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What is Academic IELTS: Meaning, Exam Pattern & Format

Updated on 13 April, 2023

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

ielts academic exam

Are you planning to pursue your higher education or seeking work-related registration in an English-speaking country? If the answer is positive then you need to opt for an English proficiency test before landing in a foreign country for education or a job. In this article, you would learn about one such English proficiency test which is IELTS. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is one of the most popular language tests and is divided into two parts – IELTS Academic Exam and IELTS General Training.

What is IELTS Academic Exam?

The IELTS Academic test is ideal for students planning to study in a country or university where English is spoken as the main language and is used for instructions. It can also be taken for professional registration by people looking for work opportunities. The test is meant to measure your ability to learn in English.

As per the organizers of IELTS, the General Training test is best for students planning to study below the degree level. It is ideal for admissions in English-speaking schools or colleges. It can also be taken for work experience or other work-related training. The General Training test is mandatory for migrating to certain English-speaking countries. They include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. Unlike the Academic test, this one measures the applicants’ English language skills required in social and work environments.

Both the IELTS Academic exam and General Training tests measure your English-language proficiency across four different parameters – Writing, Reading, Listening and speaking. 

The Listening and Speaking sections of the test are completely the same for both Academic and General Training exams. However, the Reading and Writing parts are different. Both the tests can be taken on a computer and as well as on paper and the test lasts for 2 hours and 45 minutes. The test fees amount to Rs 14,700 for both. The IELTS academic band score ranges between 0 and 9. It is possible to get a .5 score as well (Eg, 6.5 or 7.5).

Applicants opting for the paper-based IELTS test have to take the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections on paper with either a pen or dark black pencils. The Speaking test is executed in person by an expert IELTS examiner. 

Applicants who have chosen the computer-based IELTS test take the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections on a computer. Like the paper-based test, the Speaking test for the computer-based exam is also taken face-to-face by an IELTS examiner.

But the computer-based test is more convenient. While results of the paper-based IELTS test are announced after 13 days from the test date, the outcome of the Computer-based IELTS test is announced within 3-5 days from the test date.

The Listening, Reading, and Writing tests are conducted on the same day and the Speaking test can be scheduled up to a week before or after other tests.

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Differences and Similarities Between IELTS Academic and General Training Formats

The similarity between IELTS Academic and General Training formats is that both of them have two written tasks which have to be completed in 60 minutes. Writing Task 2 in both the exams has an essay question which has to be written within 250 words. 

The only difference between the two is that the General Training test includes questions from topics of general interest such as advertisements, newspapers, and notices. Whereas the Academic test evaluates a candidate on topics more suited to the professional institution or university study.

IELTS Academic Test Format

An applicant is assessed on the basis of four parameters - Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Here’s a breakdown of the four sections of the test along with the allotted time for each one of them.

Listening (30 minutes)
  • Four recorded monologues and conversations
Reading (60 minutes)
  • Three long reading passages with relevant tasks
  • The texts may include visual elements like diagrams, graphs, or illustrations
  • The pieces of texts are extracts from books, journals, magazines,      or newspapers
Writing (60 minutes)
  • Summarize, describe or explain the given table, graph, chart, or diagram in written words
  • Write a short essay on the given topic (at least 250 words)
Speaking (11 to 14 minutes)
  • Face-to-face interview without disruptions or distractions
  • This part has short questions, speaking at length about a familiar topic and a structured discussion

 Important Resources to Read About IELTS:

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IELTS Speaking test

Both Academic and General Training follow the same format for the IELTS Speaking test. The allotted time lasts for about 11-14 minutes. The test is usually a one-on-one conversation around a general topic. It is conducted as a face-to-face interview without any disruptions. Unlike other English proficiency tests that record voice responses, IELTS specifically conducts these in-person to understand the person better.

IELTS Reading test

The IELTS Reading test is a bit different for both Academic and General Training. The test for the General Training section takes 60 minutes and it has three sections. The first section may contain two or three short texts or multiple shorter versions. The second section has two separate two texts. Lastly, the third section has a single but long text. The text pieces are generally extracted from notices or advertisements. The test may also include pieces taken from company handbooks, official documents, books, and newspapers. The Reading section for the Academic test also lasts 60 minutes. However, it contains 3 long texts instead of the multiple shorter pieces. They are generally taken from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers. You can be a bit less concerned if you are appearing for the IELTS Academic test. The texts of the Reading section are a bit easier and selected for non-specialist applicants.

IELTS Writing test

Just like the Reading test, the IELTS Writing test also lasts 60 minutes. But it is different for both  Academic and General Training. For the General Training Writing test, you are required to write a letter of 150 words along with a short Essay of 250 words. On the other hand, the Academic Writing test is a bit more professional. Instead of the General test’s letter writing test, you have to describe a table, chart, or diagram in 150 words. For the second task, you have to write a short essay of 250 words.

IELTS Listening test

The IELTS Listening test is the same for both Academic and General Training exams. The test requires around 30 mins. This section of the test has four separate sections, each of which has ten questions. The first two sections deal with social contexts from our daily life. Sections three and four are more about educational and training contexts.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is the IELTS academic score greater than the general?

The scoring on IELTS Speaking, Listening, and Writing is the same in both academic and general training tests. However, the scoring differs in IELTS Reading which constitutes 25% of the score. If a student answers 30 questions out of 40 correctly, the IELTS band in general training reading is 6.0. However, the same score on academic IELTS reading will lead to an IELTS academic band score of 7.0.

What is the purpose of the IELTS academic test?

The IELTS academic exam assesses the English proficiency of a student to determine if they can opt for an undergraduate or postgraduate. A candidate has to appear for the test if they want to seek professional registration in English-speaking countries. It judges applicants on the basis of four skill sets - reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

Can I change from IELTS academic to general?

If you have mistakenly selected for IELTS academic and want to switch to general, you have to fill up a form prepared by the British Council and send it to a local testing center. For verification purposes, you need to attach a photocopy of your passport or ID card. In order to switch the module, you need to submit this form at least 14 days prior to the exam date.

Which is better, academic or general?

While it is not right to say which test is better, the purpose of both the tests differ. The IELTS academic test needs to be taken by the candidates who want to immigrate to an English-speaking country for study purposes. However, the IELTS general training test allows the candidate to get entry in countries like Australia, the UK, and Canada for enrolling in vocational training programs or to gain work experience.

How much does academic IELTS cost?

The total cost incurred to appear for an IELTS academic exam is INR 14,700 which is held for a duration of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Who is eligible for the IELTS academic exam?

The major criteria to sit for an academic IELTS is that the candidate should be above 16 years of age. There is no such educational criteria set by the conducting bodies of IELTS neither for the academic nor for the general training test. But, the candidate should check the eligibility criteria of the university or organization for which they are applying which varies predominately in terms of scores.

More Resources to Read About IELTS:

IELTS Writing Task 1 AcademicIELTS Last Minute TipsIELTS Academic Reading
IELTS Speaking Test formatHow IELTS Exam is ConductedIndian Education System Essay
IELTS Academic Writing Task 1IELTS Academic ExamIELTS General Writing Tips Task 2
MBA in Germany Without IELTSHow to Improve IELTS Score from 6.5 to 7IELTS Speaking Tips

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Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert


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The above tips are the Author's experiences. upGrad does not guarantee scores or admissions.