IELTS Test Information

Get familiar with the IELTS Test Format

There are two types of IELTS tests: IELTS Academic and IELTS General. The Listening and Speaking parts are the same for both tests. The Reading texts for the academic exam are more difficult and Writing task 1 is also different. In the academic version, you need to write a report based on one of the following: a bar chart, a pie chart, a graph, a diagram, a map or a process diagram.

The IELTS general writing task 1 could be one of the following: a letter to a friend, a formal letter to a company or University, a request, an apology, a complaint, making an arrangement or an invitation. Some letters are formal, semi-formal or informal.

The speaking section of the test can be taken on a different day or on the same day as the listening, reading and writing. The speaking section and writing task 2 is the same for both academic and general IELTS.

IELTS Academic: If you want to study at a University as an undergraduate or postgraduate, or work for a professional company in an English speaking country this is the right test for you.

IELTS General: If you want to live in an English speaking country or do work related training there, then this is the test for you.

Be Realistic.

You really need to be at B2 level on the Common European Framework to get a chance of Band 7 or more. Find your weaknesses and work on those, you have to be realistic about timescales. To get a good score in IELTS takes hard work so If a teacher says they can guarantee you will get a Band 7 in a week if you follow their system, then you should be very careful of that advice.

I recommend that your English studies be about 40% IELTS practice tests and 60% real-world English from the media, books, TV, conversation practice, Youtube videos such as TED talks, BBC news stories, documentaries, vocabulary and grammar building exercises and so on. You should also be exposed to various accents in your Listening homework such as Australian, American, Canadian and British. The IELTS test is not just about British English.

Make sure you are well prepared before taking the IELTS exam. There are no special tricks or shortcuts to getting a high score, it takes focused effort to get a high band score so it is advised that you prepare for at least 2 to 3 months before taking the IELTS exam.

Get to know the Common European Framework.

The Common European framework is a guide showing the levels of language learners, there are 6 levels. It starts at A1 beginner up to C1 proficient. Here is a diagram showing how it relates to IELTS.

Click here to go to for more information on this.

How do I prepare for IELTS?

Some people are not fully prepared or informed about the format and structure of the test. Some are not prepared to do the hard work needed to get a high band score, many also do not know the strategies for the writing task 2 essays. It is very important that you are prepared well in advance. There are no special tricks or shortcuts to getting a high score, you need to identify your weaknesses and fix those to get a high band score. I also advise setting up your own study plan or schedule  Click here to see how to do this.

The writing tasks are usually the hardest. I advise preparing for at least 2 or 3 months before taking the test.

IELTS examiners are marking on four criteria in the writing tasks:  vocabulary, grammar, coherence and cohesion and task response (how well you answer the task). So you need good vocabulary, academic words and phrases, accurate grammar, good use of collocations, good paragraphing with well-developed extended ideas and specific examples.

Click here to learn more detail about what is in the IELTS test.

The Listening, Reading and Writing components of all IELTS tests are completed on the same day with no breaks in between them. The Speaking component can be completed up to a week before or after the other tests. Your test centre will advise on this.

The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

IELTS test

IELTS Band scores and marking criteria.

There are four criteria in the IELTS Writing section that you will be marked on.

Writing Task 1

1. Task Achievement
2. Lexical Resource (Vocabulary)
3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy
4. Coherence and Cohesion

Writing Task 2

1. Task Response
2. Lexical Resource (Vocabulary)
3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy
4. Coherence and Cohesion

There are four criteria in the IELTS Speaking section that you will be marked on.

Speaking parts 1-3

1. Fluency and coherence
2. Lexical resource (Vocabulary)
3. Grammatical range and accuracy
4. Pronunciation

Marking system for Listening and Reading

The scoring is the same for IELTS general and academic in the listening section. However, for the reading section, the scoring is slightly different for IELTS general and academic, see the charts below.


ielts academic reading

ielts general reading scores

How are the scores calculated?

The IELTS Band scores are from 0 to 9. If you arrive at the test centre and do not do the test you actually get a Band 0.

Each part of the test (listening, reading, writing, speaking) gets a band score. The score will be rounded up or down to the nearest 0.5 or whole band score. Check here at for more detail about overall band scores and the component band score

For instance:

  • If you get an overall score of 5.25 it goes up to Band 5.5
  • If it is 5.75 it will go up to Band 6
  • If it is 5.1 it goes down to Band 5

Here is a table from the British council describing the Band score levels.

© British Council

Assessment Criteria PDFs

Click here for the PDF link showing the assessment criteria for Writing Task 1 IELTS

Click here for the PDF link showing the assessment criteria for Writing Task 2 IELTS

Click here for the PDF link showing the band description for the Speaking task in IELTS

How long is an IELTS score valid for?

The validity period (after which time you should retake the IELTS test) is 2 years.

If you need further help with Writing corrections and one to one Speaking practice over Skype, click below to find out more.

ielts writing correction service

ielts speaking