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Academic or General IELTS – Which Exam is Best for You?

Feb 18, 2023

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The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an English proficiency test. The exam has four sections to test your language abilities, such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing and a specific time is allotted for completing each section. In this article, we shall discuss the two different categories of IELTS. 

It is important to understand the differences between IELTS academic vs IELTS general training so that a candidate can decide which test he or she should appear for, keeping in mind the main purpose of moving abroad. While the IELTS academic test result is usually required for entry into a university, the IELTS general training test result is used for migration purposes. 

All candidates appearing for IELTS must achieve a band score as required by their academic institutions or other organizations. They will receive a test report certificate on completing the test and the score is valid for two years. 

IELTS Academic vs IELTS General Training 

IELTS academic is accepted in more than 100,000 universities as proof of English skills, and many immigration offices, organizations, and professional corporations in different countries accept it as well. Most Australian and European universities mandate the IELTS test and it is accepted by both undergraduate and postgraduate universities. 

IELTS general training is appropriate for students who are willing to go abroad for below degree level studies. Students can appear for this test if they want to get admitted to high school.

For a student, the IELTS academic test is more important but if you want to migrate to English-speaking countries then IELTS general training is recommended. Listed below are the suitable IELTS tests required as per your goal:

IELTS Academic Test

  • Undergraduate level
  • Postgraduate level
  • Doctorate level
  • Post-Doctoral
  • For any professional organization

IELTS General Training Test

  • Below degree level
  • Work or training
  • Migration
  • Permanent Residency

The Differences Between the Tests

The main goal of both academic IELTS and general IELTS tests are to check the ability of the applicant to read, write, listen, and speak English. The test format is the same for both tests in the speaking and listening sections, however, the writing and reading sections are different. Let us look at each section of the tests and how it is different in the case of IELTS academic and IELTS general.

1. IELTS Reading Test 

Academic Reading Test

This section consists of 40 questions and is created to test the candidate’s reading abilities. 60 minutes is the allotted time for this section and you will have to read different passages and answer the questions accordingly. The paragraphs given in this section can be factual or descriptive, usually taken from journals, magazines, research works, newspapers, or books.

General Reading Test

This section also has 40 questions, it must be completed within 60 minutes. There will be passages related to company guidelines, advertisements, brochures, and this test is considered to be relatively easier than the academic test as it contains words that a person comes across or uses regularly.

2. IELTS Writing Test

Academic Writing Test

A candidate has to write on different topics in this section, related to their undergraduate and postgraduate studies. The time given to complete this section is one hour. The first task involves tables or graphs, or diagrams where you need to write a description.

In the other task, candidates will have to write an essay based on the data provided. This must have the correct examples and the writing style must be strictly formal.

General Writing Test

In this section, candidates will have to write about topics of general interest. The tasks need to be completed within 60 minutes. The first task involves writing a formal, semi-formal, or personal letter on a situation given to them. There has to be an explanation for the given request or argument.

3. IELTS Speaking

There are no major differences in this section for IELTS general training and IELTS academic. A face-to-face interview is scheduled as per the availability of slots and the total time duration is 11-14 minutes. The examiner will ask questions related to studies, family, and work and the first part of this session lasts for around 4 to 5 minutes.

Part two of this section is for the candidate to speak on a given topic. He/she gets a minute to think about the subject and is given two minutes to speak, after which the examiner will ask questions about it.

The third and final part is where the candidate discusses ideas and thoughts related to the previous topic, for a maximum of 5 minutes.

IELTS Listening Test

This test too is similar for both categories, the candidate listens to four recordings

  • The first is a conversation on social issues between two persons 
  • Second, the candidate will be required to listen to a monologue
  • The third is an audio of a discussion between up to four people 
  • The final section is listening to a monologue on academic topics and then answering a series of questions. 


Applicants who wish to pursue higher education abroad, or want to work abroad need to take the IELTS test as proof of their English language proficiency. Countries that widely recognize IELTS scores are US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Applicants can avail of free IELTS coaching, quality study material, study tips and more with KC Overseas. It is one of the fastest growing Edtech companies offering the best learning experience and helping you get closer to your dreams.  KC Overseas caters to students' end-to-end study abroad requirements and supports students in preparation for IELTS, both academic and IELTS general training.

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