Exams Know-how

IELTS Academic vs IELTS General Exam: Difference & Which to Take?

Yocket Editorial Team

“Which is one of the most widely accepted English proficiency exams accepted worldwide for international education?”

If you’re asking this question, the answer is - International English Language Testing System, commonly known as IELTS. More than 4 million non-native speakers of English take the IELTS every year, and that demonstrates the importance as well as the popularity of the exam. Consisting of four sections, which include listening, reading, writing and speaking, a good score on IELTS demonstrates your proficiency in the English language and opens a sea of global opportunities for you.

If you are planning to take the IELTS this year, you should first become acquainted with the format of the test and the distinctions between the academic and general versions. The IELTS Academic and IELTS General tests are two different forms of the exam, and students often misunderstand the distinction between the two. Hence, we have taken the liberty to formulate a blog that will provide you with all the information on the exam, its formats, duration, and what to expect from each. 

If you have more questions on IELTS and how to kickstart your study-abroad process, make sure to schedule a free call with an expert at Yocket. With 50+ counsellors in the house, Yocket believes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to studying abroad. Each student is different - and that is where Yocket’s personalised counselling and end-to-end guidance come in to help. Connect to learn more!

Table of Content

What is IELTS Academic Test?

Before diving into the different variations of the IELTS exam, that is, the academic and the general test, let us take a look at what makes IELTS so special. Started in 1980, IELTS has since been accepted universally as a marker of English proficiency. More than 140 countries accept IELTS scores, and the test offers an objective assessment of your English speaking abilities - both academic and professional. 

If you want to study for a master's or PhD at any university in an English-speaking nation, you have to take the IELTS Academic exam. This test evaluates your capacity to manage an extensive schedule of readings, study materials, and procedures at any university that provides instruction in the English language. Because of this, the exam materials provided by the British Council are dense with scholarly language and include a broad spectrum of academic subjects, most likely science-related topics.

What is IELTS General Test?

Quite different from the academic test, the IELTS General Training assesses your ability to use English in everyday situations. You need to take the IELTS General category exam if you want to work in an English-speaking nation, immigrate overseas, or even seek citizenship in countries like Canada and New Zealand.

Besides this, you will also need to demonstrate your ability to comprehend and analyse written materials in English for daily activities,  leisure, and professional training. Due to this, the reading passages and writing exercises for the IELTS General Exam usually depict social and professional contexts. In India, this test is offered by the British Council and IDP.

Suggested:How to score 8+ band in IELTS?

What is the Difference Between IELTS Academic & General?

The major goal of the IELTS is to assess a candidate's English language proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing in less than three hours. Both the academic and general tests have 4 sections each. The speaking and listening sections of the test have a similar pattern, but the reading and writing sections usually have differing topics, depending on whichever test a candidate chooses.

The IELTS exam's writing, reading, and listening sections are all administered on the same day, with no gaps or breaks in between. Nonetheless, contingent on available slots, the speaking section of the IELTS exam may be finished one week before or following the other assessments. The entire duration of the IELTS examination is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Refer to the table below to easily understand the difference between IELTS Academic and General Tests:

IELTS Section 

IELTS Academic

IELTS General

IELTS Reading Section

  • 40 Questions (3 Reading Passages)
  • 60 minutes
  • 40 Questions (3 Sections)
  • 60 minutes

IELTS Writing Section

  • 2 Writing Tasks (Graphs Essay)
  • 60 minutes
  • 2 Writing Tasks (Letter Essay)
  • 60 minutes 

IELTS Listening Section

  • 40 Questions (4 Sections)
  • 30 Minutes and 10 Minutes to transfer answers to sheets

IELTS Speaking Section

  • 3 Sections (Introduction, Cue Card Discussion)
  • 11-14 Minutes

Now that you know the general differences and similarities between the IELTS Academic and General tests, read ahead to find out the distinctions between each section of the tests!

IELTS General vs Academic: Speaking Section (Common to both)


The speaking test usually consists of an interview between the candidate and the examiner. Every speaking exam is recorded on video, for future reference. Each candidate is allowed to spend up to 14 minutes on this part. The speaking section is divided into three parts, each of which aims to accomplish a certain objective in terms of task input, candidate output, and interaction pattern. This section's primary goal is to assess the candidates' spoken English proficiency.


