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IELTS Syllabus

IELTS Syllabus – IELTS Academic Section Wise Syllabus, Test Pattern

by Anup chowdhury

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an important exam if you are considering studying abroad in popular countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand. IELTS syllabus comprises of four modules – Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. There are two versions of the IELTS test – IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. These two test versions differ on reading and writing modules as listening and speaking modules are same in both the test versions. Applicants can choose either version according to their educational and professional goals or as per visa requirements. IELTS Academic measures English language proficiency required for an academic and higher learning environment whereas IELTS General Training measures proficiency in a practical everyday context. Many professions like Nursing, Medical, Engineering, Accounting, etc. require an Academic test result for registration purposes in many countries abroad. 

Do you want to know about the updated syllabus of IELTS test in 2019? Read further in this guide about IELTS syllabus for Academic or General Training and Section-wise syllabus.

Latest: Check 2019-20 IELTS Results and IELTS Exam Dates

IELTS Syllabus – IELTS Academic

IELTS is owned by British Council, IDP and Cambridge Assessment English Language Assessment. If you are applying for a UK visa to work, live or study in the UK, you may need to take the IELTS for UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) which has three versions – Academic, General Training and the IELTS for Life Skills test. 

IELTS Academic measures English proficiency level of a candidate and in an academic environment. 

You should take the test if you are applying for studying abroad:

  • At an undergraduate level or postgraduate level 
  • For Tier 4 Student Visa to study in the UK university
  • Applying for working in an English-speaking country for a professional organisation

IELTS testing format

There are 4 sections in the IELTS test as mentioned below:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking

IELTS Syllabus – IELTS Sections

In the given table below, you can find out the IELTS Academic Test section, duration to attempt questions in the sections and number of questions asked in each section. The total time of the exam is 2 hour 45 minutes.

IELTS Test Pattern



No. of Questions 


30 min



60 min



60 min



11-14 min


Now let’s get into details of each module. 

IELTS Syllabus – Listening Section

There are 4 sections in Listening which lasts for 30 minutes. There are 40 questions in total and each question carries 1 mark. The questions get progressively more difficult as the test goes on. Timing is key while attempting this part. An applicant gets 10 minutes to transfer his/her answers to the answer sheet provided at the end of the test. The format is similar for both versions of IELTS i.e. Academic or General Training.

This section tests an applicant’s ability to understand main ideas and detailed factual information, opinions and attitudes of speakers and the ability to understand the purpose of an utterance and ability to follow the development of ideas.


The following sections are available under this section:

Section 1

In this section, candidates have to listen to a conversation between two people on everyday social topics. The conversation can be related to anything such as arranging a trip, organizing an event, etc.

Section 2

You will hear a talk by one speaker on a general topic. This means that you listen to one person giving information about a public event, a service provided, etc.

Section 3

You will hear a conversation between two to four people in an educational or training context. Applicants have to listen to up to four people talking to each other about an assignment for a course or anything related to it.

Section 4

It is a monologue on an academic or study-related topic. This means you will listen to a person giving a lecture or talk, which is focused academically.

Following instructions are provided to the test takers:

  • Candidates should not open question paper until they are told to do so.
  • They should write their name and candidate number in the spaces at the top of the page.
  • They should listen to the instructions for each part of the paper carefully. 
  • They should answer all the questions.
  • While they are listening, they should write their answers on the question paper.
  • They will have 10 minutes at the end of the test to copy their answers onto the separate answer sheet

At the end of the test, applicants will be asked to hand in the question paper.

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IELTS Syllabus – Writing Section

This section contains two tasks on topics which are of general interests. It is called writing task 1 and task 2. Applicants shall provide an answer in at least 150 words for task 1 within a time duration of  20 minutes. However, for task 2, the applicants have to write at least 250 words in 40 minutes. Writing section is different for academic and general training.

IELTS Academic Test Writing 

IELTS Writing Task 1

Students will be given questions containing tables, graphs, chart, diagram, maps or drawings in which they would have to identify relevant information and trends using facts or figures presented in the data. The idea is to understand the big picture by identifying the main trends, major parts, stages or important differences that are evident in the graphics. 

IELTS Writing Task 1 – Writing Pattern

The report writing must have an opening statement, overview and detailed photographs. The opening statement should include what is being illustrated or compared in the graphs or data given in the question in this task. A student should think about the big picture and give an overview of the data. In the last paragraph, you need to show logic to organise it and include specifics like dates, percentages, etc.

