IELTS Exam Pattern

  • By Kanan Team
  • Sat Dec 05 2020

IELTS Exam Pattern 2021 

IELTS is the most popular English language test that’s used for work, study and migration.IELTS test is conducted for the aspirants to check the language skills. Being the world’s most popular English language test, the IELTS qualifications is recognised worldwide and accepted by over universities * grad schools in more than 140 countries.

If you want to study at overseas universities or work over there IELTS certificate can help you to achieve it. This blog provides information to you to understand the IELTS exam pattern so that you can prepare in the right way for the latest IELTS exam pattern for the year 2021. .

The IELTS academic is taken by those planning to study for higher education, such as in a university or college. Their admission to an undergraduate or postgraduate program or courses is based on the results of the IELTS academic.

The result of that also helps people to work in a professional field overseas. The IELTS test  general training version is taken for those wishing to migrate to an english speaking country. The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes. This blog will tell you the IELTS test pattern of the academic and general version of the IELTS exam pattern 2021. 

What is the IELTS Test format for the Listening Section? 

The IELTS listening test is one of the standard tests which will assess your ability to listen to several conversations which you are likely to come across in your life as well as some academic discussions.

These conversations are played and you are expected to listen and answer the questions that are taken from the audios.

Duration for the IELTS listening test: 

The IELTS listening test takes approximately 30 minutes”, and you are allowed an extra 10 minutes to transfer your answers from your question booklet to your answer sheet.

No of questions in the IELTS listening test:

There are forty questions in this section that need to be answered. There are several gaps in the test which you can use to read the questions and check your answers as well.

Regular announcements are given in the audio about what to do next as the sections proceed. There are totally 4 sections in the IELTS exam paper pattern. The listening test is the same for both the academic and the general training modules.

IELTS test format for listening

The section 1 listening test contains a conversation between two people. The  conversation will involve a basic exchange of information. Example, someone might be placing an order over the phone, or confirming details for a reservation. The topic consists of day to day life situations. Ten questions will be there in this section. 

The section 2 contains a monologue(one person speaking). For example, you might hear someone providing directions or presenting basic information about a place or an event. There are ten questions in this section.

In section 3 you will hear two or more people talking about an academic topic. You might hear a few students discussing something from class or a professor providing feedback about an assignment.  

Section 4 is the final section in the test. This is a monologue. You will hear a university lecture, and ten questions are given to you. You need to listen to the audio and answer the questions. There will not be any time in between the questions for you to read. You have 10 questions in this section.

Listening section marks & scoring details: 

The IELTS score pattern is fairly straightforward. Each question is worth 1 point so you can achieve a score up to 40 points. Therefore getting 24 out of 40 correct at the listening part can earn you a band score of 6.5, while on another version of the IELTS you may get 6. 

Each answer is given one mark, which means that the listening test is marked out of 40.There is no negative marking in the IELTS listening test and you can take a guess in case you are not sure of the correct answer.

The table gives an idea about how listening is scored and the band conversion for IELTS listening

Band Score score/40
9 39-40
8.5 37-38
8 35-36
7.5 32-34
7 30-31
6.5 26-29
6 23-25
5.5 18-22
5 16-17
4.5 13-15
4 10-12
3.5 8-10
3 6-7
2.5 4-5

Tips for completing IELTS listening Section 

As you prepare for the IELTS listening exam, it’s very important to take tips before that,

  1. You must practice completing a full listening test by listening only once before your test. You should do this a number of times.
  2. When you’re developing skills and vocabulary, you might want to practice listening more than once.
  3. You will need to multitask. This means you must be able to read the questions, listen for the answer and write down words all at the same time. You should practice doing this.
  4. Practice transferring your answers to the answer sheet at home before your test.
  5. If you don’t know an answer,guess. Always write something in the box on your answer sheet. Who knows, maybe you guess right.
  6. Check the number of words you can have for your answers. Each time the number of question types changes, the number of words for the answer might change too.
  7. Concentrate on spelling, if your answer is spelled wrong the answer is marked wrong. You must have the correct spelling to get a point and have the answer marked correct. 

 IELTS listening exam question format & syllabus 

You can expect questions in the following format when it comes to the IELTS listening exam. 