  • Part 1: In the first part, the examiner poses general questions to the candidate on any topic, from speaking about themselves to hobbies, family, studies, and employment. This exchange takes about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Part 2: In the second part of this section, the candidate is handed a card with a topic, on which he has to speak for two minutes. The candidate gets one minute to prepare before they begin speaking on the topic.
  • Part 3: The examiner addresses the subject covered in Part 2 with the candidate in this phase. In particular, the candidate gets to talk about abstract concepts and issues for four to five minutes during this time. The interviewer may ask questions on family and personal values and other abstract topics. 

IELTS General vs Academic: Listening Section (Common to both)


In this section, the candidates are required to listen to four audio recordings, and respond to a series of questions. This section lasts for 30 minutes, and its primary goal is to ascertain the candidates' comprehension of the key ideas and specific factual information. This section also evaluates the candidate’s thoughts and attitudes, the aim of a speech, and evidence of their ability to follow the development of ideas.


  • Recording 1: In this first recording, two people have a conversation in a typical social setting.
  • Recording 2: On this second tape, a monologue in an everyday setting is played.
  • Recording 3: The third recording is usually a conversation between four people set in an educational or training context.
  • Recording 4: The final recording is a monologue on an academic subject.

Difference between IELTS General and Academic: Academic Reading


This section assesses a candidate's reading comprehension, and lasts about sixty minutes. During this part, the candidate needs to read a range of passages and respond to 40 questions based on them. This specific segment is particularly beneficial for professionals looking to work overseas or for those who want to pursue higher education, as doing well in this section gives them a competitive advantage.


This section comprises three lengthy paragraphs, which might be factual, analytical, or descriptive. Generally, these paragraphs are taken from books, journals, newspapers, research papers, or even magazines.

Difference between IELTS General and Academic: Academic Writing


In the writing section, candidates are required to write on subjects related to their graduate and undergraduate education. The total time given for writing is one hour. 


The candidate is given a piece of paper containing a table, graph, or diagram. The candidate is then required to summarise the pictorial information in a descriptive form. In addition, they can also be asked to interpret a specific data input and process the given information in a flowchart to arrive at a logical conclusion. Following this, the candidate is also required to write an essay using the deduction they’ve made from the data. Adding relevant examples to substantiate the data makes it more appealing, and brings better scores.

Difference between IELTS General and Academic: General Test Writing


In the general writing section, the candidates are expected to write two tasks on a topic of general interest. The duration of this test is one hour. 


The first plan of action is to compose a letter about the given situation. Depending on the topic, the letter may be formal, semi-formal, or personal. The candidate would be required to defend their position, make a request, or provide an explanation to an authority figure. For the second task, the candidate will be required to write an essay based on the aforementioned point of view. Here again, adding relevant examples would improve the scope of gaining better grades.

Also Read

IELTS Exam Pattern For Beginners

Guide to IELTS results and scores

Universities accepting IELTS score 6.5 to 7

Universities accepting IELTS score 7.5 and above

Should I Take IELTS Academic or General Training?

We have now discussed both the academic and the general variations of the IELTS exam, which evaluates the English proficiency skills of the test takers. Be it studying in a foreign country, relocating for better career opportunities, or even moving to a different country - you will need to take an English proficiency test to prove your language skills. Choosing between the academic and general tests will depend on your end goal - whether you want to pursue higher education in a foreign country, such as the USA, Canada, or UK, or you simply want to migrate to that country.

Here are some points to consider before choosing which test to take - IELTS Academic or General?

Choose the IELTS Academic Test

  • If you wish to pursue a graduate-level education anywhere globally. 
  • If you want to apply for a Tier 4 Student Route visa at any university that is a Tier 4 Student Route sponsor in the United Kingdom. 
  • If you intend to work in a nation where English is the primary language for any professional organisation.

Choose the IELTS General Test

  • If you wish to study below the degree level.
  • If you are looking for a job in an English-speaking nation or wish to work as a trainee.
  • If you're moving abroad where people speak English.

Suggested: How to apply and register for the IELTS exam?

From the Desk of Yocket

The IELTS test is accepted globally, and if you are looking to pursue higher education, you will have to take an English proficiency test. A good score on IELTS shows the admissions committee that you are capable of handling communication as well as education in English, and that would allow you to thrive at the university. All non-native speakers of English, from countries such as India, Bangladesh, China and others are required to take the IELTs, and depending upon their goals, they can choose between the academic and general exams.

If you are planning to study abroad, remember that Yocket is the platform you need to succeed. Whether you need help selecting the right university that fits your aspirations and goals, or drafting the best version of your statement of purpose - Yocket is here to help. Make sure to explore Yocket Premium to learn more!

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