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IELTS General vs Academic Training: 2022 Comparison Guide & Test Format

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Having a stellar IELTS score is the key to moving to a foreign country to pursue higher education or a better lifestyle. However, did you know that candidates can take two types of IELTS tests based upon their purpose of entering countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland? These are the IELTS Academic (AC) and IELTS General Training (GT) tests.

Difference between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training

The IELTS Academic test is for candidates who want to pursue higher education in English-speaking countries. Since the language of instruction is primarily English in these countries, IELTS Academic ascertains the feasibility of the student to understand course material during their higher studies. On the other hand, IELTS General Training is taken by those who want to pursue schooling in these countries or require employment and work experience certification. It is generally asked as a requirement for non-English natives migrating to English-speaking countries. The IELTS General Training score is required by authorities to ensure that the applicant adequately speaks and understands English. The format of both tests is almost the same. The first step is choosing which test best suits your needs and preparing for it accordingly. So, let’s take a close look at them to see which one is most suited for you.

IELTS Academic IELTS General Training
If you want to study abroad at an undergraduate, postgraduate or doctoral level or pursue a professional course.  Candidates are assessed on language skills on an academic level to determine if they can study in an English-speaking environment.If you want to move to an English-speaking nation or want to pursue schooling.  Candidates are tested for everyday language skills required in social environments or workplaces.

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IELTS General vs Academic Training: 2022 Comparison Guide & Test Format

Test Format

IELTS Academic and IELTS General have a common Listening and Speaking test with different Reading and Writing tests. Hence, it is recommended that applicants understand the difference in the IELTS Academic and General Training exam formats. Here is a detailed explanation of the difference in the Reading and Writing sections of both the tests.


Both IELTS Academic and IELTS General candidates get 60 minutes to answer 40 questions set in different forms (multiple-choice, true/false, short-response, etc.). These questions assess the candidate’s ability to read, skim through passages, understand written English, and understand the logical argument. Here’s how both the tests are designed differently.

IELTS Academic Reading Test The test has three long reading passages that assess the candidate’s factual, descriptive, and analytical knowledge. Questions on this paper range from matching headings and information, sentence formation and sentence completion, summarising, table and flowchart completion, labelling flowcharts, to subjectively answering short questions. The passages in the exam are not specialist or in-depth but are generic and invoke interest. Each passage chosen for the exam is taken from journals, articles, magazines, and news media to assess the candidate’s ability to study in English. Each correct answer is awarded one mark, while there is a penalty for spelling and grammatical errors.

IELTS General Training Reading Test In stark contrast to the IELTS Academic Test, this one has multiple short texts spread across three sections and one long text. Candidates are given 60 minutes to attempt 40 questions. The test assesses the candidate for similar tasks as with the Academic Test in the first section. In the second section, the passages and questions are tailored to the realm of the workplace. Be prepared to answer questions in the context of job descriptions, workplace ethics, staff training material, etc. The long passage will be slightly complicated compared to the Academic Test and tests the candidate’s critical thinking, analytical, and instructive skills. Each question carries one mark, and while there is a penalty for spelling and grammar mistakes.


Both the tests are scheduled for 60 minutes and consist of 2 tasks each. Here’s how they differ.

IELTS Academic Writing Test The candidates are asked to explain/summarise data presented in a table/chart/diagram/graph in 150 words. Furthermore, you may be required to explain specific data, process the information, or draw a flowchart to reach a logical conclusion. The time allotted for the first task is 20 minutes. The next task is to give a written response to an argument in under 250 words within 40 minutes. One crucial thing to remember is that the answer must not be articulated in bullets or pointers but thoughtfully written on the answer sheet. Additionally, the second task carries more marks than the first one.

IELTS General Training Writing Test In the first task, the candidates must compose a formal or an informal email requesting information or explaining a situation in 150 words. In the second task, the candidates will have to write an essay to respond to an argument/problem in 250 words. You will be required to explain, request something, or defend your position to a specific authority. Relevant examples should back the ideas and viewpoints expressed here, and the writing style should be personal/formal based on the context.


