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Types of IELTS Test: Which is Right IELTS Academic or General Training

Updated on 31 October, 2023

Shivangi Mishra

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. Content Editor

types of ielts exam

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is the most popular English proficiency test among non-native English speakers who want to study, work, or migrate to English-speaking countries. A good band score in the IELTS test can help you in pursuing higher studies from the best international universities or working in English-speaking countries after completing your graduation or post-graduation degrees.

IELTS is recognized as a standardized and most reliable test of English language proficiency for non-native English speakers. Introduced in the year 1989, the IELTS examination is accepted universally and acknowledged by many universities and companies across the globe. The testing method of IELTS focuses on a candidate’s capabilities to comprehend and use English in real-life situations swiftly. Thus, obtaining a good score in the IELTS test acts as a medium for aspirants to fulfill their dreams of studying in an English environment. 

There are two types of IELTS tests – i) Academic IELTS and ii) General Training IELTS. Candidates are often confused about making the right choice of IELTS test that can meet their requirements regarding their education or job. In this article, we will give a detailed explanation of both types of IELTS tests so that you can make the right choice.

Here’s a Quick Understanding of both types of IELTS Test

IELTS Academic

This test is suitable for students who want to pursue a graduation/post-graduation degree from a renowned international university or want to start their career in a foreign country.  This test is designed to assess the English language proficiency of a candidate who wants to pursue higher education in English speaking country. The IELTS academic test is supposed to be more difficult than the IELTS General Training test.

IELTS General Training

This test is suitable for candidates who want to apply to study below degree level. It can also be taken up for work purposes or other employment training. The test features everyday English language skills that a person needs in a social and workplace environment.

Test Format

There are four parts of the IELTS test: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Candidates appearing for both Academic and General Training tests take the same speaking and listening tests but different reading and writing tests. The IELTS Academic test is for students who want to pursue higher education at overseas universities where English is the primary language while the IELTS General Training test is for those who want to apply to study below degree level or for work purposes. It can also be taken up for work purposes or other employment training. 

The listening, Reading, and Writing sections of all IELTS tests are completed on the same day while the speaking section can be completed up to a week before or after the other sections.

The Difference in the Academic and General Training Tests of IELTS:

Speaking Test

The speaking test of IELTS is the same for both academic and general training. However, the timing of the test may vary from 11-14 minutes as it requires a face-to-face discussion on a familiar topic. In this test, an applicant is interviewed by a certified examiner 

Writing Test

The IELTS writing test is different for both IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic candidates.

a.) IELTS General Training: The duration of this test is one hour. 

  • In task 1, candidates are presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal, or formal in style.
  • In task 2, candidates will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument, or problem. The essay can be fairly personal in style.

b.) IELTS Academic: The duration of this test is one hour. Two tasks need to be completed by candidates. 

  • In task 1: candidates are asked to describe some visual information in 150 words in about 20 minutes. 
  • In task 2: Candidates are asked to respond to a point of view or argument in 250 words in about 40 minutes.

The duration of the listening test IELTS is approximately half an hour and ten minutes are provided extra for transferring your answer sheets. This section comprises four sub-sections, each section includes ten questions related to social, educational, and training contexts.  In this section, you need to choose one of the sections given in the test. Then you can play the audio and answer the questions accordingly. After completing the test, you can check your answers. 

Read More: General Training Writing Task 1 || IELTS Academic Writing Task 1

Reading Test

The reading test is different for both the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests.

a.) General Training Test:  The duration of the test is 1 hour in which candidates need to complete 3 sections consisting of 40 questions. 

  • Section 1: consists of two to three factual topics that are most spoken in English-speaking countries.
  • Section 2: consists of two factual tests that are related to work (e.g workplace facilities, company policies)
  • Section 3: is a large section that comprises complex texts related to general interest topics.

b.) Academic Test:

In this test, candidates are required to complete three sections (40 questions) in one hour. The texts in the academic test are supposed to be more challenging than the general test. Texts are taken from magazines, books, and newspapers and are related to academic topics. 

Recommended Reads: IELTS Academic Reading || IELTS General Reading

Listening Test

The listening test is the same for both the IELTS Academic and General tests. The duration of the listening test IELTS is approximately half an hour and ten minutes are provided extra for transferring your answer sheets. This section comprises 4 sub-sections, each section includes 10 questions related to social, educational, and training contexts.  In this section, you need to choose one of the sections given in the test. Then you can play the audio and answer the questions accordingly. After completing the test, you can check your answers.