  • Note completion / sentence completion
  • Form completion
  • Flow chart completion
  • Matching
  • Multiple choice questions - single selection
  • Table completion
  • Map labelling
  • Diagram labelling
  • Multiple choice questions - multiple selection

PROTIP: The books are must for IELTS and no student should be without one of them. There are many books for IELTS preparation on the market but standard books will make you score high like IELTS cambridge test books,Barron’s IELTS superpack, ideas for IELTS essay topics, grammar for IELTS writing task 2.

What is the  Test format for IELTS Academic Reading? 

IELTS academic reading tests have been written for a non-specialist audience and are on academic topics of general interest. Tests are appropriate to and accessible to candidates entering undergraduate or postgraduate courses or seeking professional registration.

Duration for the IELTS academic reading section 

“The IELTS academic reading would last for 60 minutes”

The IELTS reading pattern consists of 40 questions, designed to test a wide range of reading skills. These include reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument and recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and purposes.

No of questions for the IELTS academic reading section 

Three long texts which range from descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytica

The question types used in IELTS exam pattern of reading are multiple choice, identifying information, identifying the writer’s views/claims, matching information, matching headings, matching features, sentence completion, summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion and short answer questions. 

The content is taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. They designed for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for people entering university courses or seeking professional registration.

IELTS test format for reading

IELTS academic Reading marks & scoring details 

The IELTS reading test contains 40 questions. Each correct answer is awarded one mark. Scores out of 40 are converted to the IELTS nine band scale. The IELTS reading is scored in bands from 1-9, and includes half bands.The academic and general training reading tests are graded on the same scale.

The table given below for IELTS academic reading gives you a much clarity on it,

Correct Answers Band Score
40-39 9
38-37 8.5
36-35 8
34-33 7.5
32-30 7
29-27 6.5
26-23 6
22-19 5.5
18-15 5
14-13 4.5
12-10 4
9-8 3.5
7-6 3
5-4 2.5

Tips for completing IELTS Academic Reading 

Some of the IELTS academic reading exam preparations tips are,

1.Understand the meaning of every word 

Many of the students have been taught to look up every word in a dictionary they don’t understand in a dictionary. Vocabulary is key to getting a good score in the IELTS test, but not understanding the words in the reading exam is one of the worst things you can do.

2.Practice your reading skills

It is important to familiarise with the IELTS reading test and to learn from your mistakes. The test has a strict timing limit which will really challenge your ability to complete the questions in time. You must develop speed reading skills to be able to find your answers quickly.

3.Grammar 

Question types such as summary completion and sentence completion require that the sentence is grammatically correct when you have put the answer in. This means that grammar can help you to spot the right answer.

4.Know your weakness 

Unless you know your weaknesses, you won’t know how to improve. You must check the reasons why you are getting your answers wrong or right. If you are getting answers wrong due to your understanding of the passage, then you know you must improve your english language. Spend time reviewing your performance.

5.Getting used to difficult passage 

You need to have time before the test to widen your reading skills and familiarity of complicated passages on a range of topics. Read the BBC news, economist etc. 

  The reading test is different for the academic test takers and the general training test takers. There is no negative marking for both the modules.

IELTS academic reading section question format & Syllabus 

The question types of IELTS  academic reading test covers

  • Note completion or sentence completion
  • Table completion
  • Flow chart completion
  • Summary completion
  • Diagram label completion
  • Short answer questions
  • Identification of facts from the passage - true/false/not given
  • Identification of writer’s views - yes/no/not given.
  • Multiple choice questions with multiple option selection
  • Multiple choice questions with single option selection
  • Matching the list of headings.
  • Matching the paragraphs containing the information
  • Matching the endings of sentences
  • Matching the nouns with the information

Pro Tip: The books are must for IELTS and no student should be without one of them. There are many books for IELTS exam preparation on the market but standard books will make you score high like IELTS cambridge test books,Barron’s IELTS superpack.

What is the IELTS Test format for General Reading? 

IELTS General training reading test is taken to work or commence business related training in an English speaking nation, migrate to an English speaking nation or to qualify for another vocation in your homeland.

The IELTS exam pattern for general training reading is different to academic reading in a number of ways but mainly due to the language and difficulty level of texts.

Duration of IELTS general Reading Section: 

The general training reading test is for 60 minutes.

