Everything you need to know about the IELTS exam


What is IELTS?

IELTS Test Types

Duration of the IELTS exam

Format of the IELTS exam

IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training

How to book your IELTS exam

Preparing for the IELTS Exam

IELTS Preparation tips

Common FAQs about IELTS

Video-Call Speaking Exam (VCS)

Get your IELTS writing band score estimated (free)


What is the IELTS exam?

The IELTS exam is the International English Language Testing System test taken to prove your IELTS proficiency. It is one of the most widely known and used English exams in the world. There are about 1000 IELTS testing centres in most countries.

The purpose of the IELTS test is to provide proof of their English skills either for immigration or academic purposes where English is the native language. A huge number of post-secondary institutions, governmental bodies and private corporations recognize IELTS results as confirmation of English proficiency level for countries like New Zealand, USA, Canada and Australia. It is the only English Language Test approved by UK Visas and Immigration for applications outside and inside of the UK.

It is very important for you as a test taker to study in depth in order to excel at this exam.
You should do practice tests or take private lessons because the IELTS testing process is quite challenging and the results decide a lot in the test candidate’s life.

Most importantly, you can prepare for all the parts and types of the IELTS test using the lessons, blog posts and tutorials on our website and the courses we offer.

*Recent updates about the IELTS exam

As a result of the ongoing pandemic worldwide, IELTS organisations have launched the IELTS Indicator exam to help students who are unable to take the IELTS test at an exam centre. The IELTS indicator has a similar format to the usual test and will assess a students skills in Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking. Please check with the institution that you are applying to whether they accept the IELTS Indicator results. Find out more about the IELTS Indicator here.

IDP Recently allowed candidates to take the test online, but this is only available in certain countries. Click here to book your online IELTS test.

IELTS Test Types

How many types of IELTS tests are there? Which one should I take?

There are two types of IELTS exams:

  • General Training IELTS - needed to confirm language proficiency to an employer, or for immigration purposes, or to obtain citizenship.
  • Academic IELTS - needed for admission to colleges or universities.
  • IELTS Life Skills - needed for people who are applying for UK citizenship.


How many sections does IELTS have?
Both IELTS General Training and Academic have 4 sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

All exam sections are always taken in the same location, which is the same testing centre.

Do the sections take place in a certain order?
Yes, always in this order: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

You will always do the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections on the same day, without any breaks between them.

The IELTS Speaking exam may be scheduled either on the same day, after the rest of the parts, or even before or after the other test segments (up to 7 days).
Your test centre will let you know about the exact dates.

What is the duration of the IELTS exam?

2 hours 45 minutes.

The time is split as follows:

  • Listening: 30 minutes
  • Reading: 1 hour
  • Writing: 1 hour
  • Speaking: 11-15 minutes

Format of the IELTS exam

IELTS can be taken in two formats:

  • Paper-based IELTS test: you read test materials off a paper exam booklet and write on paper using pen or pencil
  • Computer-delivered IELTS: all test materials are read off a computer screen and the writing part is typed.

However, IELTS Speaking is always taken with a real person, no matter which format you choose to take.


IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training?

  • What is IELTS Academic for?
    If you want to be admitted to higher education in an English-speaking country or many other colleges or universities around the world, you will have to sit for the Academic IELTS exam.
  • Who accepts IELTS Academic results?
    More than 10,000 public and private higher education institutions, including all the top universities, all over the world accept IELTS Academic scores as confirmation of your language command for study.

Remember, IELTS Academic is not only required in countries which have English as the official language. For example, if you apply for a program taught in English in Switzerland, you may have to submit an IELTS certificate. This test will be taken by applicants who want to apply for higher education or professional registration abroad.

Make sure that you always check your post-secondary institution’s (college or university) website whether they can accept an IELTS Academic certificate before you book your exam or sign up for prep classes.

What is IELTS General Training for?

  • If you want to work or to emigrate to an English-speaking country such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, USA you will need to take the General Training IELTS exam.
  • GT IELTS is also one of the exams accepted as proof of language proficiency for the citizenship exam in certain countries, such as Canada.

Who accepts IELTS General Training results?

A huge number of private corporations, from the smallest to the largest, and certainly all medical institutions accept GT IELTS certificates.

They require a GT IELTS band score because it serves as a trustworthy, internationally recognized proof for professionals from abroad of appropriate language skills proficiency for employment.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) accepts GT IELTS as proof of language proficiency with applications for work visas when registering for a certain profession, obtaining permanent residence, or finalizing a citizenship application.

Similarly, the Australian Citizenship and Immigration requires GT IELTS for the same purposes as Canada.

If you intend to apply for UK citizenship, the IELTS Life Skills exam is one of the tests that is accepted.

However, band score requirements are different for various countries and purposes.

Which exam is more difficult: General IELTS or Academic IELTS?

There is no difference between General Training and Academic IELTS in the Speaking and Listening sections.

The only difference between GT and Academic IELTS is in the Reading and Writing parts.

IELTS Academic is thought to be somewhat more challenging, especially Writing. But in Reading, you will need fewer correct answers to get a higher band score. For example: 32 marks = Band 7.0.

On the other hand, IELTS general is believed to be a bit easier, but certain sections will need more marks to achieve a better result. For example: 32 marks = Band 6.5.

