IELTS academic vs general training – What is the difference?

IELTS Academic vs General

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is designed to assess an individual’s proficiency in the English language based on four factors – listening, speaking, reading, and writing. IELTS tests are divided into two categories – Academic and General Training. IELTS Academic vs General – it is important for students to understand the differences of IELTS academic and general training since the test changes based on your purpose of moving abroad – immigration, education, or work. 

Candidates appearing for the test need to achieve band scores as required by their academic institutions or other organizations. Participants receive a test report certificate on completing the test. The score is valid for two years. IELTS uses a band score ranging between 1 and 9.

Read More: How to get an 8 band in IELTS?

IELTS Academic vs General Training – Which exam to choose?

IELTS Academic is accepted by universities and organizations of different countries. Thousands of reputed universities and colleges accept the band scores as proof of English skills. Most Australian and European universities  mandate the IELTS test because it is mostly based on Australian and British English. It is accepted by both undergraduate and postgraduate universities.

IELTS General Training is for students below the degree levels. You can undertake this test if you wish to get admitted to high school (or secondary education).

Read More: How to crack IELTS exam in first attempt?

Countries that accept the score of IELTS

IELTS is accepted in more than 100,000 universities, immigration offices, organizations, and professional corporations of 140 countries.

Some of the major countries which accept the IELTS test:


IELTS is accepted by all Canadian universities, colleges, and organizations. You need to take this exam if you are planning to move to Canada to study, work, or live. Further, you need a minimum band score of 6 – with 6 or above in all the four sections.


More than 3,000 institutions accept the IELTS test in the USA. The minimum band score varies from one institution to other but it should not be less than 6. You need to score a better band score because it is important for US visa permits.


IELTS is accepted by institutions and the immigration system of Australia. Further, the validity of the IELTS score is 2 years from the date of appearing for the test. You need a minimum 6 band score in every section.

Important Resources to Read for IELTS:

Which IELTS test is suitable for me?

If education is your main purpose, you need to take the IELTS academic test. But if you want to migrate to another English-speaking country then IELTS General Training is recommended. Please check the exact entry requirements before choosing.

Eligibility criteria 

  • IELTS academic 

To apply for IELTS academic , a candidate should be of minimum 16 years of age and must be in possession of a valid passport. Candidates wishing to apply for a bachelor’s or master’s program abroad can apply 

  • IELTS general 

Candidates who wish to pursue secondary education abroad are eligible to apply for IELTS general test. This includes applying to an English speaking school or college.

Before we move further, let’s know how similar IELTS academic and IELTS general training tests are. 

Similarities between IELTS academic and general training 

The format for both the IELTS academic training and IELTS general training is similar. Both the tests follow the same timing and structure which consists of four sections- listening, reading, writing and speaking. 

In both the tests, students give the listening, reading, writing exam on the same day. However speaking is taken seven days before or afterwards. Also, the process to apply for both the tests is the same.

Students wishing to go abroad for any purpose are supposed to give either Academic or general IELTS tests to prove their English language proficiency. 

What is IELTS UKVI ?

IELTS UKVI is a Secure English Language Test (SELT) authorized by the UK government. This test can be used for proving english language proficiency when applying for a UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) 

What is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) describes different levels at which the learner knows about the language. There are six levels in CEFR starting from A1, which is for beginners and going up to C2 level which means that an individual holds mastery over the language. 

CEFR classifies the learners into three different groups,

  1. The Basic User- A1 and A2 levels 
  2. The Independent User- B1 and B2 levels 
  3. The Proficient User- C1 and C2 levels 

It describes language ability on a six-point scale, from A1 for beginners, up to C2 for those who have mastered a language.

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Difference between IELTS test and General Training test

As suggested above, the main aim of IELTS is to check the candidate’s ability to read, write, listen, and speak English – within three hours. The test format of the speaking and listening sections is the same for candidates appearing for the IELTS general and academic test. However, the writing and reading sections are different.

The writing, listening, and reading modules of the IELTS tests are held on the same day without any break. The speaking section which is a face-to-face interview round can be completed one week before or after the other tests. It depends on the availability of slots at the test center. The entire duration of the test lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Read More: Study Abroad while you prepare for IELTS

IELTS speaking (common for both)

The test format of the speaking module is a face-to-face interview that lasts for 11 – 14 minutes. The test consists of three parts:

Part 1: Here, the examiner asks questions on topics related to studies, family, and work. The interview lasts for 4 – 5 minutes.

Part 2: In this section, the candidate is asked to speak about a certain topic. The candidate will get a minute to think about it and then, speak for two minutes. The examiner will again ask questions about the same topic.

Part 3: In the last section, the candidate needs to discuss ideas and challenges related to the previous test. It lasts for a maximum of 5 minutes.

IELTS listening test (common for both)

The candidate will be asked to listen to four recordings in English and then answer a series of questions. It lasts for half an hour and the purpose is to check the comprehension skills. The candidate should understand the central idea and factual information first.

1) Recording 1: It is a conversation between two persons related to social issues.

2) Recording 2: The candidate needs to listen to a monologue.

3) Recording 3: This is a recorded conversation between four people discussing education or training.

4) Recording 4: This is the final section in which the candidate needs to listen to a monologue on academic topics.

Read More: Benefits and Importance of IELTS coaching

IELTS reading test (different for both)

Academic reading:

This section is designed to test the reading abilities of a person. It consists of 40 questions. The allotted time for the test is 60 minutes. The candidate is asked to read different passages and answer questions accordingly. This particular section is designed for testing higher education aspirants or working professionals.

The test includes reading three long paragraphs that can be factual, analytical, or descriptive. These paragraphs are taken from journals, magazines, research works, newspapers, or books. The candidate needs to answer related questions after reading the passages.

General reading test:

This section is designed to check the reading skills of a person and it consists of 40 questions. These have to be answered within one hour. Candidates are provided with passages related to company guidelines, advertisements, brochures, and so on. It is believed that this test is relatively easier than the academic test. The passages contain words that are encountered regularly.

More Resources to Read for IELTS:

IELTS writing test (different for both)

Academic writing test:

In this test, candidates are asked to write on different topics related to their undergraduate and postgraduate studies. They are required to complete the test in one hour. In the first task, a paper containing either tables, graphs, or diagrams is handed to the candidate.

The candidate needs to define the data in their own words. Additionally, you could be asked to explain a flowchart. In the other tasks, candidates need to write an essay based on the data. They also need to support the data with the correct examples. The writing style should be strictly formal.

General writing test:

In this section, the candidate needs to write about topics of general interest. The tasks need to be completed within one hour. For the first task, the candidate needs to write a formal, semi-formal, or personal letter on a situation presented to them. They need to explain the given request or  argument.

Now since you have understood the different IELTS tests, you can be better prepared to select the right test for yourself.

Please comment below to let us know if you still have any doubts or queries. Or you can also get in touch with our abroad education experts for further guidance. 

Generic Difference between academic and general IELTS

IELTS Academic Test

IELTS General Test

It is opted by those students who wish to pursue higher studies abroad

It is opted by those individuals who want to migrate to main English speaking nations like UK, Canada and Australia 
It is needed for entry into a professional university or college

It may be needed for entry into a secondary institution like a high school. Individuals seeking a job abroad can also take this test.

Questions are designed on the basis of university level 

Questions are based on general interest

Also Read:
Difference between computer based and paper based IELTS
What is the IELTS band requirement for student visa in Canada?
How to be confident while speaking?
Why the IELTS Exam is Required?

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