Difference Between Academic and General IELTS – Basic Categorisation

Here’s what the general choice for the exam is –

  • Those who are seeking to build a professional career in an English-speaking country – IELTS General Training
  • Those who are entering a college or university for an undergraduate or postgraduate programme – IELTS Academic

But, is it that simple for you to decide?

Probably not. That’s why we have compiled a list of similarities and differences between Academic and General IELTS for you to fully understand both exams. By the end of this page, you will have a calculated and well-thought answer to your question. 

Here’s what this page entails – 

  • Difference Between Academic and General IELTS – Basic Categorisation
  • IELTS Listening Test: Academic Vs General
  • IELTS Speaking Test: Academic Vs General
  • IELTS Writing Test: Academic Vs General
  • IELTS Reading Test: Academic Vs General
  • IELTS Academic or IELTS General – Which is Best for Students?
  • FAQs on Difference Between Academic and General IELTS

Difference Between Academic and General IELTS – Basic Categorisation

Before we learn about the different types of tests under IELTS Academic and General to find out which one would be better for you, let’s go through the basic structuring of the test once. 

Difference Between Academic and General IELTS - Basic Categorisation

*IELTS Listening and IELTS Speaking are similar in both, Academic and General.

Check Out – IELTS Exam Preparation Tips

IELTS Listening Test: Academic Vs General

IELTS Listening Test: Academic Vs General

Since IELTS Listening isn’t different from the Academic and General exam, here’s an overview of the test structuring for you to understand what all it entails. 

Total Test Duration 30 Minutes
Paper Format 4 Parts
Total No. of Questions 40 Questions (10 questions for each part)
Task/ Question Type Multiple choice questions, matching, flow-chart, plan, map, table, diagram labelling, form, summary completion, note, and sentence completion. 
Part 1 Includes A casual conversation between two native speakers (it could be about travel arrangements)
Part 2 Includes A monologue delivered by a native speaker (it could be a speech on some local facilities)
Part 3 Includes A formal conversation between two speakers (it could be a discussion between a student and a tutor)
Part 4 Includes A monologue on an academic subject
Playing Frequency of the Recordings Once
Accents in the Recordings The accent could be British, New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, or American
Answering  As you listen to the recordings, you will answer the questions. You are given 10 minutes, in the end, to transfer your answers to your answer sheet.
Marking Scheme Marks allotted per correct response = 1

IELTS Speaking Test: Academic Vs General

IELTS Speaking Test: Academic Vs General

Total Test Duration 11 – 14 Minutes
Paper Format It comprises an oral interview taken by an examiner. Your interviews are recorded. 
Parts  The test contains 3 parts
Part 1 – Introduction and Interview Duration  4 – 5 Minutes
Total No. of Questions Asked Variable
Task Format First, the examiner introduces her/ himself. Then checks your identity as a test taker. Then they ask you general questions. These questions are taken from a script to maintain consistency.
Topics for the Questions Home, work, family, interests, studies, etc
What Does it Assess? Your ability to communicate information and opinions on an everyday basis. 
Part 2 – Long Turn Duration  3 – 4 Minutes
Task Format The examiner gives you a card which contains a topic. You will then have a minute to prepare the topic and then talk for about 1 – 2 minutes. The examiner may ask you to include certain points or explain something.
No. of Questions Variable 
What Does it Assess? Your ability to speak at length using appropriate and comprehensible language
Part 3 – Discussion Duration  4-5 Minutes
Task Format You and the examiner will discuss the topic from Part 2 in greater depth.
No. of Questions Variable 
What Does it Assess? Your ability to justify and express thoughts and emotions on an issue

Now, let’s discuss the tests that are the difference between Academic and General IELTS – Writing and Reading Tests.

IELTS Writing Test: Academic Vs General

IELTS Writing Test: Academic Vs General

Completed in 60 minutes or 1 hour, this test contains 2 tasks in both Academic and General IELTS exams. 

Here are the similarities and differences between both – 

Details  IELTS Academic IELTS General
Total Duration 60 Minutes or 1 Hour
Topics Suitable for People wishing to pursue undergraduate or postgraduate studies, or looking for professional registration. The topics are of general interest. 
Paper Format 2 tasks included. Both mandatory
Task 1
Duration  20 Minutes
Task Format You may be given graphs, tables, charts on related topics, or diagrams of a machine and you will have to describe its facts and figures. You will be given a situation and then you will have to write a personal response to that situation. Your writing style could be formal, semi-formal, or informal. 
Test Takers Will be Penalised for
  • Writing less than 150 words
  • Adding irrelevant or off-topic responses
  • Plagiarism 
  • Not writing full or connected text
  • Writing less than 150 words
  • Adding irrelevant or off-topic responses
  • Not writing full or connected text
  • Plagiarism or copied text. 
Total No. of Questions Asked 1 Question
What Does it Assess?
  • Your ability to identify relevant and important trends or information from the image/ graph/ table/ chart/ diagram given.
  • Your language accuracy
  • Writing style for academic writing
  • You are assessed on the way you present the information, your writing style, the beginning and end of your writing, language accuracy, organisational skill, etc.  
Task 2
Duration  40 Minutes
Task Format You will have a topic, which is of neural/ semi-formal/ academic style.  You will be given the point of view of an argument. You, then have to write a semi-formal or neutral essay on it. Your writing will have to include general outlining, factual information, evaluation evidence, justifying an opinion, presenting a solution, etc. 
Test Takers Will be Penalised for
  • Writing less than 250 words
  • Going off-topic
  • Plagiarism 
  • Writing less than 250 words
  • Adding irrelevant or off-topic responses
  • Plagiarism 
  • Not writing full or connected text
Total No. of Questions Asked 1 Question
What Does it Assess?
  • Your ability to identify relevant and important trends or information from the image/ graph/ table/ chart/ diagram given.
  • Your language accuracy

