What is the IELTS test format?

What is the IELTS test format?
Standardized Tests

What is the IELTS test format?


The International English language testing system (IELTS) is a popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration. IELTS exam assesses the test taker’s English skills with respect to reading, writing, listening and speaking. It is accepted by over 9,000 organizations worldwide, including schools, universities, immigration authorities, and professional bodies.

The two versions of the test are the Academic and the General Training IELTS. The Academic IELTS is for people who wish to study abroad and the General Training IELTS is for people who want to follow a non-academic course or for immigration purposes.

IELTS Test Format and Scores: The duration of the IELTS test is 2 hours and 45 minutes. It consists of four sections, which test the candidate’s listening, reading, writing and speaking skills.

1. The Listening Test:

In the listening test, students have to listen to a pre-recorded passage. This test is the same for both the IELTS versions – Academic as well as General Training. The duration of the test is approximately 30 minutes and students are allowed an extra 10 minutes to write their answers in the answer sheet provided. The IELTS Listening test assesses one’s listening skills, including how well the students:

• Understand the main ideas as well as the specific information
• Recognize the opinions, attitudes and purpose of a speaker
• Follow the development of an argument

The IELTS Listening test has four sections, wherein students answer questions based on:

1. A conversation between two people.
2. A monologue set in an everyday situation.
3. A conversation between some people set in an educational or training context.
4. A monologue on an academic subject.

However, each section can only be heard once.


40 questions are asked in this test, and students may have to answer multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks, complete a table or a flow chart or give short answers.


Every correct answer is awarded one mark. The scores out of a total of 40 are then converted into the IELTS 9-band scale.

2. The Reading Test:

Students are required to read three different passages and answer questions based on them. The content of the Reading test is different for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests. The duration of this test is 60 minutes. The Reading test assesses one’s reading skills, including how well a student can:

• Read and obtain a general sense of a passage along with the details and main ideas
• Understand inferences and the implied meaning
• Recognize a writer’s opinions, attitudes and purpose
• Follow the development of an argument

The IELTS Academic Reading test has three sections, and each one contains one long text, which is taken from books, magazines or newspapers. The text might be accompanied by diagrams, graphs or illustrations, and students are expected to understand both.


40 questions are asked in this test and students may be asked to answer multiple choice questions, fill gaps in a passage of written text or a table, complete sentences or give short answers to open questions.

Every correct answer is awarded one mark. The scores out of a total of 40 are then converted into the IELTS 9-band scale.

3. The Writing Test:

The writing test is designed to assess a wide range of writing skills, including how well a student can organize ideas, write meaningful and relevant answers, and use a range of vocabulary with grammatical accuracy. The duration of the Writing test is 60 minutes.

The writing test has two tasks, wherein students will be asked to write at least 150 words for the first task and at least 250 words for the second one. In the first task, students will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and they have to describe, summarize or explain it in their own words. In the second task, they have to write an essay based on a point of view, argument or problem.


The scoring for the Writing test is done by a certified IELTS examiner. The scores are reported in whole and half bands.

4. The Speaking Test:

In this test, students have to talk to a certified examiner. The test is interactive and as close to a real-life situation as possible. The test is recorded and a variety of accents may be used. The content of the Speaking Test is the same for both of the IELTS test versions. The Speaking test takes 11-14 minutes.

The Speaking test assesses a wide range of skills. The objective of this test is to see how well students can:

• Express opinions and communicate information on everyday topics by answering a range of questions
• Speak on a given topic using appropriate language
• Express ideas coherently and justify their opinions
• Analyze and discuss issues

The Speaking test has three sections:

Part 1: In this section, the examiner will introduce themselves and ask the student to introduce themselves and confirm their identity. The examiner then asks general questions about the student’s family, work, studies and interests. The duration of this section is 4 to 5 minutes.

Part 2: In this section, the examiner gives a task card and asks the student to talk about a particular topic, giving them one minute to prepare notes. Then the student will be asked to talk for 1 to 2 minutes on the topic and the examiner will ask a few questions on the same topic.

Part 3: In this section, the examiner will ask the student further questions, which are connected to the topic of Part 2. The questions are designed to give the student an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas.


Certified IELTS examiners assess the students’ performance in this test. Students will be marked on the following four criteria:
• Fluency and coherence
• Lexical resource
• Grammar
• Pronunciation

The scores are then reported in the form of a 9 band scale.

Cost of IELTS:

The test fees vary from one country to another, but it is the same for both the versions of the test (Academic and General Training).

IELTS Test Day:

Students can apply to take the exam at any IELTS Administration Centre. They must ensure that they have the right ID with them. If they bring the wrong ID, they will not be allowed to take the test. Students must carry two recent identical passport-sized photographs as well. Only a pen or pencil, eraser and the ID will be allowed in the exam center.

Understanding IELTS Scores:

Students receive a score for each test component – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The individual scores are then averaged and rounded to produce an Overall Band Score. IELTS is scored on a nine-band scale; wherein each band signifies a student’s competence in the English language. The overall band scores are then reported to the nearest half band. This means that the score is rounded up to the next half band if it ends in .25 and it is rounded up to the next whole band if it ends in .75. Students must note that most of the Ivy League colleges in the U.S. require a minimum score of around 7.0.

IELTS Results:

Test results are provided 13 calendar days after the test date. An Overall Band Score from 1-9, along with a band score for each of the 4 sections of the test, is provided. If a student has nominated institutions to provide copies of the IELTS test results during registration, then the results will be sent automatically on their behalf. Students must note that the Test Report Forms will be valid for two years only. If a student wishes to take the exam again, they do not have to wait for any mandatory period to elapse in order to re-take the exam. Also, there is no limit to the number of times a student can give the IELTS exam. If a student is not happy with his result, they can apply for a re-examination, which is known as an Enquiry on Results, within six weeks of the test date. However, they will have to pay an inquiry fee, which will be fully refunded if the band score is changed post the re-examination.

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