All about IELTS – Part 1: Exam Modules

We are starting a series of writing to help students ace IELTS (International English Language Testing System). As it is one of the most important requirement to study abroad and one of the important one for higher education of any type, we are here to help. Students face bulk of problems starting from the application procedure, sitting for the exam, reading for the test, understanding test procedure and most of all achieving good score. We will be writing about all of these and make you completely known of IELTS.

Let’s talk about the exam procedure first. There are two different kinds of IELTS- general and academic. Academic IELTS is required for people who are interested in higher education or professional registration in an English speaking environment. General training is for those who are willing to go to an English speaking environment for work experience, job, secondary education or training programmes.


Here we are going to talk about academic type of the exam.

The exam is divided into four modules: speaking, reading, writing and listening. Total duration of exam is 4 hours. You will have to give speaking exam on a different date than the other three modules, can be before or after. Below are the descriptions of the formats.

  1. Listening: There are four sections in listening test. Each having a different type of listening material. All the recordings played for once only. You will be given time first to look at the questions and an example is given. You will answer on the question paper first and then you will be given 10 minutes to transfer your answer on answer sheet. You will also be given half a minute to check your answer after each section. For example: A conversation between a person willing to shift house and a man from the transport agency. Their conversation could be about the current living place, destination, available transport, time and cost. You could be given question from anything about these. Questions could be multiple choice question/matching/table/flow chart/map/diagram marking/note/ sentence completion etc.


  • You will be given around 30 minutes for the listening test and 10 minutes extra to transfer your answer into. There will be 40 questions each worth 1 mark.


  • On the first two sections of Listening test, there is usually one conversation from daily life situation (between shopkeeper and a customer) and one monologue (facilities of living in a big city). On section three, are usually conversation such as between two students about a group project or between a student and a teacher about an assignment. On the fourth section there is another monologue on academic topic such as origin of superstitions.


  1. Reading: There will be 03 reading passages, 40 questions and 60 minutes in total so 20 minutes for one passage. Texts are taken from books, journal, magazines etc. and are suitable for examinees who have entered or have done with undergraduate study on a minimal level. Texts could be factual, narrative, descriptive, writer’s opinion on the given topic, argumentative or analytical. Questions could be best answer/ best two answers, true/false, yes/no (you should be careful, they are different), identifying writers view, matching sentence, matching headings, matching features, diagram labeling, short answers or completing sentence within a given number of words.


  1. Writing: You are given 60 minutes to complete two tasks. Task 1 is more responsible for the band score, so one should distribute 60 minutes into 20 mins and 40 mins accordingly. On task 1, you could be given a table, graph, chart, diagram, pie chart on a related topic or given a diagram of a device or machine and ask you to write how it functions. You have to describe the charts or write findings of the diagrams or tables. You will have to write in an academic, neutral, semi-formal way and should also keep in mind that writing should be within 150 words. Writing less than 150 words could cause you penalty, on the other hand writing more than 150 words might not cause you penalty but it means you are using more times than required and you might end up having less time for task 2.


  • On task 2, given a topic and the examinee is asked to write on it in academic or neutral format within 250 words. One should be careful about the relevance of the writing because any non-relevance cuts out point. It’s also important to learn the writing format than just trying to memorize some special topics, as it is always clearly evident on the paper if you memorize and the examiners never appreciate that. Writing a well-organized, logical, grammatically correct, relevant and well vocabularied text is the key to scoring good band score. Completing BOTH the task is necessary.


  1. Speaking: Speaking test usually takes place on a date different than the main exam. You will face an interview with an examiner, around 11 to 14 minutes. It has 3 parts and each part has a specific function like interaction skill, task input and test takers output. First part begins usually with the examiner introducing himself and the exam to you later on where you also introduce yourself and talk a bit about yourself like home, family, work etc. On part two you are given a topic on which you will have to talk for few minutes with specific points given to cover. The 3rd part includes conversation and sharing your view on the topic given in part 2. Finally you have to leave the place with good greeting. The whole exam is recorded.


We hope we have successfully given you an idea about the whole exam system. We will  write about the exam registration and test day preparation along with procedures to study for the exam in the upcoming weeks.

All about IELTS – Part 2: How to Register? will be published on the ResearchHUB BLOG next Monday (December 25, 2017).


By A ResearchHUB Team Member

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