Exam Pattern of IELTS

IELTS Exam Pattern Explained!

If you are a candidate aspiring to join higher education programs abroad or aspire migrating to a predominantly English-speaking country like Australia; IELTS is very important for you. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is one of the most widely accepted evaluative examinations world-wide for English language proficiency. The test requires intense planning and preparation to crack it; so it is important that you understand all aspects of the exam - like the versions, the exam pattern and question types of the test beforehand.

Academic and General Training Versions

The English language skills and competencies required to be possessed by a candidate might differ for academic situations and everyday or work life. The exam pattern of IELTS is designed such that aspiring candidates can be evaluated on the basis of the reactions that are expected from them in particular situations. There are two different versions of the exam.





  • The Academic version of the exam is predominantly for academic purposes. Many universities across the world require that you take the Academic version to seek admission to their graduate and post-graduate programs. Many professional training programs also accept the Academic version scores.

  • The General Training version of the exam is for those who wish to work or live abroad. This version of the exam is also accepted by many schools for their undergraduate/secondary school level programs. Many countries like Canada require that aspiring migrants have a particular score in this version of the test.

The IELTS Sections

In any language, listening, speaking, reading, and writing are considered important aspects of communication. The exam pattern of IELTS is designed and developed to assess your abilities in each of these four areas separately; accordingly, there are four different sections in the test:

  • Listening: The Listening part of the test is common for both versions of the exam and contains four different scenarios to assess your listening skills. There are 40 questions to answer in about one hour. Your understanding of the main ideas, your ability to follow the development of an argument, your ability to recognize opinions, attitudes, etc. are evaluated here.

  • Speaking: The Speaking part of the exam is common for both Academic and General Training versions and consists of three tasks. In this section, the grammatical accuracy and range, lexical resource, fluency and coherence, and pronunciation are the four criteria on which your speaking skills are evaluated.

  • Reading: For both versions of the Reading test, there are three sections containing three different text passages and a total of 40 questions. The General Training version of the test contains passages that are of a more general nature, like those taken from editorials, newspaper articles, and so on. For the Academic version, the text passages given are academic in nature and might include graphs, diagrams and charts.

  • Writing: The General Training version of the test is designed to assess your skills for written communication in the context of everyday and work life. Your ability to organize ideas, to write with coherence and appropriateness, and your vocabulary and grammatical accuracy are checked and assessed.

Question Types

As explained earlier, the pattern of IELTS ensures that the different skill levels required for effective communication are tested and assessed appropriately. The question types cover a broad range to ensure the evaluation of skills of the test takers in different areas - like answering in a single word, essay writing, and speaking.

  • The Listening section includes a variety of questions so that your ability and skills in listening comprehension and interpretation are examined thoroughly. You are allowed to hear the recordings only once. Multiple-choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labeling, form/sentence/note/flow chart/summary/table completion, and short-answer questions are required to be answered on the basis of your listening.

  • The Speaking section of the exam checks your ability for effective oral communication. This part of the exam is the same for both the versions. The test is conducted as an interview, where you are asked to introduce yourself, speak for a minute or two on a given topic, and then engage in a conversation with the examiner on the same topic.

  • In each of the test versions, the Writing section contains two writing tasks each. In the General Training version, the task 1 is to write a letter - formal, personal, etc. while task 2 requires you to write a casual-style essay on a given general topic. The Academic version of the test assesses your abilities at complex written communication required for higher education purposes. Task 1 is to explain a point of view, or interpret data from graphs, charts, etc. and task 2 requires that you compose a formal-style essay in response to a particular argument.

  • The Reading section of the test is different for Academic and General Training versions of the exam. There are three subsections in each version of the test and a total of 40 questions to answer. According to the version of the exam, the questions assess your reading comprehension skills as appropriate to the context (for academic purposes or for everyday social and work lives). In this section, questions are of varying types in the multiple-choice, form/sentence/note/flow chart/summary/table completion, matching, and short-answer formats.