How to book your IELTS Exam

  1. You should find a test centre near you. You can use the centre locator webpage on the official IELTS website here. 
  2. Consult the exam schedule calendar of your centre and choose one day from the dates available. Remember, you can sign up for only one exam at a time.
  3. Then you can register online or go to your test centre in person to submit an application. You can find more information about exam fees from the testing centre in your area.
  • Copies of valid identity documents (for example, passport, national ID card, driving license, etc., but depends on the country) will be required from you at IELTS registration. The same ID will need to be presented on test day.
  • When your registration request is processed, you will receive an email with information about your upcoming IELTS exam: dates, time and location of each exam section.
  • Read the emails you receive from your test centre very carefully: they also list important rules of the IELTS testing procedure.
  • Don’t forget that the Speaking section of the exam may be scheduled on a different day from the rest of the parts (Listening, Reading, Writing) - up to 7 days before or after them.
  • There is no difference between IELTS GT and Academic in terms of applying,
  • To find out more information you can consult the Official IELTS Information for Candidates booklet. 


Preparing for the IELTS exam

How to best prepare for the IELTS exam
There is no perfect answer to this. Some students choose to use books and do tests on paper on their own, others pay for one-on-one classes with an instructor, and finally, some others enroll in online courses, with lectures, extensive speaking and writing practice and essay feedback from exam experts.

All of these approaches are effective only if you are focused on your goal and ready to work hard. No doubt, it is slightly easier to work when there is structure, direction and constructive feedback. And It is more challenging to motivate yourself when you are completely on your own, without any help from outside or anyone to ask a question.

Yet, if you sign up for a well-structured course, with an experienced teacher as a guide, you may be ready for the IELTS exam in as short as one or two weeks.

It is completely your choice which path to choose, as long as you realize the importance of the goal in front of you: your IELTS score may play a decisive role in your education, work and immigration plans.


Make sure that you study for the IELTS Exam and practice doing sample tests using official IELTS practice materials, which you can find and purchase either online from official IELTS websites or from your test centre. Such preparation books are published by either Cambridge University Press, British Council or IDP.

It is important to make using official IELTS materials a priority because they are the closest version of what the real IELTS test format looks and feels like because they are carefully designed by actual IELTS test creators.

What is the secret to getting the desired band score?

Our website has a lot of free IELTS preparation materials to help you start your preparation:

Common FAQs about the IELTS exam

Can your IELTS test be postponed or cancelled?

  • Yes. This has to be done by the candidate in person or via e-mail, not via telephone. If you cancel more than 5 weeks before your exam, a 24% administrative fee will be kept. If you cancel less than 5 weeks before the exam or if you do not show up for the exam, you will not receive a refund.

What if I miss the IELTS exam because I am sick?

  • If you miss the exam because you are genuinely ill, you have to submit a medical certificate within 5 days of your scheduled IELTS exam, if not, you won't be able to postpone or receive a refund.

How many test dates are there for the IELTS exam?

  • Generally, the IELTS exam is available to be taken at least 4 times a month. IELTS candidates can choose any of the 48 dates for the exam to take their test. There is no limit to the number of times a test can be taken.

How much does the IELTS exam cost?

  • The cost of the IELTS exam varies depending on the location where you are taking the exam
  • The IELTS test ranges from $140 to $310. It is always important to verify the cost of the exam before you register

Who administers the IELTS exam?

IELTS test is jointly owned by:

  • British Council
  • Cambridge ESOL
  • IDP IELTS Australia (International Development Program)

Many students wonder who is best for taking their IELTS exam and where they should take the test. There is no difference between IDP and British council, read more here.

IELTS in India

In July 2021, IELTS IDP bought the rights to administer the IELTS test in India. They bought them from the British Council. Full story here

How soon can I retake the IELTS exam?

  • There is no limitation on how many times you can sit the IELTS as long as your test centre can provide enough exam dates.

Should I retake the IELTS exam?

  • If your last IELTS certificate is more than 2 years old, and you need to submit a score to be admitted to college, to apply for work or migration, then YES, you need to resit the IELTS exam.

What if I don’t like my IELTS results, can they be changed?

  • Yes, you can apply for a re-evaluation within six weeks from your test date. You will have to pay a fee, which will be refunded only if your results are changed.
  • It may take from 2 to 21 days, depending on how many test segments you have requested to be reassessed. After this reassessment, you will not be able to request another re-mark.
  • You can find out more about appealing the results of your exam results here, on the official IDP IELTS website

The IELTS Podcast team wish you all the best of luck in your International English Language Testing Exam and hope our materials, advice and tips will help you achieve your desired band scores that will get you one step closer to your dream.

New: Video-Call Speaking (VCS)

Video-Call Speaking (VCS) is now being introduced in certain test centres alongside the
traditional speaking test format. Candidates still have to go to the test centre venue but will
talk to an examiner through a zoom video link. The examiner is remote; the test taker is not.
Why is it being promoted?

Covid-19 has obviously been a key factor but VCS is not simply a response to it. Over the
last ten years or so, the various bodies that organize IELTS (Cambridge Assessment
English, the British Council, IDP and IELTS Australia) have been working on the idea of
making IELTS more available by offering the test to candidates living in remote areas or in
conflict zones. The events since early 2020 have helped speed up this process. The
cancellation of exams has led to a backlog of test-takers in 2021 as centres begin to open up

Examiners, all experienced in traditional in-person interviews, will be testing from their
own homes as long as their equipment for doing so is up to standard. They will be
organized regionally to thus avoid problems with time zones. Examiners might have
interviews with candidates from the country where they are based or from neighbouring

Click here to book your online IELTS test.