IELTS Academic or General: Which is the Easiest Test?

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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. The IELTS test is of two types: IELTS Academic (AC) and IELTS General Training (GT). Candidates can take either of the tests based on their purpose of entering foreign countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland.

Both test types serve two different purposes. Over 3 million students attempt the IELTS test every year. The test scores are accepted by over 140 countries and 11,000 institutions across the world. 

Basic differences at a glance: 

  • The IELTS Academic is for academic purposes and assesses your English language capabilities to study and thrive in an academic environment. 
  • The IELTS General Training test is for other general purposes and analyses your language capacity to sustain everyday circumstances.

While the IELTS Speaking and Listening modules remain the same for both the test types (Academic and General), the passages and question types vary from each other in the Reading and Writing modules.

Considering the differences in purpose and structure, it is important for you to understand both test types in detail. Let us compare and contrast to find which is the easiest one and which suits your purposes the best. 

IELTS Academic vs General Training: Major Differences

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IELTS Academic or General: Which is the Easiest Test?

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 understanding course material during their higher studies.

On the other hand, IELTS General Training is typically 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 closer look at them to see which one is most suited for you.

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IELTS Academic or General: Which is the Easiest Test?

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Which IELTS Test is Best For You? 

The best test for your journey depends upon the purpose of your trip. The test you need to take differs if you are a student or going to work. 

Below are some of the common purposes of moving abroad and the most appropriate tests for them. 

Purpose Test Type
Below degree levelIELTS General
Undergraduate levelIELTS Academic
Postgraduate levelIELTS Academic
DoctorateIELTS Academic
Post DoctoralIELTS Academic
For Professional RegistrationIELTS Academic
Migration IELTS General 
Work or trainingIELTS General
Permanent ResidencyIELTS General

IELTS Academic VS IELTS General Training

Now let us compare both the test types in their format, structure, content, and purpose. This will help you understand both the test in detail.

Check out the comparison below:

Feature IELTS General TrainingIELTS Academic 
PurposePrimarily for university admissions (Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD)Primarily opted for work and immigration
ContentBased on AcademicsBased on everyday situations
Number of Modules4 (Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening)4 (Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening)
Duration 2 hours and 44 minutes2 hours and 44 minutes
Reading testPassages sourced from newspapers, magazines, or journalsPassages sourced from advertisements, instruction manuals, or guidebooks
Writing TestTask 1: Describe visual information Task 2: Essay Writing (on academic topics)Task 1: Draft a letter
Task 2: Essay Writing (on general topics)
PopularityMost widely preferredLimited 
Application FeeINR 16,250 INR 16,250

Now let us look at each of the features individually.

Read More: All About IELTS 

IELTS Academic vs General: 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.

Reading

The duration and number of questions for the IELTS Reading test are the same for both the IELTS Academic Reading and IELTS General Training Reading tests. Both IELTS Academic and IELTS General candidates get 60 minutes to answer 40 questions set in the test.

You might come across some of the 14 different question sets in the IELTS Reading test.

The IELTS Reading question types are:

  • Matching Headings
  • Matching Paragraph Information
  • Matching Features
  • Matching Sentence Endings
  • True/False/Not Given or Yes/No/Not Given
  • Multiple Choices
  • List of Options
  • Choose a Title
  • Short Answers
  • Sentence Completion
  • Summary Completion
  • Table Completion
  • Flow Chart Completion
  •  Completion Diagrams

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 IELTS Academic Reading test has three long reading passages that assess the candidate’s factual, descriptive, and analytical knowledge.

Each long passage is followed by questions based on the test.

Questions in this paper range from matching headings and information, sentence formation and sentence completion, summarising, table and flowchart completion, and labeling flowcharts to subjectively answering short questions.

IELTS Academic Reading Test Overview:

Duration 60 minutes
Number of Questions40 
Number of Section3
Number of Passages3
Marking One mark for each right answer; no negative marking
Band Score0-9

The passages in the exam are not specialised 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, the IELTS General Training Reading test has multiple short passages and one long passage spread across three different sections.

IELTS General Reading Test Overview:

Duration 60 minutes
Number of Questions40 
Number of Section3
Number of Passages4-6
Marking One mark for each right answer; no negative marking
Band Score0-9

The passages are distributed as follows:

  • Section one: 2-3 short texts
  • Section two: 2 short texts
  • Section three: 1 long text

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, or staff training material.

The long passage will be slightly complicated compared to the Academic Test and test the candidate’s critical thinking, analytical, and instructive skills.