Common for both tests The Speaking test format comprises a verbal interview between the candidate and the examiner. All speaking tests are videotaped for efficient marking. This portion assesses the English speaking skills of the candidate and can last from 11- 14 minutes. This test component is divided into three sections, each designed to serve a distinct purpose in terms of interaction pattern, task input, and candidate output.

Part 1 (Interview) The examiner would ask broad questions about the individual, spanning from self introduction to aspects like your interests, family, studies, and job. This round lasts around 4-5 minutes.

Part 2 (Long turn) For this round, the candidate picks a card with a topic and has a generic talk over the subject. Candidates are given 1 minute to prepare on the topic and two minutes to speak. The examiner may follow up with questions on the subject.

Part 3 (Discussion) The examiner can question the candidate further about the topic covered in Part 2. This section lasts four to five minutes and allows the applicant to justify their opinions and discuss the topic in-depth.


Common for both tests Candidates are expected to listen to four English recordings and answer a series of questions. This test lasts 30 minutes in total. The primary goal of this segment is to understand the candidates’ capacity to comprehend critical concepts, factual information, the viewpoints and attitudes of speakers.

Recording 1 The first recording would feature a chat between two persons in a typical, everyday social setting.

Recording 2 The second recording is a monologue set in an ordinary social setting.

Recording 3 This recording is a conversation between four people in an educational or training setting.

Recording 4 Finally, a monologue on an academic subject would be played.

Passage Content for IELTS Academic vs. IELTS General Training Test

University students and professionals must read texts from professional and academic journals, textbooks, relevant periodicals, and media in English. The Academic IELTS tests comprehension abilities using texts from different types of sources. Similarly, the writing exercises for this edition use sample subjects that would be appropriate in academic and professional settings. English writing abilities will be tested to determine the capability for composing college-level essays. Those enrolled in General Training IELTS, on the other hand, will get content similar to that found in ads, guidebooks, periodicals, notifications, or employee manuals. The written English of the candidates will be assessed through letter writing and basic essay writing.

IELTS General vs. Academic score comparison

The test scoring is perhaps the most significant difference between the two. The Listening, Speaking, and Writing sections are evaluated in the same manner for both tests. However, IELTS Reading, which accounts for a complete 25% of your overall score, is scored considerably differently on IELTS academic vs. IELTS general training. Assume you obtain 30 out of 40 correct answers in IELTS Reading, regarded as an absolute score of 30. That corresponds to an IELTS Band of 5.0 in general training reading. However, 30 out of 40 is a 6.0 in academic reading. Whether you are taking the IELTS academic or general test, your results will have a completely different significance.

Which is easier: IELTS General vs. Academic

The General Training IELTS test is likely to be less complicated than the Academic IELTS Test. Summarizing a complicated graph or table is more straightforward than writing a brief letter! The primary reason for this is that the Academic test requires expert comprehension skills and the ability to briefly summarize complex ideas precisely, clearly, and concisely. The General Training Test is primarily based on the candidate’s ability to speak and understand English. However, it’s subjective to say since it varies from candidate to candidate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I enroll for the IELTS Academic or General Training test?

If you intend to study at an undergraduate/ a postgraduate level/practice a profession, the Academic test is suitable. If you desire to relocate to an English-speaking country or study at an academic lower than higher education, take the General Training module. If you are still unclear, we recommend that you contact the institution to which you are applying.

How many questions are there in the IELTS General Writing test?

There are two writing tasks. The first one is for 150 words and has to be completed in 20 minutes, while the second is more in-depth and must be completed in 40 minutes

Is the reading passage for the Academic Test complex?

No, the passages are taken as excerpts from magazines, newspapers, and journals. They are not in-depth and do not require specialized study to be able to comprehend.

Can I take the General test for academic purposes?

Ideally, no. However, it’s excellent to check with the college/university you are applying to.

Are all the tests on the same day?

No, the listening, reading, and writing tests are on the same day. The Speaking test takes place a week before or after the other tests.

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Manisha Angre

Experienced IELTS prep trainer and education management industry veteran. Specializes in public speaking, international education, market research, mentoring, and management.

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