IELTS Writing Task 2

In this task, students will be asked to write an essay within 40 minutes. The topic could range across a number of subjects like Technology, Immigration, Environment or Culture. You are supposed to answer in the following ways:

  • Agreeing or Disagreeing manner
  • Discussing two given opposing views
  • Writing about whether the advantages of a given development outweigh the disadvantages
  • Explaining the cause of the problem and offer solutions.

Your response should be organised in an essay format. Test-takers are not penalised for writing more than 250 words but if they write a very long answer they may not have time for checking and correcting at the end. They are penalised for irrelevance if the answer is off-topic or is not written as full.

The instructions given to the applicants on the exam day are the following:

  • Candidates should not open the question paper until told to do so.
  • They should write name and number on the space given on the paper.
  • They should read the instructions carefully and answer both tasks.
  • Write at least 150 words for task 1 and at least 250 words for task 2.
  • Answers should be written in the answer booklet.
  • They should write clearly with a pen or pencil and should be free of many alterations.

IELTS Academic Writing Marking and Assessment

Each test is assessed independently and task 2 is weighed more in marks compared to task 1. Scores are reported as a whole and half bands. Tasks are assessed based on the task achievement, lexical resource, coherence and grammatical range. 

IELTS General Test Writing

The time given to finish two tasks (task 1 and 2) is 60 minutes. In Task 1, one is presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal. In Task 2, one is asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The essay can be fairly personal in writing style.

IELTS Syllabus – Reading Section

Reading section is different for both Academic and General Training.

IELTS Academic Test Reading

The reading section consists of 40 questions in which applicants are judged on how they read gist on a piece of the given information, how they are able to skim, read details, understand logical arguments and recognise the writer’s opinions. Applicants are given 60 minutes to answer a variety of questions in this section. There are 3 reading passages with a variety of questions including task types. There are a variety of questions based on a task type like multiple choice, identifying information, writer’s views, matching information, headings, matching features, etc. The texts are taken from books, journals, newspapers and written for a non-specialist audience. The passages are written in a variety of styles such as narrative, descriptive or argumentative. Each question carries 1 marks.

There are 11 types of tasks that can be asked in this section. For more details, go through IELTS Academic Reading section here.

IELTS General Test Reading

Compared to Academic Reading test, there are 3 sections in which section 1 contains two or three short texts, section 2 contains two short texts and in section 3, there is 1 long text. Task types are similar to Academic reading one. Section 1 contains basic linguistic tasks which mainly requires retrieving and providing general factual information. Section 2 contains contexts about the workplace. Section 3 is about reading extended prose with a complex structure. 

IELTS Syllabus – Speaking Section

The test duration is 11-14 minutes and it assesses an applicant’s spoken English. There are 3 parts. Examiners ask about applicants home, family, work, studies, etc. in part  1. The applicants will be given a card on a particular topic and they will get 1 minute to prepare on the topic 2 minutes to speak about it. In part 3, students are given the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issues on topics asked in part 2. This is similar in the case of IELTS General Training.

IELTS Syllabus – Practice Test

British Council has provided free practice tests on each section Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Students can get familiar with the test format, experience the types of tasks that are asked to undertake, test themselves under timed conditions and review answers and compare them with model answers. Each test is provided in a number of IELTS practice test pages and applicants are advised to complete each page in a sequence.

IELTS Syllabus – FAQs

Q. How can a student prepare for the IELTS test?

A. General steps to prepare for the IELTS exam are:

  • Get familiar with the IELTS syllabus
  • Practice sample IELTS tests. You can also purchase videos on each IELTS syllabus material here.
  • Try improving your English language and understand the test format and rules
  • Stay relaxed on the day before the test and know what to expect on the exam day

Q. What is the eligibility to take the IELTS test

A. Applicants must be of at least 16 years of age and possess a valid passport.

Q. How to score 8 in IELTS?

A. To pursue some specific work opportunities and academic programmes, aspirants may require IELTS band score 8 or above. To score that much in IELTS, you will need to score well across the test sections – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. While each section requires specific preparation, a few basic tips can fetch you high scores. For example, you should spell answers correctly and not write more than what is required. In Writing section, you need to use paragraphs in the correct manner to convey key ideas. Also, you should be able to write error-free complex sentences. Know more about how to prepare for IELTS here.

Q. Is IELTS difficult?

A. The questions asked in the test are quite straightforward as the test is meant to assess your English skills not to trick your opinions.

Q. How long is the IELTS result valid?

A. IELTS results are valid for 2 years. You might need to reappear for the exam if the validity of your results has passed the past 2 years.

Have you receieved your IELTS scores? And planning to study in Australia? Read Study in Australia after Class 12 article here.

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