Each question carries one mark, and there is a penalty for spelling and grammar mistakes.

Writing

The IELTS Writing Test is different from the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Writing tests. While both the test types consist of two tasks, the task types vary from one another. 

The word limit for task 1 is 150 words, and task 2 is 250 words.

Both tests are scheduled for 60 minutes. The recommended time for the first task is 20 minutes, and task 2 is 40 minutes.

Here’s how they differ.

IELTS Academic Writing Test

Get an overview of the IELTS Academic Writing Test: 

Duration 60 minutes
Number of Tasks2
Writing Task 1Summarise/describe/explain the given (visual) information
Writing Task 2Essay Writing 
Word Limit for Task 1150 words
Word Limit for Task 2250 words
Marking Writing Task 2 is worth twice as many marks as Task 1
Band Score0-9

In the IELTS Academic Writing test, you have two tasks.

The tasks are:

  • Task 1: You are asked to explain/summarise data presented in a table/chart/diagram/graph. Furthermore, you may be required to explain specific data, process the information, or draw a flowchart to reach a logical conclusion.
  • Task 2: Task 2 is to give a written response to an argument in under 250 words. 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

Get an overview of the IELTS General Writing Test: 

Duration 60 minutes
Number of Tasks2
Writing Task 1Letter Writing
Writing Task 2Essay Writing 
Word Limit for Task 1150 words
Word Limit for Task 2250 words
Marking Writing Task 2 is worth twice as many marks as Task 1
Band Score0-9

The tasks for the IELTS General Training Writing tasks are below.

The tasks are:

  • Task 1: Compose a formal or informal letter requesting information or explaining a situation in 150 words.
  • Task 2: 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.

Speaking

The IELTS Speaking test remains the same for both Academic and General tests. The test does not differ in structure, format, or question types.

IELTS Speaking Test Overview:

Duration 11-14 minutes
Number of Parts3
Part 1Introduction (4-5 min)
Part 2Individual Long Turn/Cue Card (2-3 min)
Part 3Discussion  (4-5 min)
Band Score0-9

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 to 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.

The IELTS Speaking parts are:

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 (Individual Long Turn/Cue Card): This round is also the card IELTS Cue Card section. 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 for the topic and 2-3 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 4-5 minutes and allows the applicant to justify their opinions and discuss the topic in-depth.

Listening

The IELTS Listening section is the same for both the IELTS Academic and IELTS General tests.

You are expected to listen to four English recordings and answer a series of questions. Each recording is followed by 40 questions based on it.

IELTS Speaking Test Overview:

Duration 30 minutes
Number of Questions40
Number of Recording 4
Transfer Time10 minutes (for paper-based tests only)
Types of conversationsChat, Monologue, Academic Conversations
Band Score0-9

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, and the viewpoints and attitudes of speakers.

The IELTS Listening recording is as follows:

  • Recording 1: The first recording would feature a chat between two people 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 will be played.

IELTS Academic VS IELTS General (Reading and Writing): Major Differences

The basic difference between the IELTS Academic test and the IELTS General Training test occurs in their Reading and Writing modules. 

Let us check the basic differences: 

  • The IELTS Academic Reading test contains three long passages. Each passage is distributed into each section of the test. 
  • The IELTS General Reading test contains 4-6 passages. 2-3 short passages are available in section 1, 1-2 short passages are there in section 2, and one long passage is available in section 3. 
  • The reading passages in the IELTS Academic test are of different types, including descriptive, factual, and analytical texts, and can also contain charts, graphs, and diagrams.
  • The reading passages in the IELTS General test are shorter and easier ones. They are mostly on general and everyday topics. 
  • Task 1 in the IELTS Academic Writing test is to explain the given information. The information is mostly provided in graphs,m pie charts, or diagrams. 
  • Task 1 is the IELTS General Writing test in letter writing. 

IELTS Academic vs General: Score Comparison

The test score for the IELTS exam is marked on a band scale of 1 to 9 for each part of the test – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. 

The total IELTS band score is determined by averaging the scores from all four modules, rounding to the nearest whole or half band. If the average score has a decimal of .25, it is rounded up to the next half band, and if it’s .75, it’s rounded up to the next whole band. If the average has any other fraction, the score is rounded down.

The IELTS band score and corresponding skill level are below:

Band ScoreSkill Level
9Expert 
8Very good
7Good 
6Competent 
5Modest 
4Limited 
3Extremely limited 
2Intermittent 
1Non-user 
0Did not attempt the test

Final Decision

Wondering which is easier, the IELTS Academic or General Training?

