IELTS Academic Exam
What is the IELTS Academic test?
IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an exam that tests your English language ability. It is jointly owned by the British Council and IDP IELTS Australia. The IELTS test evaluates your listening, reading, writing, and speaking. It consists of a
- Reading test (40 questions - 60 minutes)
- Listening test (40 questions - approximately 30-40 minutes)
- Writing test (2 tasks - 60 minutes)
- Speaking test (3 parts - 11-15 minutes)
Notice that there is no grammar or vocabulary section in the IELTS test. That is because these areas are tested implicitly throughout the test on all four skills.
Why take the IELTS Academic version of the IELTS exam?
Your needs will determine which test format you will take. The IELTS Academic test is often required if you want to enter an English-language university for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies. However, some institutions of higher education require IELTS even if English is not the language of study.
Also, while IELTS General Training is usually used for immigration, some professions in English speaking countries require IELTS Academic instead of IELTS General Training. This is particularly true for doctors and other medical professionals where a high score is also required to qualify for professional registration.
Similarities between IELTS Academic and General Training
- Both versions are conducted on the same day at the same test centres.
- Both Academic and IELTS General Training test takers take the same listening test.
- The speaking test for both versions of the exam is also the same.
Differences between IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic
The IELTS Academic test and IELTS General Training test differ in two areas: Reading and Writing.
In the Reading test, the Academic version may feature texts that are an academic subject that might be found in a higher education setting e.g botany, history, anthropology, or in a professional environment in an English speaking country.
In contrast, the texts in the IELTS General Training test are of broader, more general interest.
The Listening Test
The reading section of the IELTS test
includes 40 questions and is done over 30 minutes. You will hear a range of scenarios, such as a conversation between two people, and in a number of English speaking accents.
The Academic Reading Test
The IELTS Academic Reading
Test is 60 minutes and consists of three long texts that increase in difficulty. Each text typically comes from English language books, journals, magazines and other sources.
Question types in the exam vary, and each text may have sections with more than one question type. The different types of questions include: sentence completion, matching, heading completion, multiple-choice, table completion and true, false, not given.
Remember that if a word is spelt incorrectly, the answer is marked as wrong.
IELTS Academic Writing Test
IELTS test-takers need to produce two writing tasks in 60 minutes. The first is a report of approximately 150 words on a diagram. Task 2 is a semi-academic style essay of at least 250 words.
Students should spend no more than 20 minutes on task one.
Task one in the IELTS Academic test
is for many students the most challenging part of the exam because it is unlike anything most students have had to write before.
IELTS test takers are given a diagram - a bar chart, a pie chart
, a line graph, a combination of charts, a map, a flow chart or a process diagram, and must summarize the information concisely and accurately.
Students must include an introduction, and an overview is necessary for students to get a band 6 or higher. An overview is a summary of the most obvious trend in the task, without any data. Aim to capture the overall trends without adding too much detail just yet; that will come in the following paragraphs.
An appropriate overview highlights the highest figure, the greatest change or some other most salient feature of the diagram.
In a process diagram, the overview typically mentions the beginning and end of the process, as well as how many steps the process contains.
Students are encouraged to select which features to include, but it is expected that they will mention all the categories presented.
It is also important that you do not merely list all the information, as this will be considered "mechanical" and will cause the Task Achievement score to be lower. Instead, test takers should make comparisons of the data given in the table, chart, or diagram.
Students are suggested to use a top-down approach, describing first the highest or most important figures and leaving the least important information for last, if at all.
For Task two in IELTS Academic, test takers must write an essay that is semi-academic in style. No more than 40 minutes should be spent on the essay and it should be at least 250 words in length.
While it is no longer required
to write 250 words, students are advised to write at least this much as it is difficult to develop the writing well in fewer words. A weakly developed essay will score poorly in Task Achievement.
For Task two, IELTS test takers are given a prompt upon which they must develop their argument. Each IELTS test writing prompt features a command which guides the writer as to how they should develop their answer.
Typical commands include:
To what extent do you agree/ disagree?
Discuss advantages/ disadvantages and give your opinion.
Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
What are the causes of this situation? How can it be solved?
What problems does this situation create? How can it be solved?
Why do you think this is happening? Is it a positive or negative development?
IELTS Speaking Test
This is the only section of the IELTS test that may be conducted on a separate day from the other parts.
The exam is one-on-one, with one examiner in the room with the candidate. The speaking
portion is tape-recorded from the moment the IELTS test taker enters the room. The test format is as follows.
First, the examiner records a short introduction and then the speaking exam begins.
Part 1 lasts approximately 5 minutes, with the examiner asking brief questions about everyday topics (weather, food, weekends, holidays, clothing, etc).
This part should come pretty naturally to you since the topics are common, everyday social activities and are designed for anyone to be able to answer.
However, if you feel tripped up by a question or feel you don't have an answer to it, do your best to apply something you know that is related to the subject. You can even make something up! The examiner does not know or care whether it is true. He or she just wants to get a sample of your speaking ability.
Part 2 lasts 4 minutes. Test takers are expected to speak at length on a particular topic for 2 minutes. You are also given one minute to plan your response and you may take notes on note-taking paper given by the examiner.
Usually, candidates find this individual long turn the most challenging part of the exam. Remember that you will still have the candidate card to refer to while you speak as well as your written notes.
With some practice, guidance and confidence, students can easily master part 2.
Part 3 lasts approximately 5 minutes. Here, the examiner will ask more open-ended questions related to some aspect of the topic covered in part 2. In theory, it is supposed to feel like a natural conversation between two people but in reality, the examiner has a list of questions he or she must ask.
The questions in part 3 are considerably more challenging than the questions in the individual long turn of part 2. However, by this part of the exam, students have typically begun to relax so it appears easier.
Examiners have 3 sets of questions and each student is asked questions from 2 of the 3 sets. The first set is "easy," and is given to candidates who are considered band 6 or lower. The second set is given to all candidates. The third set is given only to candidates who are considered band 7 or higher.
Regardless of which sets you get asked, the examiner will also add some unscripted questions to make the speaking test feel like a conversation between two people.
At the end of the test, the examiner records, " that is the end of the speaking test," and the candidate may leave the room.
Results are given 13 days following the test date
. Band scores
are given in whole or half numbers. The overall band score is rounded up to the nearest.5 but within each test section, scores are rounded down to the nearest .5 (calculate your overall band score here
Candidates who are unhappy with their scores may request a re-mark known as an Enquiry on Results. There is a fee involved and a delay in receiving a response but in some cases, students have received higher scores.
Contact the team at IELTSpodcast.com for further information about anything IELTS. Or, request an essay correction and get feedback from our IELTS experts.