IELTS test format

IELTS offers two tests: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Not sure which one to take? Read on to find out which test will suit your needs.

So, you are required to do an English language test for your visa or study application? That means you have a choice between IELTS Academic or General Training. But, which test you need depends on what you want to do. Usually, you can do the General Training test for migration purposes. Alternatively, most universities in Australia will ask you for the Academic IELTS test. The organisation where you plan to work or study sets the requirements. So, before you register for your test, it’s good to check which one is right for you.

Check Australian organisations who accept IELTS

Why IELTS Academic?

IELTS developed the Academic test if you wish to study at university or college as an undergraduate or postgraduate student. Or, if you want to join or gain entry into a professional institution.

IELTS for study

Why IELTS General Training?

Don’t like taking academic tests? The good news is you may not need to. IELTS has the IELTS General Training test for your every-day English. As a result, you can do IELTS General Training for migration to an English speaking country.

IELTS for migration

Which test is best for you – IELTS Academic or General Training?

I'm going to... Study at a university or college at undergraduate or postgraduate level
I’m going to… Study at a university or college at undergraduate or postgraduate level

IELTS Academic is for people planning to study in higher education. Or, for example, if you seek professional registration. This test assesses if you’re ready to begin studying or training where English is the language used.

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I'm going to... get registered with a professional organisation or join an association
I’m going to… get registered with a professional organisation or join an association

Are you’re planning to move to an English speaking country? And, you’re seeking professional registration? So, as a result, it’s likely that the organisation you apply to asks for evidence of your English language ability. Many professional associations accept IELTS results when they have minimum language requirements. Most of these associations request an IELTS Academic result. But, it is a good idea to contact the organisation to confirm.

Book IELTS Academic

I'm going to... Study in a secondary education or training program
I’m going to… Study in a secondary education or training program

IELTS General Training measures English language proficiency in a practical, everyday context. Now, because of this, it’s the IELTS test you can do if you plan to study in high school or a vocational training program.

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I'm going to... apply for a visa or migrate to Australia
I’m going to… apply for a visa or migrate to Australia

So, you plan on migrating to Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the UK? In that case, you’ll probably need to take the IELTS General Training test. Remember, always check with your immigration authorities, because requirements can change quickly.

Book IELTS General Training

IELTS test sections explained

The IELTS test has four sections: Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking. But, what’s the difference?

The IELTS Writing and Reading tests are different in the Academic and General Training tests. For example, the Academic test has topics suitable for anyone entering university or professional institutions. On the other hand, the General Training test contains topics based on general interest. The IELTS Listening and Speaking tests are the same, regardless if you choose to sit IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training test.

You can also do IELTS on computer: the same IELTS test you know, delivered via computer. The benefit for you? You can now do the test up to 7 days a week. Results are released in 2-5 days.

Book IELTS on computer

How are the two tests different?

  • IELTS Speaking test

The IELTS Speaking test is the same for Academic and General Training. It takes about 11-14 minutes. This part of the tests is a face-to-face interview without disruptions or distractions. It’s a structured discussion on a familiar topic.

Here’s why the Speaking test is with a real person


  • IELTS Reading test

The General Training Reading test takes 60 minutes. It contains 3 sections. Section 1 may contain two or three short texts or several shorter texts. Then, section 2 comprises two texts. Finally, in Section 3, there is one long text. The texts usually come from notices or advertisements. Also, it may have texts from company handbooks, official documents, books and newspapers. The Academic test is also 60 minutes, but it contains 3 long texts. These are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. Don’t worry, the texts are selected for a non-specialist audience.

5 common mistakes to avoid in the reading test


  • IELTS Writing test

Similar to the Reading test, IELTS Writing test also takes 60 minutes. For the General Training Writing test, you need to write a letter (150 words) and a short Essay (250 words). The Academic Writing test is usually a bit more formal. For the first task, you are asked to describe a table, chart or diagram (150 words). For the second task you should write a short Essay (250 words).

Tips to help you with IELTS Writing Task 2


  • IELTS Listening test

The Listening test takes approximately 30 mins. It’s the same for Academic and General Training. This part of the test has 4 sections, each with 10 questions. The first two deal with everyday social contexts. Section 3 and 4 deal with educational and training contexts.

Improve your IELTS Listening score

Overall it was a really good experience. I had the computer based test and really happy with the way it was conducted. The staff were all nice and friendly and it helped relieve some of the pre exam stresses. I highly recommend this centre!
Sahel T, took computer-delivered IELTS at IDP Brisbane.