IELTS Reading Test: Academic Vs General

IELTS Reading Test: Academic Vs General

Details  IELTS Academic IELTS General
Total Duration 60 Minutes or 1 Hour
Total No. of Questions Asked 40 Questions
Skills Tests Reading for gist, reading for detail, reading for main ideas, understanding logical arguments, skimming, recognising a writer’s attitude, opinions, and purpose
Paper Format You will have three reading passages containing a variety of questions
  • There will be three sections.
  • Section 1 comprises two to three shorter texts.
  • Section 2 comprises two texts.
  • Section 3 comprises one long text.
Types of Questions Asked Multiple choice questions, identifying the writer’s claims/ views, identifying information, matching information, matching features, matching headings, matching sentence endings, summary completion, sentence completion, note completion, flow-chart completion, table completion, short-answer questions, or diagram label completion.
What Does it Assess?
  • Your ability to identify relevant and important trends or information from the image/ graph/ table/ chart/ diagram given.
  • Your language accuracy
  • Writing style for academic writing
  • You are assessed on the way you present the information, your writing style, the beginning and ending of your writing, language accuracy, organisational skill, etc.  
Reading Material or Extracts Taken From Books, journals, newspapers, and magazines.
The material is selected for an audience seeking professional registration or entering university courses.
Books, notices, magazines, company handbooks, advertisements, and company guidelines.

The material is most likely relevant to a daily conversation in an English-speaking environment.

Tasks or Sections
  • Task type 1 – Multiple choice 
  • Task type 2 – Identifying information
  • Task type 3 – Identifying writer’s views/ claims
  • Task type 4 – Matching information
  • Task type 5 – Matching headings
  • Task type 6 – Matching features
  • Task type 7 – Matching sentence endings
  • Task type 8 – Sentence completion
  • Task type 9 – Summary, table, note, flow-chart completion
  • Task type 10 – Diagram label completion
  • Task type 11 – Short-answer questions
  • Section 1 – Social Survival 
  • Section 2 – Workplace Survival
  • Section 3 – General Reading
Marking Scheme Each correct response is worth 1 mark

Want to go for something other than IELTS? Check out these top English language tests!

IELTS Academic or IELTS General – Which is Best for Students?

IELTS Academic or IELTS General - Which is Best for Students

As you can see above, IELTS Listening and IELTS Speaking are the same for both, Academic and General tests. 

What brings a big difference and eventually becomes a deciding factor is a syllabus for IELTS Reading and IELTS Writing. The test structuring is another way for you to find out the difference between academic and general IELTS.

The IELTS General Training exam, “generally” speaking, evaluates your proficiency in the English language in an everyday context. The kind of vocabulary that you will be required to know to work in an English-speaking country like Canada, the UK, etc. People who are applying to obtain citizenship in an English-speaking country also apply for this exam. 

Basically, if you have to demonstrate that you possess an ability to manage employment and training, daily life, and leisure-related conversation with natives, IELTS General is the exam for you. 

That’s the reason why the content for this exam contains listening excerpts and reading passages that are commonly used and required for workplace or social situations.

Now, talking about IELTS Academic, as the name suggests, this exam assesses your English language proficiency in an academic environment. It tests your ability to manage readings, study loads, and methods in a college/ university with the English language as the medium of education. 

Therefore, the contents of this test include a wide range of science, academic-related topics, and academic vocabulary. 

Wondering which university would accept the type of IELTS you wish to take? Try Select Right and choose what’s best for you!

Frequently Asked Questions on the Difference Between Academic and General IELTS

Question 1: I want to study Marketing Management in the UK. Should I go for IELTS Academic?

Answer: Although generally preferred by students, IELTS Academic may not always be the right answer for you. You first need to assess all aspects of both the exams and then decide. 

Question 2: What is the difference between Academic and General IELTS in terms of difficulty level?

Answer: Generally, IELTS General is considered easier than IELTS Academic. However, the answer may vary from person to person. 

Question 3: Do IELTS Academic and General take the same time to complete?

Answer: Yes, the duration of these tests is not one of the differences between Academic and General IELTS. Both tests take 2 hrs and 45 minutes to complete.

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