There is often a lot of confusion for people first encountering IELTS, regarding how the academic and general training modules differ. This is important to know as it can affect candidates’ choice of practice strategy and choice of IELTS practice tests.
Let’s begin with the areas of the academic and general training modules that are the same. These are the listening and speaking sections. The listening section of the test consists of four parts with four separate recording sections. There are ten questions for each recording section and so forty questions in total. The key thing to realise when starting to practice the IELTS speaking test is that candidates only get to hear the recording once. The listening test should last for around thirty minutes. Go to our tutorials to read something about strategies to deal with the IELTS listening test.
The speaking section is also the same for academic and general training modules. It is in three parts and should last for around eleven to fourteen minutes. A single candidate has a one to one converstation with a single examiner and the conversation is recorded. The three parts are a conversation on topics of general interest (4 – 5 minutes), a longer turn when the candidate must speak on her/his own for one to two minutes (3 – 4 minutes), and finally another conversation on more demanding topics and with more demanding questions (4 – 5 minutes). Go to our tutorials to read something about strategies to deal with the IELTS speaking test.
The reading test is different for the academic and general training modules. The academic reading consists of three long reading passages with around thirteen or fourteen questions for each reading passage. There are forty questions in total and candidates have one hour to complete the test. The texts are more academically orientated than the general training texts. The general training reading test is also in three sections and it also lasts an hour. Section one has two or three texts and they will be on subjects that tests a candidates to operate in an English environment. Section two is on training or work topics and there are also two texts. Section three has one longer text. Like the academic reading, there are around thirteen or fourteen questions for each reading section and there are forty questions in total. Go to our tutorials to read something about strategies to deal with the IELTS reading tests.
Finally, there is the writing test. Both the academic and general training writing tests have two sections and students are advised to spend twenty minutes on section 1 and forty minutes on section 2, making one hour in total. In the academic writing test, section 1 asks candidates to describe the information (more than 150 words) presented in some kind of graphic or image. This is often a pie chart, a line graph, a table, a bar chart or a representation of a process. Often combinations of charts are given. In section two academic, candidates have to to write a short essay (more than 250 words) on a topic of general interest. In the general training writing test, section 1 requires candidates to write a short letter (more than 150 words) in response to some information presented. Section 2 is very similar (though different questions) to the academic writing and have to to write a short essay (more than 250 words) on a topic of general interest. Go to our tutorials to read something about strategies to deal with the IELTS writing tests.
The academic module of IELTS is mainly aimed at students who wish to study in a university that operates its courses in English. However, some people who emigrate or wish to work in an English speaking environment may be required to do the academic module. The general training module of IELTS is aimed mainly at people who wish to emigrate to an English speaking country, but who probably won’t work in a technical job. The only way candidates can be truly sure of which module to take is to ask the organisation that requires them to take IELTS, i.e., an immigration authority or a university.
Knowing which module a candidate is taking is vital, so that the correct IELTS practice tests are found and the correct preparation strategy formulated.