The Four Tests of IELTS
There are four separate tests that make up the IELTS: reading, writing, speaking and listening.
IELTS test format: You will always take all parts of listening, reading and writing one after the other, with no breaks between them. Your speaking test is usually scheduled at noon on the day of the test; However, it can be scheduled seven days before or after.
The IELTS reading test: The reading test in IELTS is one hour long. During this time, you will read three passages and answer 40 questions. The paper you will be given for this test will differ depending on whether you have chosen the ‘Academic’ or ‘General’ IELTS path.
For those taking the ‘Academic’ path, the reading test will feature long passages that are often taken from books, newspapers and magazines.
The passages used in this paper are authentic pieces of writing. Usually, these will contain academic language, more complex vocabulary and some form of chart/diagram/map.
For those taking the ‘General’ path, the reading test features three texts, which become progressively harder.
- The first reading will link to daily life and could be factual information about something familiar, such as a school or hotel.
- The second reading will be focused on the workplace and could include a text about a training course, information related to pay or the process of application for a job.
- The final reading will be longer and more complex and is likely to focus on an area of more general interest.
The IELTS writing test also lasts for one hour. In this test, you will be given two writing tasks to complete. The tasks you are expected to complete again depend on the path you have chosen.
In task 1 for the ‘Academic’ path, you will be asked to write a short report on a stimulus (such as a chart, table, graph or map) that you have been provided. In task 1 for the ‘General’ path, you will need to write a letter. Task 2 for both paths is to write a formal essay on a given topic.
Generally, it is recommended to spend 20 minutes on writing task 1 and 40 minutes on writing task 2. For task 1, it is recommended to write a minimum of 150 words, and for task 2 a minimum of 250 words.
The IELTS speaking test is the only face-to-face test. You will take this test with an examiner. The test generally lasts for between 11 and 14 minutes and consists of three parts.
The three parts of the test are an interview (that lasts 4-5 minutes), a talk (that lasts 3-4 minutes) and a discussion (that lasts 4-5 minutes).
All of these are completed with the examiner. This test is the same for both the ‘Academic’ and the ‘General’ path.
The IELTS listening test is 40 minutes in duration. For 30 minutes of this time, you will listen to an audio recording and answer the 40 questions. After that, you will have another ten minutes of time available to transfer your answers onto the test answer sheet.
The listening test is split into four sections, with ten questions in each section. Sections 1 and 2 are focused on listening in social situations, whereas sections 3 and 4 are focused on listening in more academic situations. Therefore, this test is the same for both the ‘Academic’ and the ‘General’ path.