The final decision for your doubt between the IELTS Academic and General can be subjective. The easiest test for your plan can vary depending on the purpose of the journey.

Typically, the IELTS General Training test is likely to be less complicated than the Academic IELTS Test. Summarising a complicated graph or table can be 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 summarise complex ideas precisely, clearly, and concisely. So, if you are preparing for the Academic test, then make sure you read and practice more texts and practice materials that are related to academic topics. Get a hang of the language usages and terms. 

The General Training Test is primarily based on the candidate’s ability to speak and understand English in a general social setting. However, it’s subjective to say since it varies from candidate to candidate. While preparing for your general test, make sure you read texts of different kinds, such as magazines, newspaper articles, and fictional pieces. 

Rather than ease, the need is more significant while making your decision. Consider the test type that is required for your plan.

IELTS General vs Academic: Which is Easy? Finding the best option for your study-abroad plan is important, and choosing the right guidance for your test is even more important. Leap’s IELTS Experts can aid you in your decision-making. Book a free call to get access to quality classes, practice tests, IELTS resources, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Should I enrol for the IELTS Academic or General Training test?

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

Q. How many questions are there in the IELTS General test?

A. The number of questions in the IELTS General test varies across each module. The number of questions are as follows:

– Writing Section – 2 tasks
– Reading Section- 40 questions
– Listening Section – 40 questions
– Speaking Section – 3 parts

Q. How many questions are there in the IELTS General Training Writing Test?

A. There are two writing tasks in the IELTS General Training Writing Test. The first task is letter writing. You will have to draft a letter, either giving an explanation or asking for information. The minimum word limit for task 1 is 150 words. Task 2 is an essay question, and the minimum word limit is 250 words.

Q. Is the reading passage for the IELTS Academic Test complex?

A. The level of difficulty can vary according to your current level and the amount of preparation you take before attempting the test. The passages for the IELTS Academic Reading test are excerpts from magazines, newspapers, and journals. You will get three passages, followed by questions based on it. The texts are generally simpler and can be understood with ample practice and preparation.

Q. Can I take the General test for academic purposes?

A. Ideally, no. In general, the IELTS General Training test is for work, migration, and other purposes. For academic purposes, it is recommended to take the IELTS Academic test. It’s excellent to check with the college/university you are applying to.

Q. Are all the modules of the IELTS test held on the same day?

A. No, all the modules are not conducted on the same day. The Listening, Reading, and Writing tests are held on the same day. The Speaking test may fall on the same day as the other tests or any day up to a week before or after the test date. You can book your IELTS Speaking slot online on your preferred date and time.

Q. What are the important criteria to score well in your IELTS General test?

Your examiner determines your score based on a variety of factors. This includes how well you complete your task, the accuracy of your answer, the usage of grammatical structures, and your vocabulary. The usage of proper and different words and the comprehensiveness of your answers also matter.

Q. Can I exceed the word limit in the IELTS General test?

A. The rules for exceeding the word limit vary across modules. While exceeding your word limit is not an issue in your IELTS General Writing test, exceeding your word limit can be penalised for your Reading and Listening tests. Make sure you adhere to both the minimum and maximum word limits.

Q. Can I skip questions in the IELTS General Training test?

A. Yes, you are allowed to skip questions in your IELTS General Training test. If you find difficulty in answering a question, it is better to skip it rather than spend too much time on it. However, attempting as many questions as possible is recommended since you do not have any negative marking system for the test.

Q. Is the IELTS General Test easier than the IELTS Academic test?

A. The level of difficulty and easiness can vary depending on each individual’s potential. In general, the IELTS General test is considered easier than the IELTS Academic test. The General test assesses your English proficiency to sustain in a general English-speaking environment. In contrast, the Academic test analyses your language skills to study and sustain in an academic environment.

Q. Is there a negative marking in the IELTS test?

A. No, the IELTS test does not have a negative marking system. So, IELTS experts recommend attempting as many questions in your IELTS test. However, make sure you do not spend too much time on a difficult question. Instead, skip the question and move on to the next. In the end, if you get time, pick the question again and retry.

rajgeeta balamurali counsellor
Rajgeetha Balamurali

Rajgeetha is an expert in SAT, GRE, GMAT and IELTS prep content. She is an academic strategist with experience in study abroad test prep and ed-tech industry spanning pedagogy design, customised training design, team building, training & development.

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