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Learn about the types of IELTS exam

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is more than a language test. It provides an opportunity for many people around the world to start a new life abroad. More than 12,000 institutions, including universities, higher education students and employers, accept the IELTS exam as a standardised language test to assess the English proficiency level of prospective candidates. But, because there are different types of IELTS exams, it can be difficult to find out which is the most suitable for you. Therefore, to help you overcome this challenge, we’ve created this comprehensive guide. You can learn about the types of IELTS exams, the test format, duration and the different sections of the exam. Let’s get started. 

Types of IELTS exams

There are two main IELTS exams, IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. While there's also the IELTS Life Skills test, it's only applicable in the UK. The goal of all these tests is to measure your English listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills for academic, work, or migration purposes. Let's learn more about them. 

IELTS Academic 

If you want to study abroad at a university, college or higher education institution, then the IELTS Academic exam is the one for you. This test is way to prove that you have the relevant English language skills required to study at an undergraduate or postgraduate level. You can take the exam on paper or computer at the official IELTS centres. There are four sections in the IELTS Academic test that you will have to prepare for: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. 

IELTS General Training 

If you want to migrate to an English-speaking country like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the UK or if you're going to train or study on a course below degree level, then you will have to take the IELTS General Training test. There are four papers in the IELTS General Training test: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. 

IELTS Life Skills 

IELTS Life Skills is a UK-government-approved test designed for people who are planning to move to the UK and need to prove their English speaking and listening skills as a part of their UK Visa and Immigration application (UKVI). So, if you want to move to the UK for any of the following reasons, then you will have to take the IELTS Life Skills test. 

  • If you want to live with a relative, spouse or partner who is already living in the UK on a permanent basis.   
  • If you're already living in the UK and want to make the change permanent.   
  • If you want to apply for British citizenship. 
  • Remember to check the English language requirements for your visa category before registering for the test. 

The IELTS exam format

Understanding different IELTS test type formats is a big part of preparing for the examination. Both IELTS Academic and General Training have the same listening and speaking sections but different reading and writing sections because the General Training exam tests your English communication skills in everyday situations and not academic contexts. 





4 Parts 

40 Questions 

1 Mark for each correct answer 

30 – 40 minutes (extra 10 minutes to transfer your answers to an answer sheet)) 


3 Parts 

40 Questions 

1 Mark for each correct answer 

60 minutes (including transfer time) 


2 Tasks 

60 minutes 


3 Parts 

11–14 minutes 

The listening exam 

The listening exam consists of four recordings of native English speakers talking with each other. You will have to listen to these conversations and then answer questions. This section lasts 30 minutes, and you can listen to the recordings only once. This exam tests your ability to understand the main ideas, specific information, opinions, accents, attitudes, and the purpose of the conversation. 

The speaking exam 

This is a three-part face-to-face interview with an examiner that will be recorded. In the first part, you will have to answer questions about yourself and familiar topics about things like your home, family, studies or interests. In the second part, the examiner will show you a card and ask you to speak about a particular topic. They will give you a minute to prepare and then ask questions about that topic. The third part involves answering more questions about the same topic as part two but in more detail. 

The reading exam 

The reading exam differs for Academic and General Training.  

Academic Reading: In this exam, you will have to read three long texts from academic books, journals, magazines, newspapers, and online resources and answer 40 questions in 60 minutes. All the topics chosen will have purposes in English, educational value and will be of general interest to students. The test is designed to check if you can identify the main ideas, understand the small details, make logical arguments, and recognise the writers' opinions, attitudes, and purposes in the English language. 

General Training Reading: There are three parts, with the first focusing on everyday topics, the second section dealing with work-related issues and the third on various general topics taken from newspapers, magazines, books and online resources. You will have to answer 40 questions in 60 minutes to prove that you are ready to live in a country where English is spoken as the primary language. 

The writing exam 

The writing section also varies between Academic and General Training.  

Academic Writing: There are two tasks in this exam. In task one, you will have to describe visual information, such as charts or graphs and write an essay. In task two, you will have to discuss the given argument or point of view. 

General Training Writing: You have to complete two tasks in this exam. In task one, you will have to write an essay or a letter asking for information or explaining a situation. Task 2 is the same as in the academic writing exam, you will be given an argument or point of view that you have to discuss. 

You will have 60 minutes to answer the writing section. The goal is to test your ability to write grammatically correct sentences in English using a range of vocabulary. 

Learning about the different types of IELTS tests will help you choose the one that fits your goals. Whether you want to study abroad or are looking for employment opportunities, there is an IELTS exam designed to test your level of English. Understanding the exam format will help you prepare for the exam in the long term. If you want to prepare for IELTS Academic and want professional help to reach your target score, check out the IELТS Preparation Course at English Path. Our team of experienced and qualified teachers can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and provide fantastic tips and advice to help you reach your goal! 

Frequently asked questions about the types of IELTS exam

Q1. How many types of IELTS exams are there?

A1. In general, there are only two main IELTS test types which are IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. There is also the IELTS Life Skills test, but that is taken if you are applying for a family, extension to family, spouse or partner visa or British citizenship visa in the UK.

Q2. What is the difference between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training?

A2. In simple words, IELTS Academic is for higher education and IELTS General Training is required when moving to countries where English is spoken. If you want to study at a university, college, or other higher education institution in an English-speaking country, you will have to take the IELTS Academic exam. But, if you want to migrate to English-speaking countries for work or training, then IELTS General Training is a great choice.

Q3. How long is IELTS valid for?

A3. Your IELTS score will be valid for two years from the day you take the test.

Q4. How often can I take the IELTS exam?

A4. The good news is that you can take the IELTS exam as many times as you want until you get your desired score. There are no restrictions on the number of attempts, but there is a fee for taking the exam each time.

Q5. How can I get a good IELTS score?

A5. You can get a good IELTS score by enrolling on English Path IELTS Preparation courses. We have a team of qualified and experienced teachers who are trained to help you master your language skills. You will be able to identify your strengths and areas of weakness to customise your learning for your needs, improve time management skills, understand the test format and practise with past IELTS papers every week. Join us today!