What are the differences between the two versions of the test?

In most countries, there are two versions of IELTS that are offered. You are free, as a test-taker, to choose either version of IELTS. It all depends on your personal, educational and professional requirements Are you considering applying to an English speaking university? Then you should take the IELTS Academic version. For immigration purposes, the IELTS General is the version that will suit your needs.

Both the Academic and General Training exam have four parts: listening, speaking, reading and writing. We highly recommend preparing for the IELTS by doing mock exams.

There are some differences between the two versions of the test. Let’s examine the similarities first.

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Listening Part

The total time for the Listening module is 30 minutes on the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training exams. There are four recorded listening excerpts on both of the exams. There will be 4 sections; one section for each recorded listening excerpt. Each section has 10 questions. The first two recordings deal with everyday social contexts. The next two recordings, sections 3- 4, deal with educational and training contexts. You mark your answers on a given answer sheet.

The recordings follow this order:

  • Recording 1 is a conversation between two people set in an everyday social situation.
  • Recording 2 is a monologue concerning an everyday social situation such as a speech about local recreational facilities.
  • Recording 3 is a conversation between two to four people that takes place in an educational or training context such as between a university tutor and a student discussing an essay.
  • Recording 4 is a monologue on an academic subject such as a university lecture by a professor.

Speaking Section

For both exams, there will be a face-to-face interview with a certified IELTS Speaking Examiner. For both tests: the IELTS Academic and General Training, the Speaking component is 11-14 minutes in length. There are three parts in both versions of the test that include short questions and longer questions where the candidate speaks about a familiar topic. The examiners have to follow strict instructions and cannot help you.

Let’s examine the sections that are different.

Reading Part

The Reading portion is 60 minutes long for both the IELTS Academic and General Training exams. That part is the same. On both of the exams, there are three readings. Each reading has questions. For both versions of IELTS, the texts are authentic that is the texts come from books, newspapers, magazines, etc.

The difference is within the themes:

  • For the IELTS Academic version, there are a variety of texts to read. For example you will see descriptive, factual, and analytical readings. The reading section will also include diagrams, graphs or illustrations. The texts average about 700-800 words.
  • For the General Training exam, in the first section, there are two or three short texts. Then, in the second section, there are two short texts that are related to work. In the third section, there is one long text about a general interest topic. The topic in the third section does not require specialist knowledge.

Writing Section

The Writing section is 60 minutes for both versions of IELTS.

Each version of the test includes two tasks:

  • Task 1 is a minimum of 150 words
  • Task 2 is a minimum of 250 words.

In the IELTS Academic exam, Task 1 is writing about a table, graph, chart or diagram. Task 2 is an essay. There will be a question relating to a statement, and you must provide your opinion.

Here is an example of a task 2 question on the Academic version of IELTS

Social media is becoming increasingly popular amongst all age groups. However, sharing personal information on social media websites does have risks.

  • Do you think that the advantages of social media outweigh the disadvantages?
  • Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Stack of books and notebook with a pen.

In the General Training exam, Task 1 is writing a letter. Details of what to write are given. Task 2 is an essay.

Here is an example of Task 1 on the General Training version

You play a team sport with some friends. Last week a member of the team had an accident and wasn’t able to play with you at the weekend. You decide to write to him in hospital, telling him about the match.

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter,

  • tell him which team won
  • describe the conditions on the day
  • say how you felt about the match

Here is an example of Task 2 on the General Training version

Wealth does not necessarily guaranty happiness.

  • To what extent do you agree with this statement?
  • Provide reasons for your answer.
  • Include relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

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Whichever version of IELTS you take, best of luck to you!

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