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IELTS General or Academic: what is the difference?

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

Studying English can be confusing enough without having to understand which tests are useful for what. So here we are to make it easy for you.

There are several things to consider when determining whether to take the IELTS Academic or General Training exam.

IELTS Academic – This exam is for those planning to study for a higher education (university, college, etc.) or for those who wish to pursue work or training in a professional field such as medicine or engineering. As the name suggests, this version tests your ability to either study or do any specific training in a field of work.

IELTS General Training – You should consider the General Training exam if you are going to study, work or train in an English-speaking country, or if you are migrating to an English-speaking country, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the UK.  Candidates taking the IELTS General Training exam are tested on everyday use of the language, with the questions focused on workplace and social situations.  

Both the Academic and General Training exam have four parts – listening, speaking, reading and writing.


  • The total time for the Listening module is 30 minutes for both the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training exams.

  • There are four recorded listening excerpts on both exams.


  • For both exams, there is a face-to-face interview with a certified IELTS Speaking Examiner.

  • The Speaking module is 11-14 minutes for both the IELTS Academic and General Training exam.

  • The Speaking module includes short questions and longer questions where the candidate speaks about a familiar topic. There is also a structured discussion.


  • The Reading portion is 60 minutes long for both the IELTS Academic and General Training exams.

  • For both exams, there are three readings with questions about each reading.

  • For the IELTS Academic exam, there are a variety of texts to read, such as descriptive, factual, and analytical. The reading module also includes diagrams, graphs or illustrations.

  • There are three sections on reading part of the General Training exam. In the first section, there are two or three short texts. In the second section, there are two short, work-related texts. In the final section, there is one long text about a general interest topic.

  • For both the Academic and General IELTS Training exam, the texts are authentic; texts come from books, newspapers, journals, etc. (for the Academic exam), and books, newspapers, company handbooks, etc. (for the General Training exam).


  • The Writing section is 60 minutes for both the IELTS Academic and General Training exams.

  • Each includes two tasks: Task 1 is a minimum 150 words and Task 2 is a minimum 250 words.

  • For the IELTS Academic exam, Task 1 is writing about a table, graph, chart or diagram. Task 2 is an essay.

  • For the General Training exam, Task 1 is writing a letter, and Task 2 is an essay. 

Before you consider your options for which IELTS exam to take, I would suggest you spend some time researching and understanding what you need to help you meet your goals.

So hopefully that clears it up for you, best of luck and happy testing!