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IELTS exam pattern
Roshna Mohan

Roshna Mohan is a Content Writer at Hotcourses India - an IDP company. A post-graduate in Biotechnology, she chose content writing as her career out of sheer interest. Reading and cooking are her stress-busters. Talk about these to take the introvert out of the ambivert. Her all-time favourite authors are Paulo Coelho, Yuval Noah Harari and Robin Cook.


20 Dec 2021 1.6K Book icon 3 mins Share

IELTS test format

Academic IELTS exam includes 4 different parts to assess your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills. Understand the pattern for each of these sections.

20 Dec 2021 1.6K Book icon 3 mins Share
IELTS exam pattern

The IELTS exam pattern is unique; it follows a format that sets it apart from other English language proficiency tests. With a feature that minimises linguistic bias, the test makes use of the many different English accents from countries all over the world including America, Britain, Ireland, and Australia accents. The 4 different modules are designed to assess your listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills. Each module is allotted a band score according to the performance of the candidate in that module.

The test is developed by writers from all over the English-speaking world.

An average band score of all modules is then calculated to give the overall band score. The listening and speaking modules remain the same across both the Academic version and the General Training version, while the reading and writing modules are different. Let’s get to the details of each module.

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IELTS Listening Exam pattern

The Listening module starts with an audio recording of a set of instructions that candidates need to follow during the test. Each candidate is provided with a pair of headphones, through which, the module content, which is a set of monologues and dialogues, can be heard.

Candidates listen to 4 audio recordings and answer questions that are on the provided booklet. The module consists of four sections of increasing difficulty and candidates are given sufficient time to answer the questions before transferring the responses to the booklet. The recordings include conversations and monologues. You will be allowed to hear each recording only once.

Number of questions: 40

Question types: Multiple choice, complete the sentence, matching, labelling etc.

Time given to complete this section: 30 (+ 10 min for transferring the responses to the answer sheet)

Remember: A variety of accents will be used for these audios. Hence it is important that you familiarise yourself with the different English accents found around the world.

You can try out our practice test to understand the question styles and to improve your speed.

IELTS Reading exam pattern

The Reading Module differs between the Academic version and the General Training version. The Academic version of the IELTS reading test has three texts that are followed by questions. The reading passages could be factual and descriptive or discursive and analytical. Newspapers or books can be the source of these passages.

Number of questions: 40

Question types: Multiple choice, fill in the blanks, short answers, matching headings to content etc.

Time given to complete this section: 60 minutes

IELTS Writing exam pattern

The writing module in the academic version consists of 2 tasks.

Task 1: In the first task, candidates will be given an image, diagram, chart, or graph. Test takers will have to describe, summarise or explain the information in their own words. Your response should be at least 150 words long.

Task 2: The second task requires them to respond to an argument, statement, or a problem. Your response should be at least 250 words long.

Number of questions: 2

Question types: Long answers

Time given to complete this section: 60 min (It is ideal to complete task 1 in 20 min and spare 40 minutes for task 2)

Remember: Make sure you read the question thoroughly and follow the do’s and don’ts in attempting the IELTS writing test. The second task requires more time and worth. Hence make sure you don’t spend too much time on task 1.

IELTS Speaking exam pattern

The listening, reading and writing modules all take place on one day. The speaking module can happen on the same day or on another day. It is a one-on-one interview with an examiner.

The speaking module is divided into three tasks.

Task 1: The first section involves a round of general questions by the examiner include questions on hobbies and topics of other personal interest.

Task 2: In the second section, the candidate will be asked to talk about a certain topic provided by the examiner. The candidate is given a minute to prepare for the extempore speech and topics are based on current events or other popular topics.

Task 3: The third section is a little more abstract where the examiner asks questions about the candidate’s extempore speech.

Number of questions: Can vary

Time given for completing this section: 11 – 14 minutes

We hope you are now better equipped to plan your IELTS test preparation. All the best!

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Editor's note: This article was originally published in September 2016. Our content writer Roshna Mohan has edited it to include up-to-date information and made it comprehensive.

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