Number of questions in the IELTS general Reading Section 

Like academic reading, IELTS general reading also has 40 questions to answer.

There are three sections in the IELTS general training reading,

SECTION 1 

The section is based on one, two or three texts about english life and could be about an advertisement for a hotel, sports center facilities or educational courses. The texts are not long and are factual rather than descriptive.

SECTION 2

The section 2 consists of more than one text and often relates to work about pay schemes, work conditions or machinery instructions.

SECTION 3 

The final section is usually one text which is quite long and it is the hardest. The passages taken from magazines, fictional or non fictional books.

The IELTS general training reading is designed for the people to achieve the goal. There are IELTS general reading preparations tips for you given below to make to crack the exam with high scores here they are,

Tips for completing IELTS General reading section

1. Skim over and watch for the answers 

Skimming refers to looking only for the main ideas. You don’t need to read attentively every word. Remember, you just need to answer the questions, nothing more. So skim over the text and then start looking for the answers.

2. Watch your time 

Don’t forget you have only 60 minutes to read three texts and answer 40 questions. You won’t get additional time for filling your answer sheet, so make sure to manage your time properly.

3. Is your spelling correct? 

Check your spelling before writing your answer on the answer blank. You will get zero points for the answer if it is spelled incorrect.

4.Underline 

When you skim over the text, underline the most important phrases. It will help you to save some time when you will search for answers.

5. No blank boxes

Answer all the questions, even if you’re not sure in your answer. You don’t get a penalty for wrong answers, so try your luck and write the most probable answer.

IELTS general reading marks and scoring details 

Each answer is given one mark, which means that the reading test is marked out of 40. There is no negative marking in the IELTS reading test and you can take a guess in ase you are not sure of the correct answer.

The reading test contains 40 items and each correct item is given one mark. The maximum raw score a candidate can achieve on a paper is 40. Band scores ranging from band 1 to band 9 are awarded to candidates on the basis of their raw scores.

Below is a list of the scores from band 2 to 9 for the general training test. The scores are not the same as the academic reading test.

Correct Answers Band Scores
40 9
39 8.5
37-38 8
36 7.5
34-35 7
32-33 6.5
30-31 6
27-29 5.5
23-26 5
19-22 4.5
15-18 4
12-14 3.5
9-11 3
6-8 2.5

IELTS reading question types & syllabus for general training 

The types of questions you will be asked in the general training reading test are the same as the academic test. Here are the clues,

  • Matching headings
  • True false not given / yes no not given
  • Matching paragraph information
  • Summary information
  • Sentence completion
  • Short answer questions
  • Table/flow chart completion
  • Diagram labeling
  • Multiple choice/ list selection
  • Choosing a title
  • Categorisation
  • Matching sentence endings

Pro Tip: The books are must for IELTS and no student should be without one of them. There are many books for IELTS preparation on the market but standard books will make you score high like IELTS cambridge test books,Barron’s IELTS superpack. Remember that you don’t always have to listen and read IELTS books to practice those skills. 

What is the IELTS Test format for Academic Writing Section:

The IELTS academic writing test is made up of two tasks which covers the area of general interest. The IELTS academic writing is suitable for test takers entering undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration.

Duration of IELTS academic writing :

The total time allowed for the IELTS academic writing test is 60 minutes. Two tasks. One hour it takes to complete both parts of the test. 

No of questions in the IELTS academic writing section

Totally two tasks. Task 2 contributes twice as much as task 1 to the writing score. You should spend about 20 minutes on task 1 which must contain 150 words to write. On Task 2 you need to spend 40 minutes which must contain at least 250 words.

TASK 1 

In task 1, candidates are presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and are asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in their own words. They may be asked to explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.

TASK 2 

In task 2, candidates are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Both tasks should be written in a formal style.

The IELTS academic writing is designed for the students exclusively to test their skills  who are entering undergraduate or postgraduate studies overseas.

IELTS test format for writing

IELTS academic writing marks & scoring details 

Writing task 1 and writing task 2 are marked individually. The marking criteria are not exactly the same. The examiner will give you a band score for writing task 1 and a band score for writing task 2. After that your final IELTS writing band score is calculated. The weightage is more on task 2 than task 1.

