The IELTS test is conducted in two formats:  Academic and General Training.

  • Listening and Speaking are the same for both tests, but the subject matter of the Reading and Writing sections differs for Academic and General.
  • There is a three-hour exam of the Listening, Reading and Writing (LRW) sections in all IELTS tests on a single day, with no breaks in between them.
  • The Speaking test, however, is conducted up to a week before or after the LRW test. It is available virtually also in IDP.

There are two modes of giving the exam.

  1. Paper and pen-based.
  2. Computer-delivered.

Test Format – Listening

30 minutes (plus 10 minutes transfer time).

There will be four recordings of native English speakers which are played and then you have to write your answers to a series of 40 questions.

  • Recording 1 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2 – a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.
  • Recording 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.
  • Recording 4 – a monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture.


From 4 January 2020, there is an introduction of some small changes to the instructions and layout of the paper-based Listening test by the British Council:

  • The word ‘Sections’ to ‘Parts’ – The paper-based test will now be divided into Part 1, 2, 3, 4.
  • Part 1 example has been removed.
  • The page number references have also been removed.

Test format – Reading 

60 minutes

The Reading section consists of three long texts that include 40 questions which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. These passages are selected from books, journals, magazines and newspapers.  They have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for people with sound knowledge of the English language.

Test format – Academic Writing

60 minutes

Topics are of from current trends and issues that relate to general interest too and are suitable for, test takers entering undergraduate and postgraduate studies or professional registration. There are two tasks:

  • Task 1 – There will a graph, table, chart or diagram and you are asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.
  • Task 2 – you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Both tasks must be responded must be in a formal style.

Test format – Speaking 

11–14 minutes

The speaking section assesses your skills use of spoken English.

  • Part 1 – the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics, such as home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts for four to five minutes.
  • Part 2  – you will be given a card which asks you to talk about a particular topic. You will be given one minute to prepare before speaking for up to two minutes. The examiner will then ask one or two questions on the same topic.
  • Part 3 – you will be asked further questions about the topic in Part 2. These provide the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issues. This part of the test lasts between four and five minutes.