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If you’re considering taking the IELTS, you probably already know that there are two versions of the test: the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General. In this article, we’re going to compare the two versions to help you decide which one is right for you.

Here we’ll be talking about:

  • What is the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General?
  • IELTS Academic vs General across Reading, Speaking, Writing, and Listening
  • Which version of the test is the easiest?

Let’s dive right in.

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What Is The IELTS Academic And What Does It Measure?

The IELTS Academic is designed to measure your English communication skills in an academic environment. This version of the test uses academic-level vocabulary and discussion topics, and you will be graded based on your ability to communicate in English at a university level.

Typical topics in this version of the test include:

  • Culture and society
  • Education
  • Health and environment
  • Art and entertainment
  • Science and technology
  • Travel and transport
  • Global issues

How Is the IELTS General Training Designed and Structured?

The IELTS General Training is designed to measure your English language proficiency in everyday situations, including in the workplace. 

This version of the test typically includes topics such as:

  • Family and children
  • Food and diet
  • Media and advertising
  • Environment
  • Crime and punishment
  • Business and money
  • Communication and personality

Stack of books and notebook with a pen.

You might be also interested in reading an article about the difference between the CEPIP and the IELTS or the difference between the Cambridge tests and the IELTS.

IELTS Reading General or Academic: Which One Is Better?

The Reading section of the IELTS is designed to test how well you understand written English and identify specific information. This section of the test is different depending on which version of the test you take, but both versions of the Reading section take one hour and include 40 questions.

IELTS Reading General Training

The IELTS Reading General is divided into three distinct sections:

  1. Social survival: understanding short texts such as notices and timetables
  2. Workplace survival: understanding texts such as a contract or job description
  3. General reading: understanding one long text of a descriptive nature

IELTS Reading Academic

The Academic Reading section is made up of three long texts that assess your ability to do the following:

  • Understand the general sense of a text
  • Identify the main ideas
  • Identify specific details
  • Recognize differing opinions
  • Follow the development of an argument

IELTS Academic vs General

In both versions of the test, you will encounter texts that are descriptive and factual. However, it is only in the Academic version that you will have to deal with analytical texts.

The Academic Reading section uses texts taken from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers. For this reason, these texts include more complex structures and advanced vocabulary, although the subject matter is non-specialist in both versions.

Let’s compare an example question from each version of the Reading section to see the difference.

In the IELTS General Reading, you could be presented with instructions explaining how to use London’s Happy Bike scheme, for example, then answer a question such as the following:

 IELTS Academic vs General

If you were given a text about the science of lying in the IELTS Academic, for example, you might be asked to fill in the blanks on the following diagram:

 IELTS General Reading

The Speaking Section: IELTS Academic or IELTS General?

For the Speaking section of the IELTS, there is no difference between the two versions of the test. Both the format and topics used in the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General are the same.

The Speaking section is the shortest section of the IELTS, taking 11-14 minutes in total. It has three parts:

  1. You must introduce yourself to the examiner and answer questions about familiar topics, such as home, family, and interests.
  2. You will be given a task card asking you to speak on a specific topic. You must speak for 1-2 minutes then respond to questions from the examiner.
  3. The examiner will engage you in a discussion about the same topic as in part 2.

Here’s an example of the type of topic you could encounter for parts 2 and 3:

The Speaking section: IELTS Academic or IELTS General?

IELTS General Writing or Academic: What Is the Difference?

The Writing section of the IELTS is designed to test how well you can communicate in written English.

This section is different across the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Writing, although both versions of the Writing section last one hour and include two tasks.

IELTS General Writing

The IELTS General Writing is divided into two distinct parts: Task 1 and Task 2. The two tasks require you to do as follows:

  1. Write a letter explaining a specific situation or requesting information
  2. Write an essay responding to a point of view or problem

IELTS Academic Writing

The Academic version of the Writing section also has two tasks that require you to do the following:

  1. Describe, summarize or explain data displayed in a graph, chart or diagram
  2. Write an essay responding to a point of view or problem

IELTS Academic vs General

The main similarity between the two versions of the Writing section is the format. Task 1 is shorter and less challenging in both versions of the Writing section, whereas Task 2 requires a longer response.

Although Task 2 requires you to write an essay in both versions, there is a difference in style. Whereas it is acceptable to write in a personal style for the IELTS General Writing, the Academic version demands formal language.

Here’s an example Task 2 question from the IELTS General Writing:

 IELTS General Writing

Here’s an example Task 2 question from the IELTS Academic for comparison:

example Task 2 question from the IELTS Academic

The Listening Section: IELTS Academic or IELTS General?

Both versions of the IELTS are the same for the Listening section. The Listening section takes 30 minutes and includes four recordings of native speakers. They are organized in the following way for both the IELTS Academic and General Training:

  1. A conversation in a social context
  2. A monologue in a social context
  3. A conversation in an academic context
  4. A monologue on an academic subject

Here’s one example of the types of questions that follow the recordings.

If the first recording were a conversation between two university students introducing themselves to each other, you may be asked to do something like complete their ID cards, as below:

The Listening section: IELTS Academic or IELTS General?

We have also written an article to help you find out if you should you take the IELTS or the TOEFL and the TOEIC vs IELTS different criteria.

Which Version of the IELTS Test Is the Easiest One?

Both versions of the IELTS are designed to equip test takers seeking to live, work or study in English-speaking countries with an official qualification attesting to their language abilities. As we’ve seen, the two versions of the IELTS are very similar, yet each one is designed to prepare test takers for different situations.

Both versions of the exam will assess your language skills across reading, writing, speaking, listening and the format of each version of the test is very similar. However, the content of the Reading and Writing sections of each version of the exam is quite different.

The IELTS Academic bases its Reading and Writing questions on topics related to university life and subjects, such as course schedules, campus navigation, and lectures. The IELTS General Training Reading and Writing sections are oriented towards test takers looking to enter an English-speaking work environment, with questions based on more general topics, including making an appointment and writing a letter.

In the case you are wondering the IELTS exam fee, we have an article available online for you. Before registering to the IELTS test, please check the accredited test center where you could take it.

IELTS Academic vs General

When it comes to comparing the two versions of the test, it’s important to recognize that there is no easy option. Both tests are rigorous and require careful preparation.

Although the IELTS Academic is designed to deal with more academic topics, the level of English is not necessarily more advanced. Indeed, the IELTS General Training may prove challenging to academic students unfamiliar with the language used in professional environments.

Remember: you should choose the version of the test you take depending on what you intend to use your test IELTS score for. Even if the IELTS General seems like an easier option, you may require an IELTS Academic score for your future applications such as for Life Skills application visa.

Allow GlobalExam to Help You Reach the IELTS Score You Deserve

So, have you decided which version of the IELTS is right for you? If you’re still having trouble making the choice, why not try your hand at some practice exercises for the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Training on GlobalExam?

Whichever version of the IELTS you decide is the one for you, GlobalExam has the solution for helping you to prepare. Our sophisticated e-learning platform is an online solution for studying for language exams in a way that suits your level, your goals, and your timetable. You can also find IELTS FAQs with times, dates, registration and preparation.

The best way to prepare for the IELTS Academic or the IELTS General is by practicing using IELTS-specific learning materials. On GlobalExam, you can find dozens of IELTS practice tasks and questions for every section of the IELTS, across both versions. Within each test section, you can even find different question levels – Easy, Medium and Hard – to allow you to target your practice to your desired band score.

Start studying with GlobalExam today!