Important Resources to Read About IELTS:

IELTS Speaking TopicsIELTS Writing Task 2Opinion Essay IELTS
Important Vocabulary for IELTSIELTS Band ScoreValidity of IELTS Score
IELTS Reading SectionIELTS Essay Writing SamplesEssay on Historical Places
IELTS Test Report formBenefits of IELTS CoachingHow to Cancel IELTS Exam


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Similarities between Academic and General Training Tests of IELTS

All aspirants applying for both tests need to take the same Listening and Speaking tests but different writing and reading tests. There is no break between the sections of listening, writing, and reading tests while the speaking section can be completed up to one week before or after the rest of the tests.

Both the tests have more similarities than differences. Both the tests have a similar time frame and structure. The four sections focus on evaluating the speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills of a candidate in a span of 45 minutes. The registration procedure of both tests is also the same.

About the Band Scores of General Training and Academic Tests of IELTS:

80% of candidates prefer to take the IELTS academic test while the remaining 20% prefer to take a general training test. All IELTS scores are between 0 to 9, you will get a band score for each skill (listening, writing, reading, and speaking) and also an overview band score. However, band score requirements for both Academic and General Training tests vary as per the organization, university, or country.

Why IELTS Academic and Why IELTS General?

There is endless confusion around IELTS Academic and IELTS General. There are many questions that hover in the minds of the candidates like what IELTS exam one should take? What are the major differences between IELTS Academic and IELTS General? If such questions also bother you then fret not. In this article, we will try to bring clarity to both these exams.

IELTS Academic as the name suggests is an exam that assesses a candidate on his comprehensive and reading skills based on his understanding of the English language in an academic environment. The test format is designed in this direction. Usually, the test comprises sections and the topics are taken from magazines, journals, newspapers, and textbooks. The writing section also comprises easy topics that find relevance in the academic and professional fields. Now that we have discussed IELTS Academic exam, let us move on to the IELTS General exam and understand how it varies from the IELTS academic exam. 

IELTS General exam assesses a candidate’s English language skills based on practical and everyday occurrences. The topics are often taken from magazines and newspapers. Basic essay writing and letter writing form the part of the IELTS general exam.

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If a candidate’s intent is to move to the UK for study or to settle then one needs to appear for the IELTS test approved for UK Visa and Immigration purposes, commonly known as IELTS for UKVI. This test has to be taken by anyone who is coming from a country where English is not spoken. 

One needs to keep in mind that there is no change in terms of the content, difficulty level or format, or scoring per se. IELTS for UKVI differs from other IELTS exams in the extra security protocols to ensure that the test taker is authentic. The test report form differs from the regular IELTS exam.

IELTS for UKVI are of the following types:


General Training

Lifeskills A1, A2, and B1

IELTS Life skills exam is taken by those candidates who want to acquire a UK Visa by proving their english speaking and listening skills. This test can be availed by the candidate at the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) both for levels A1 and B1.

IF you are applying under a ‘family of a settled person then you need to take IELTS Life Skills A1. If you are applying under the category,’ indefinite leave to remain or citizenship, then you need to appear for the IELTS life Skills B1 exam.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many types of IELTS exams are there?

There are different types of IELTS exams: IELTS Academic and IELTS General. 

IELTS Academic:  It is taken by the aspirants who wish to study undergraduate or postgraduate courses from universities abroad in an English-speaking country.

IELTS General Training: This type of test is for those candidates who wish to apply for secondary education, professionals who seek work experience, or immigration in some countries like  Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.

Recommended Read: How to Prepare for IELTS at Home Without Coaching

Which exam is the best for IELTS?

There are two types of IELTS tests that are programmed for different purposes. Candidates opting for IELTS Academic aim to go for higher education in English-speaking countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Candidates taking IELTS general test wish to work abroad or immigrate to other countries where English is the primary language. Therefore, it depends on the candidate’s choice of exam depending on the purpose he holds.

What is the difference between Academic IELTS and General IELTS?

There are different types of IELTS exams namely IELTS Academic and General IELTS. If we look at both the exams, the difference in terms of structure, format, content, or difficulty level there is absolutely no difference between the Academic IELTS and General IELTS. The listening and the speaking tests remain the same.

Why does knowing about different types of IELTS exam matters?

Having knowledge of the IELTS exam is an important aspect for anyone who wishes to accomplish his dreams of studying abroad. It is always good to keep oneself informed about the exam he or she is preparing for. Besides all this, it brings you an inch closer to your dreams of studying abroad.

Know More:

IELTS EligibilityIELTS RegistrationIELTS Syllabus
Academic IELTSIELTS Band ScoreIELTS Writing Task 1
IELTS Writing Task 2IELTS Slot BookingIELTS Band Score Chart

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. Content Editor

She is an experienced writer and journalist who has extensively covered the education sector in India and Abroad. Now helping Indian aspirants realise their foreign education dream by providing them with relevant content and information through upGrad Abroad. Amateur traveller, loves to read Architectural Digest!

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