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The IELTS test is a renowned exam taken by millions of people around the world. The British Council offers two versions of the IELTS: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Both tests assess a person’s language skills across reading, writing, speaking and listening.

In this article we’ll be focusing on the IELTS General Training version, including:

  • The structure of the exam;
  • The band scores;
  • Preparing for the IELTS using GlobalExam.

If you’re looking for detailed information on the IELTS exam, keep reading!

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What Is the IELTS Exam?

The British Council offers two versions of the IELTS: the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Training. Both tests assess a person’s language skills across reading, writing, speaking, listening, however the IELTS Academic is designed for prospective university students. The IELTS General Training on the other hand, is used for immigration purposes, for example if you want to move to Canada, the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, etc. Some companies also use the IELTS General Training test scores to assess the English skills of their employees.

The IELTS Listening and IELTS Speaking tests’ formats are the same across both versions of the IELTS, however the content of the Reading and Writing sections is not the same.

You should select the version of the test you take depending on how you intend to use your test score, however, it’s important to note that the IELTS General is the most widely accepted version of the test.

The first three parts of the test take place together in one sitting, whereas the speaking section is typically held separately on the same day or a few days later, depending on the center.

bearded man thinking

IELTS General Training Test Format – Listening

Find out the format of the IELTS Listening Section:

➤ Format:

You will listen to four recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of 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.

➤ Duration:

30 minutes (plus 10 minutes transfer time for the paper-based test).

➤ No. of questions:


➤ Task Types:

For each of the four recordings, you will be asked a question which can be a multiple choice question, an exercise consisting of completing a sentence, filling in a diagram, a card, a form or other.

  • Matching – candidates must match a numbered list of items from the listening text to a set of options on the question paper. The set of options may be criteria of some kind.
  • Plan, map, diagram labelling – candidates must complete labels on a plan (e.g. of a building), map (eg of part of a town) or diagram (e.g. of a piece of equipment). The answers are usually selected from a list on the question paper.
  • Form, note, table, flow-chart, summary completion – candidates must fill in the gaps in an outline of part or all of the listening text. The outline will focus on the main ideas/facts in the text.
  • Sentence completion – candidates must read a set of sentences summarising key information from all the listening text or from one part of it. They then fill a gap in each sentence using information from the listening text.
    A word limit is given, for example :‘NO MORE THAN ONE WORD AND/OR A NUMBER’.

➤ Marks:

Each question is worth 1 point.

➤ Answer method:

Multiple choice and short answers:

  • Multiple choice – a question followed by three possible answers, or the beginning of a sentence followed by three possible ways to complete the sentence
  • Short-answer questions – candidates must read a question and then write a short answer using information from the listening text.

IELTS General Training Test Format – Reading

Find out the format of the IELTS Reading Section:

➤ Instructions:

You will be asked to read three texts, then answer comprehension questions. The passages will be descriptive, factual, and analytical. The IELTS GT Reading Test has three sections:

  • Section 1 – contains 2-3 short texts or several shorter texts
  • Section 2 – comprises two texts/passages
  • Section 3 – includes a long reading passage

➤ Sources:

IELTS GT Reading passages are taken from a variety of sources – books, notices, advertisements, magazines, newspapers, timetables, company handbooks and guidelines.


60 minutes

➤ No. of questions:

13 – 14 questions

➤ Task Types:

There is a variety of questions and tasks, and answer types in the IELTS GT Reading section including:

  • identifying information/writer’s views/claims
  • matching headings/information/sentence endings
  • completing summaries/sentences/notes/tablesflowcharts/diagrams or labels

➤ Marks:

Each question is worth 1 point.

➤ Answer method:

Multiple choice and short-answer.

IELTS General Training Test Format – Writing

Find out the format of the IELTS Writing Section:

➤ Instructions:

The writing test is divided into two parts: “Writing 1” and “Writing 2”.

  • Task 1 – For the “Writing 1″ part you will be prompted to write a letter in one of the following styles:

– Formal (to someone you don’t know)
– Semi-formal (to someone you know formally)
– Informal (to a friend or family member)

  • Task 2 – You must write an essay response to an argument or problem.