For example:

Writing task 1 = band score 8

Writing task 2 = band score 6

Total = 6.5

The two part writing test is marked by an examiner who awards an IELTS band score based on four criteria:

  • Task Achievement (Task 1) / Task Response (Task 2)
  • Coherence and Cohesion
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

Tips for completing IELTS academic writing section 

With enough preparation and practice, anyone can pass this test. Below are some tips on what you can do to prepare

1. Be mindful of your word count 

Task 1 requires candidates to provide at least a 150 words written response, while task 2 requires at least 250 words written response. You must write above the word count or you will lose marks. There is a risk of losing marks even if you are just a few words below the word count. There is no upper limit on how many words you can write.

2. Manage your time wisely 

Write your answer for task 1 within 20 minutes and no more. Task 2 contributes double the marks so it’s crucial to ensure you have at least 40 minutes left for this. Both tasks require planning and checking, so it would be wise to factor in four minutes or less before and after answering each task.

Don’t enter the exam hall without having practised time management beforehand. Remember, practice is the key to good time management.

3. Practice 

Practice makes perfect. There are tonnes of resources online for both tasks that candidates should make good use of. Although model answers are plenty, your practice should not include memorising them as examiners can spot such answers and you will risk having your entire test rendered invalid.

Do not leave any answer blank because there is no negative marking in the IELTS exam. So, answer all the questions and the answers you guess have a chance of being correct.

Question types & formats for IELTS academic writing:

Question type of IELTS academic writing are,

In IELTS academic writing pattern task 1 , you will be shown a diagram, a visual way to represent information. The visual information can be shown as a:

  • Table
  • Chart
  • Diagram
  • Process
  • Graph
  • Map

You need to do an information transfer task, the visual information you are given needs to be presented in the form of text. To complete the task successfully, you will need to:

  • Write an introduction
  • Write an overview 
  • Present and highlight the key features with figures.

In task 2 of the academic writing test, you are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, an argument or a problem. Essays should be written in an academic, or semi-formal style.Topics are about relevant issues and focus on a particular aspect of the topic.

Pro Tip: Do check out these books which are excellent resources for your IELTS preparation.

  • The official cambridge guide to IELTS
  • Barron’s IELTS Superpack
  • Target band 7: IELTS Academic
  • Cambridge IELTS 11 self-study pack 

What is the IELTS Test format for General Writing

The people who are willing to migrate overseas can take IELTS general writing. IELTS general writing consists of two pieces of writing. 

Duration of the IELTS general Writing section:

The duration of IELTS general writing is for 60 minutes.

Number of questions in the IELTS general writing section

The number of questions is 2.

In question 1 / task 1 candidates are presented with a situation and are asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style.

In question 2 / task 2 candidates are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view , argument or problem. The essay can be slightly more personal in style than the academic writing task 2 essay.

The IELTS general writing is designed for non-academic purposes such as immigration visas or professional licenses.

IELTS general writing marks & scoring details 

The IELTS general  exam pattern for writing is marked on the following areas: task achievement, task response, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy. Examiners give a band score for each of these criteria, which are equally weighted of 25% each. 

There`is no negative marking in the IELTS general writing. 

Tips for completing IELTS general writing section

Some of preparation tips to get higher marks in IELTS general writing are,

1. Identify the type of letter you are being asked to write. Is it a formal, semi-formal or informal letter? The entire tone of your letter is based on your answer to this question. Adjust your style and choice of words according to the type of letter you have been asked to write.

2. Identify the main purpose of the letter. Are you asking for help, apologizing, inviting someone, complaining or thanking someone? Learn appropriate and polite expressions that will support what you need to say.

3 .Learn and use standard written phrases. Sometimes students struggle to finish their writing in time. This happens when you are trying to write every sentence from scratch. The fact is, in conventional letter writing in english, we use a number of standard expressions and phrases  and add on to them the specific information we wish to communicate. You will find it much easier while learning the expression.

4. Practice writing letters till you know what 150 words feels like and looks like. You will lose marks if you write less. You will not lose marks if you write more.

5. Learn the correct spelling of commonly used words. By this you can prevent yourself from losing marks by learning the correct spelling of these words and expressions which you are highly likely to use on your exams

6. Practice various types of essay like problems and solutions essays, discussion essays, agree or disagree essays and advantages and disadvantages.

