IELTS Basics


International English Language Testing System is a standardized test designed to measure English language proficiency of students who want to enroll in universities or professionals who want to practice or gain experience in an English-speaking country.

There are two versions of the IELTS: The Academic version and the general training version. The Academic Version is intended for those who want to enroll in universities and other institutions of higher education and for professionals such as medical doctors and nurses who want to study or practice in an English-speaking country.The General Training Version is intended for those planning to undertake non-academic training or to gain work experience, or for immigration purposes.

What is the difference between IELTS general and IELTS academic?

Among the four different parts of the IELTS examination both potential immigrants and academic aspirants will have the same listening and speaking modules. However the reading and writing modules are different for academic and general module.

Reading in the academic version of the test presents the test-taker with, what IELTS authority calls passages of general interest. So what are passages of general interest?Passages of general interest are passages covering general topics rather than dealing with a specific academic discipline. This is what is provided in all three sections of the academic version of the test.One passage will be provided for each section and each section will have 13 -14 questions approximately.

The general training module however has survival English and industrial/ training English in the first two sections.Survival English that appears in the first section will present the test-taker with Pamphlets, brochures, restaurant menus, and user manuals as ability to read and understand these types of materials will determine the test-takers chances of survival in an English-speaking country. Training or Industrial English proficiency that is tested in the second section will provide the test-taker with policy documents, user manuals, documents on operating procedures of a company etc. This tests whether the test-taker is capable of reading and understanding work- related documents. The third section of the general module however provides the test-taker with a passage of general interest.

The writing section of the test presents the test-taker with two different tasks. Task one in the academic version of the test mandates that the test-taker write a report based on the data provided on a graph, table, chart, diagram or a map whereas the those who are taking the general training version are supposed to write a letter. Tasks two of the general training as well as academic version of the test require the test taker to write an essay.

Should I take the computer delivered IELTS test or the paper-based IELTS test?

As of now IELTS is available in both computer delivered version and paper-based version. The format and content of the both versions remain the same though there are minor differences in execution. The paper-based version of the test, as the names suggests is delivered using paper and pencil or pen whereas the computer-delivered version is taken on a computer.

If the test-taker is in a hurry computer delivered test will be an excellent option as the results will be out in 5-7 days.  The paper test will be ideal if you are not computer savvy or nervous around them. With computer-delivered on the table, one thing is sure that there will be more tests dates available for the potential test-taker to choose from. But before getting into the test-center, the test-taker is advised to have some practice on the computer to get familiar with the computer-based test.

Who Accepts IELTS

IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and South African academic institutions, over 3,000 academic institutions in the United States, and various professional organizations. It is also a requirement for immigration to Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Should I use pen or pencil for the paper-based IELTS exam?

You are permitted to carry your National identity card (Passport), pen, pencil, Eraser and a bottle of water into the IELTS test center. The bottle should be transparent. The pencil and eraser are intended for the listening and reading section of the IELTS test. As the answers for these two sections are scanned, these two sections must be written using a pencil. If you write the answers with a pen chances are that your answers will be unclear or messy in the scanned versions. For the writing section of the IELTS test however allows us to choose whether we want to write with a pen or a pencil. Using a pen in the test however is not really recommended because if you strike off your errors the answer sheet can look ugly

 Should I take the IELTS test from British Council or IDP?

IELTS is co-owned by British Council, IELTS Australia (subsidiary of IDP) and Cambridge ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). IELTS Examinations are developed by a team of experts from different English-speaking countries; so it does not matter whether you are taking your IELTS test from British council or IDP. The registration and administration procedure for British council and IDP are slightly different from each other as they operate independently from each other in the administration of the IELTS test.

The Indian Experience

In India a lot of IELTS test takers prefer British Council. Many of the IELTS test- takers who took their IELTS Tests multiple times from both BC and IDP confessed to me that they felt BC much more professional than their Australian counterparts. And I know for a fact that IELTS test slots provided by British Council get exhausted quickly than the slots offered by IDP as I facilitated may IELTS test registrations with both IDP and BC. So if you don’t get a slot from BC, don’t be disheartened most likely you will get it from IDP.

Test Structure

Module No of Sections No of Questions Time
Listening 4 sections 40 questions 30 minuets
Reading 3 Sections 40 questions 60 minuets
Writing 2 sections 2 questions 60 minuets
Speaking 3 Sections Varies 11-14 minutes

Total test time

2 hours 44 minutes


Scoring is done on a band of 0 – 9.  A band of “7” is considered a safe band to score. The score is valid for 2 years.

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