➤ Duration:

60 minutes

➤ No. of questions:

2 questions.

➤ Task Types:

  • Task 1: candidates must respond to a situation, for example, by writing a letter requesting information or explaining a situation.
  • Task 2: you will be expected to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem.

➤ Marks:

Your score will be calculated according to:

  • Your compliance with the instructions: description of visual information, writing a letter in the appropriate format, point of view to be given
  • The coherence and cohesion: good use of linking words, logical operators, fluidity of speech
  • Your lexical resources: richness of vocabulary
  • Your grammar: correct syntax

➤ Answer method:

Written letter and essay.

IELTS General Training Test Format – Speaking

Find out the format of the IELTS Speaking Section:

➤ Instructions:

You will be expected to respond to basic questions about yourself and your background, before discussing with the examiner a topic as prompted by a task card. Towards the end of the test, there will be the opportunity to discuss the topic on a more conceptual level.

There are 3 parts in the General Speaking section.

  • Part 1 – consists of a general introduction during which you are asked questions leading you to talk a little about yourself.
  • Part 2 – requires you to talk about a specific topic drawn among many subjects. You will be allowed to take and use notes to organize your thoughts. In this exercise, you can share your point of view and arguments.
  • Part 3 – you will be expected to engage in an extended discussion about the previously drawn subject, in a more hypothetical or conceptual development, like:

➤ Duration:

11 – 14 minutes

➤ No. of questions:

3 parts

➤ Task Types:

  • Part 1 – the examiner introduces him/herself and checks the test takers’ identity. They then ask the test takers general questions on some familiar topics such as home, family, work, studies and interests. To ensure consistency, questions are taken from a script. Part 1 lasts for 4–5 minutes.
  • Part 2 – you are given a particular topic, and points to cover when you talk about it. You then have one minute to prepare your talk. The examiner will invite you to talk for 1 to 2 minutes, and will stop you after 2 minutes. They will then ask one or two questions on the same topic.
  • Part 1 – you will discuss issues related to the topic in Part 2 in a more general and abstract way and, where appropriate, in greater depth.

➤ Marks:

The skills that will be assessed are fluency and coherence, lexical resources, grammar and pronunciation.

bearded man looking far away

IELTS General – Levels and Band Scores

The IELTS does not offer a pass or fail, but rather a score that falls into one of the following nine bands:

Band Score
Skill Level
Very good
Extremely limited
Non user

It is possible to receive a half mark between bands for a skill. Such scores are rounded up or down to the nearest 0.5, so a score of 6.25 would be rounded up to 6.5, whereas a score of 7.1 would be rounded down to 7. Your test certificate will include a specific score in each communication skill, as well as an overall score.

IELTS General Test – The Best Preparation Materials

For the IELTS test, training is the basis for success and is fundamental. There are many solutions, and GlobalExam is one of them. We offer free or paid training depending on your needs and have a totally free IELTS ebook you can access anywhere once downloaded.

It is important to understand the test format, the content, and the question and task types for each section. Sample questions help you prepare for your IELTS test, and give you an idea of what to expect in the Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking tests.

Practice tests for Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing are key to understanding your progress. Listening scripts; sample Writing responses, sample Speaking tests and examiner comments are invaluable.

GlobalExam has all the preparation material you need for your IELTS General training, and to give you the best chance of success in the IELTS General test.

Practice And Get Higher Scores On The IELTS General Training

Whether you’re preparing for the IELTS Academic vs the IELTS General Training, studying is the key to success, and you can find all the tools you need on GlobalExam’s 100% online learning platform. Indeed, you need to take the IELTS if you wish to live in an English speaking country.

Experience on our website specific IELTS-orientated study materials with answer sheets, from revision sheets to mock exams, all carefully designed with English language professionals to help you improve your score.

The IELTS specific training includes:

  • 120 exercises
  • 5 mock exams
  • 3 personalized study plans to choose from
  • 390 study sheets with practice tests
  • Statistics and corrections

And much more!

Our method is recognized for its flexibility while ensuring quality content in line with IELTS requirements. Choose GlobalExam for your IELTS preparations and see your score soar!