IELTS is the world’s most popular English language test. There are two versions of the IELTS test – Academic and General training. The Academic test is for students who want to study in an English speaking university or international course. The General Training test is for people want to move to and/or work in an English speaking country. The speaking and listening tests are the same for both Academic and General Training – but the reading and writing tests are different. You are given a band score for each part of the test as well as an overall IELTS band score.


Here at Beyond Band 6 we specialise in preparing students for the academic version of the IELTS test. This is the version you should take if you need an IELTS score in order to apply for university in an English speaking country or to get into many international programs around the world.

The IELTS Academic test has four parts: Listening, Academic Reading, Academic Writing and Speaking. In this article, we will look at each part of the test in brief:

  • The IELTS Listening Test
  • The IELTS Academic Reading Test
  • The IELTS Academic Writing Test
  • The IELTS Speaking Test

Each part of the test contains different questions that require different skills to answer well. In each section below, I will outline what you have to do in that part of the test and the key skills that you need to get a high score.

The IELTS Listening Test

The IELTS Listening Test lasts for 30 minutes, plus 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. It is split into 4 sections, each of which has 10 questions. Sections 1 and 2 are in everyday contexts whereas Sections 3 and 4 are in academic contexts.

  • Section 1: A conversation between two speakers in an everyday context.
  • Section 2: A talk by one speaker in an everyday context.
  • Section 3: A discussion between 2, 3 or 4 speakers in an academic context.
  • Section 4: A lecture by one speaker in an academic context.

You have some time to read the questions before you listen. You will hear each recording only once and you should write your answers on the question paper as you listen. In order to get Band 7 or higher you must score 30+ out of 40. There are various different types of question, including multiple choice, short answer, matching, labelling and completion tasks. The questions test your ability to understand both factual details and opinions in both social and academic situations.

The IELTS Academic Reading Test

The IELTS Academic Reading Test lasts for 60 minutes. There are three texts, each of which has 13 or 14 questions. You should spend around 20 minutes on each text. The texts come from books, journals, magazines or newspapers and do not require specialist knowledge of a topic in order to understand them. At least one of the texts will contain a detailed argument.

You should write your answers directly onto the answer sheet – unlike the listening test, there is no time to transfer your answers at the end. In order to get Band 7 or higher you must score 30+ out of 40. There are various different types of question, including:

  • Multiple Choice
  • True/False/Not Given and Yes/No/Not Given
  • Matching Information to Paragraphs
  • Matching Headings to Paragraphs
  • Matching Features
  • Sentence / Notes / Summary / Table / Flow-chart Completion
  • Labeling a Diagram
  • Matching Sentence Endings
  • Short Answer

In order to answer all the questions within the time limit you will need to learn to skim, scan and read only short sections of text in detail. You will need to focus on the meaning of the text rather than simply matching keywords.

The IELTS Academic Writing Test

The IELTS Academic Writing Test lasts for 60 minutes and contains two tasks. Task 2 is longer than Task 1 and is worth twice as many marks.

Task 1: Describe the key features of visually presented information (graphs, charts, diagrams or maps). You should write at least 150 words in 20 minutes.
You need to describe all the important features and give an overview of the whole chart. You must support your description using information or data from the graph / chart.

Task 2: Write an opinion essay in which you answer one or two questions on a given topic. You should write at least 250 words in 40 minutes.
You need to include a short introduction and a short conclusion as well as support your opinion with reasons and/or examples in your main body paragraphs.

In order to get Band 7 or higher you must fully answer the questions and write well-organised answers with a range of accurate vocabulary and grammar structures.

The IELTS Speaking Test

The IELTS Speaking Test lasts for 11-14 minutes and is split into three parts.

Part 1: You will answer simple questions about familiar, everyday topics. You will be asked about three topics and each topic has four questions. The first topic is always about what you do or where you live. The other two topics could be about almost anything, for example; music, movies, colours, weekends, walking. Part 1 lasts 4-5 minutes.

Part 2: You will be given a topic that you have to talk about for 1-2 minutes. You will have one minute to read the topic and make notes, and you should aim to keep talking for the full 2 minutes.

Part 3: You will discuss more abstract questions related to the topic in part 2 with the examiner. You should try to give longer answers than in part 1, and support your opinions with reasons and/or examples. Part 3 lasts 4-5 minutes.

In order to get Band 7 or higher you must answer the questions appropriately and speak fairly effortlessly using a range of vocabulary and grammar structures.