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The IELTS Test Format Explained

If you’re taking an IELTS test, it’s a good idea to understand the test format before sitting the exam. Knowing what to expect on the day can help to calm any unwanted nerves and enable you to feel more in control. It also allows you to maximise your time by spending those precious minutes on answering the questions, rather than figuring out what’s expected in each section.

IELTS test types and sections

The IELTS test format consists of four sections: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.

There are also two test types you can take, IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training. The test type you choose depends on what purpose you need your IELTS test for and organisation you are applying to.

You can find out more about the Academic and General Training IELTS tests here.

The Speaking and Listening sections are the same for both Academic and General Training IELTS tests, but the content differs very slightly on the Reading and Writing sections.

What’s included in the four sections of the IELTS test?

IELTS Reading Section

You are given approximately 60 minutes to complete the Reading section of the exam, during which time you will be asked 40 questions about the texts presented in front of you. Find out more about what to expect in the Reading section of your exam using the link below.

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IELTS Writing Section

You will also have approximately 60 minutes to complete the Writing section of your test. During this time, you will be given two tasks to complete. Find out more about the Writing tasks here.

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IELTS Listening Section

The Listening section takes approximately 30 minutes to complete and includes 40 questions. There are four sections in total and the questions are split evenly across the sections, so there will be 10 questions to answer in each section.

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IELTS Speaking Section

The Speaking section is completed face to face, and one-on-one with an examiner. It lasts for approximately 11-14 minutes and has three parts to complete in that time.

Take your IELTS test on paper or on a computer

Test takers now have the option of sitting their IELTS test on paper or on a computer with British Council. The IELTS test format is exactly the same on the computer as it is in a traditional paper exam. Both tests include the same content and are still completed with a test centre, but the Reading, Writing and Listening sections are just filled out differently. The Speaking section of the test will still be carried out face to face with an examiner.

What are the advantages of booking IELTS on computer?

IELTS on computer is available up to three times a day, seven days a week. So, there is much more choice when it comes to finding a test date that suits you.
Your test results also come back much quicker when you take your IELTS test on a computer, usually around 3-5 days. It typically takes around 13 days if you took your IELTS test on paper.

Still need to book your IELTS test? Start the process with British Council online today.