Question types & format for IELTS general writing section

The IELTS question pattern for IELTS general writing are,

Writing a short letter for a specific purpose

Writing an essay  

Pro Tip: Barron’s IELTS superpack, The official cambridge guide to IELTS, cambridge IELTS 14, official IELTS practice materials these books will help you better understand the material covered on the exam, obtain a high score and stand out from the crowd.

What is the IELTS Test format for IELTS Speaking 

IELTS speaking is a face to face informal discussion with an IELTS examiner and is the same for both academic and general training.This test is conducted to check the communication skills of the aspirants.

Duration  & number of questions of the IELTS speaking test format: 

The IELTS speaking pattern takes between 11 and 14 minutes and consists of an interview between the test taker and a trained and certified examiner.

IELTS speaking part 1 lasts between 4 and 5 minutes, where the examiner should ask you between 7 and 11 questions.

In IELTS part 2 you will be given 1 minute to prepare to talk about the topic on the task card. A pencil and paper will be provided for you to make notes. You will have to talk for 1-2 minutes, and then the examiner will ask you one or two questions on the same topic. Totally it takes 3-4 minutes.

IELTS speaking part 3 lasts about 4-5 minutes and you will be asked 4-8 questions related to the topic in part 2.

IELTS speaking is designed to check the fluency and coherence, how well you use vocabulary to express what you mean.

Tips for completing the IELTS speaking section 

You can increase your IELTS score by following IELTS speaking tips and tricks,

1.Be fluent and liberated

2.Practise answering sample questions

3.Ask the question again if you need to

4.Be emotional

5.Extend your speech

6.Don’t memorise answers

IELTS speaking section marks & scoring details 

There is no worry of thinking about negative marking. IELTS speaking doesn’t have a negative score.

Band scores for the IELTS speaking follows,

BAND CRITERIA SCORE
Band 9
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
  • Speaks fluently and coherently
  • Uses vocabs and idioms accurately
  • Produces accurate structure
  • Uses a full range of pronunciation 
Band 8
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
  • Speaks fluently with occasional repetition
  • Uses less common and idiomatic vocabs
  • Uses a wide range of structures flexibly
  • Accent has minimal effect
Band 7
  • Pronunciation
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Speaks at length without noticeable effort or loss of coherence
  • Uses paraphrase effectively
  • Uses a range of complex structures with some flexibility.
  • Shows all the positive features
Band 6
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
  • Is willing to speak at length, though may lose coherence at times.
  • Has a wide enough vocabulary
  • Uses a mix of simple and complex structures
  • Uses a range of pronunciation features with mixed control
Band 5
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
  • Usually maintains flow of speech but uses repetition
  • Manages to talk about familiar and unfamiliar topics but uses vocabulary with limited flexibility
  • Produces basic sentence forms with reasonable accuracy.
  • Shows some positive and negative features
Band 4
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
  • Cannot respond without noticeable pauses and may speak slowly.
  • Rarely attempts paraphrase.
  • Errors are frequent and may lead to misunderstanding
  • Uses a limited range of pronunciation features
Band 3
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Pronunciation
  • Speaks with long pauses
  • Uses simple vocabulary to convey personal information
  • Makes numerous errors except in memorised expressions
  • Shows some positive and negative features
Band 2
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
  • Little communication possible
  • Only produces isolated words or memorised utterances
  • Cannot produce basic sentence forms
  • Speech is often unintelligible
Band 1
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
No communication possible
Band 0
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
Does not attend

Question format & types for the IELTS speaking section 

The question type that covers in IELTS exam pattern  on speaking are,

The part 1 consists of Introduction and questions 

Individual long turn on part 2 

Finally two way discussion on part 3.

Pro Tip: Best books recommended for IELTS speaking are IELTS Cambridge textbooks, IELTS speaking essentials. Apart from that some good novels can help you to improve your vocabulary and speaking skills. 

Conclusion:

Before formally concluding this blog,, we also recommend you to go through the other useful links like, ielts test format explained by ielts.org and ielts test format explained by idp. 

Hope we’ve been able to help you with most of the knowledge that you were asking for. Your mind must be cleared with all the details of the IELTS exam pattern 2020 in India and every task type of the IELTS exam pattern papers.  The IELTS exam pattern in the UK, Germany  and for Canada PR follows the same pattern.  

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