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What’s the difference between the two types of IELTS tests?

Published on February 12, 2018

As you may be aware, there are two types of IELTS tests: the IELTS Academic and the General Training test. Before registering for your IELTS test, one important consideration to keep in mind is which one of these tests you will take.

When making the decision about which test to take, there are a number of things to think about, including your short-term and long-term goals. Some specific things to consider include your goals and aspirations related to your education, your personal situation, and your work-related and professional plans. For some, the visa requirements for the country they plan to migrate to may also be a very important consideration.

This blog outlines some information on how to decide which test you should consider taking, as well as some information about the similarities and differences between the two IELTS tests.

IELTS Academic or General Training?

When deciding which test to take, you may wish to ask yourself the following questions:

Do I plan to study for a higher education, such as at a university or college? Do I want to work in a professional field such as medicine, accounting, engineering, etc.? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, you will want to consider the IELTS Academic test.

Do you have plans to migrate to an English-speaking country, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the UK? Are you planning to work, train, or study in an English-speaking country? If so, you will want to consider the IELTS General Training test.

What Do the Tests Assess?

As outlined above, these tests have different purposes, and, as a result, measure different proficiencies.The IELTS Academic test assesses your readiness for training or studying in English in an academic environment. The IELTS General Training test includes questions and material with a workplace and social focus, and, as such, the focus is on everyday use of the English language.

How Are the Tests Structured?

Both tests include four sections – listening, speaking, reading and writing. For both the IELTS Academic and General Training test, the length of each section is the same:

Listening: 30 minutes

Speaking: 11-14 minutes

Reading: 60 minutes

Writing: 60 minutes

Below are some details on each section of the test:


  • There are four recorded listening excerpts on both the IELTS Academic and General Training test.


  • Each test includes a face-to-face, recorded interview with a certified IELTS Speaking Examiner.
  • There are short and long questions on each test where the candidate talks about a familiar topic. In addition, there is a structured discussion on each test.


  • There are three readings with questions for both tests.
  • On the IELTS Academic test there are a variety of texts, such as descriptive, factual, and analytical. The reading test also includes diagrams, graphs or illustrations.
  • For the General Training test there are three sections. There are two or three short texts in the first section. In the second section, there are two short texts related to the workplace. In the third section there is a general interest topic, which is longer than the previous sections.
  • For both the Academic and General Training test, the texts are authentic; they are from books, newspapers, journals, company handbooks, etc.


  • There are two writing tasks on each test: Task 1 is a minimum of 150 words, while there is a minimum of 250 words for Task 2.
  • On the IELTS Academic test, Task 1 is writing about a table, graph, chart or diagram. There is an essay for Task 2.
  • For the General Training test, the writing for Task 1 is a letter, and for Task 2 it is an essay.

One final note: please ensure you take some time to do some research, talk to people, look at your options, and get some advice before you decide which IELTS test to take. Find out about the requirements needed in order for you to work towards your goals, whether they be education, training, work, and/or migration. Taking the time do to this before making any decisions, big or small, can go a long way in helping you to reach your ultimate goals.