writing modules of the test will always be completed in one day, with no breaks in between. However, the Speaking portion of the exam may be taken up to 7 days before or after the test date, at the discretion of the test center.