The Listening component takes around 30 minutes to complete. There are 40 questions in four sections. A variety of question types is used in order to test a wide range of listening skills. These include ability to understand main ideas and detailed factual information, ability to understand the opinions and attitudes of speakers, ability to understand the purpose of an utterance and ability to follow the development of ideas.
The first two sections deal with situations set in everyday social contexts. There is a conversation between two speakers in Section 1 and a monologue in Section 2.
The final two sections deal with situations set in educational or training contexts. In Section 3, there is a conversation between up to four speakers (for example, between a university tutor and some students), and Section 4 is a monologue on an academic subject.
There is a range of native-speaker accents in the recordings, which reflects the international nature of IELTS.
The Reading component takes 60 minutes to complete. There are 40 questions in three sections. A variety of question types is used in order to test a wide range of reading skills. These include reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skim reading, understanding detailed logical argument, recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and inferences.
The Academic Reading test includes three long texts (between 750 and 950 words each) which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. The texts are authentic and are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. They are accessible to a non-specialist audience but are recognisably appropriate for candidates entering undergraduate or postgraduate courses or seeking professional registration.
General Training Reading
The General Training Reading component contains one long narrative or descriptive text and several shorter, more factual, texts. The texts are authentic and are taken from books, magazines, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. Texts are based on the type of written material candidates are likely to encounter on a daily basis in an English-speaking country.
The Writing component takes 60 minutes to complete and consists of two tasks. Task 1 requires candidates to write at least 150 words and Task 2 requires candidates to write at least 250 words. For both tasks, candidates need to demonstrate their ability to write a response which is appropriate in terms of content, vocabulary and the organisation of ideas.
In Task 1, candidates are presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram. They are asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in their own words. They may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.
In Task 2, candidates are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem.
Candidates are required to write in a formal style for both tasks.
General Training Writing
In Task 1, candidates are presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style.
In Task 2, candidates are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The essay may be formal in style but the response may be slightly more personal than in Academic Writing Task 2.
The Speaking component takes between 11 and 14 minutes to complete. Every IELTS candidate has a face-to-face oral interview with an examiner. The Speaking test is recorded. There are three parts to the Speaking component.
In Part 1, candidates answer general questions about themselves and a range of familiar topics, such as their home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.
In Part 2, candidates are given a card which asks them to talk about a particular topic. They have 1 minute to prepare before speaking for up to 2 minutes. The examiner then asks one or two questions on the same topic to finish this part of the test.
In Part 3, candidates are asked further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2. These questions give the candidate an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas. This part lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.