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IELTS Syllabus - Section-wise Exam Pattern

IELTS Syllabus - Section-wise Exam Pattern

The IELTS syllabus involves four sections: reading, writing, listening, and speaking, for both the academic and general training tests. The listening and speaking modules are the same for both academic and general training tests, while the reading and writing modules have different patterns.

To achieve a high band score in IELTS, you need to first understand the pattern. To give a clear understanding, we’ve explained the IELTS syllabus for each section in detail, including their marking criteria. In this article, you will learn about the question types, duration, marks, word limit, the purpose of the test, topics involved, and others.

Table of content

IELTS syllabus 2023

The syllabus for all four skills of both the academic and general training test is given in the table below. You can find the exam pattern, questions, duration, marks, band descriptors, and the differences between the tests in the table.

IELTS section Description Number of questions/Duration Mark Band Descriptors/Band score
Listening The listening section contains four recordings which include 2 conversations and 2 monologues related to the social and academic context. 40 questions/30 minutes 1 mark per question 0-9 band scale
Reading
(Academic and General)
The reading test carries three long passages with different question types each of which is taken from sources of books, journals, etc. 40 questions/60 minutes 1 mark per question 0-9 band scale
Writing
(Academic and General)
The writing section carries two tasks where you’ll be writing a 150-word essay based on the given chart, map, diagram, or letter. And, task 2 will be a 250-word essay based on the given situation. 2 questions (tasks)/60 minutes Both writing tasks 1 and 2 are evaluated separately. Task 2 has more weightage than Task 1
  • Task Achievement (Task 1), Task Response (Task 2)
  • Coherence and cohesion
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
Speaking The speaking test has three parts which involve a personal interview, cue card topic discussion, and a follow-up round. 3 questions (parts)/11-14 minutes
         -
Fluency and coherence
Lexical resource
Grammatical range and accuracy
Pronunciation

Types of IELTS

The IELTS test has two types: IELTS academic and IELTS general training. The most popular test among candidates is IELTS academic test. Check below to know about the types in detail. 

IELTS Academic

The IELTS Academic test is conducted for students who want to do higher education abroad and for professional registration purposes. It assesses your English proficiency for academic purposes and tests your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. Countries such as the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand accept IELTS scores for studies. The total duration of the IELTS academic test is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The test can be taken in either paper or computer-delivered format and can be taken at an exam center or at home.

IELTS General Training

The IELTS General Training test is taken by individuals who want to enter secondary school and do training programs in English-speaking countries. This test is also applicable to applicants who want to gain work experience or immigrate to countries such as the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Similar to the academic test, this test assesses the four major skills such as listening, reading, writing, and speaking, but in a social and everyday context. The IELTS General Training test is available in both paper and computer-delivered modes. 

Section-wise syllabus

Let’s look at the detailed syllabus of the following four sections.

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening
  • Speaking

IELTS reading

The IELTS Reading test is different for both academic and general tests. The format of the IELTS Reading test involves answering questions based on three given passages. There are a total of 40 questions that must be answered in 60 minutes.

IELTS academic reading

The IELTS academic reading has three sections, each containing three passages with three different types of questions. In total, there are 14 different types of questions in this test. The reading passages are related to academic subjects and are sourced from books, magazines, journals, and newsletters. This test requires a wide range of reading skills, including reading for the main idea, skimming, and reading for detailed information. You are given a total of 60 minutes to complete the test, including time to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

IELTS general training reading

The IELTS general training reading syllabus consists of three sections. Section 1 includes shorter texts, with two to three texts in total. This section is based on "social survival," and the texts are taken from sources such as notices and advertisements. Section 2 includes two texts related to "workplace survival," which may be taken from job descriptions, staff development, and training materials. Section 3 is a long text taken from newspapers, magazines, and books, and is known as "general reading." In total, there are 13 different types of questions in the general training reading test.

IELTS reading question types

The IELTS reading test comes from the following question types. 

  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • Identifying information
  • Identifying the writer’s views/claims
  • Matching information
  • Matching headings
  • Matching features
  • Matching Sentence Endings
  • Summary completion
  • Note completion
  • Table completion
  • Short-answer questions
  • Sentence completion
  • Diagram label completion
  • Flow-chart completion

IELTS writing

The IELTS writing test varies for both academic and general training tests. There are two tasks involved in the IELTS writing test. In academic Task 1, you’ll be asked to describe the given visual information. In general task 1, you’ve to respond to the given situation. In Task 2, you need to write an essay by responding to a view, argument, or problem. The total duration of the IELTS writing test is 60 minutes.

IELTS academic writing

In the IELTS academic writing, you need to attempt two tasks: Task 1 and Task 2. 

IELTS academic writing task 1

In academic writing task 1, you're required to write a 150-word essay. The essay needs to be written as a summary by interpreting the given data representation of a map, chart, graph, diagram, and table. The test needs to be completed in 20 minutes.

IELTS academic writing task 2

In academic writing task 2, you need to write a 250-word essay providing your viewpoint and opinion for the given question. The response needs to be in a formal style. This task needs to be completed in a 40-minute time period. The questions can be in the form of agree/disagree, advantage/disadvantage, problem/cause, and solution, discuss both views, and two-part/double question.

IELTS general writing

Similar to academic writing, the IELTS general writing test also carries two tasks: Task 1 and Task 2. Check the variation for the general writing tasks below.

IELTS general writing task 1

In the IELTS general writing task 1 you need to write a letter in the form of formal, informal, or semi-formal based on the given situation. The letter needs to be written in at least 150 words. The time limit for completing this task is 20 minutes.

IELTS general writing task 2

The IELTS writing task 2 is similar for both academic and general training. You need to write a 250-word essay in 40 minutes analyzing the given statement with your viewpoint and opinions. The essay needs to be in a personal style.

IELTS Listening

The IELTS listening test pattern is similar for both academic and general training. This test contains four parts with ten questions each. You’ll need to listen to the audio and then answer the questions. The audio contains a range of accents that can be played only once. The IELTS listening test needs to be completed in the time span of 30 minutes. You’ll also be given a 10-minute time period to transfer the answers to the answer sheet. The four recordings you need to listen to are:

  • Recording 1 -  a conversation between two people that is related to the social context.
  • Recording 2 - a monologue speech that carries a topic of everyday basis.
  • Recording 3 - a conversation between four people which can be related to the educational basis.
  • Recording 4 - monologue speech on an academic basis, it may be a lecture.

IELTS listening question types

The different types of listening question types are listed below:

  • Multiple choice
  • Matching
  • Plan labeling
  • Map labeling
  • Diagram labeling
  • Form completion
  • Note completion
  • Table completion
  • Flow-chart completion
  • Summary completion
  • Sentence completion

IELTS speaking

The IELTS speaking format is the same for both the academic and general training modules. The IELTS speaking test consists of three rounds: introduction, cue card, and follow-up. The test is conducted as an interview with an examiner, which is recorded for evaluation and lasts for 11-14 minutes.

Part 1 (Introduction and Interview)

The speaking part 1 test is an introduction and an interview session. The examiner will ask you to introduce yourself. Then you will be asked questions related to general topics like hobbies, family, work, studies, etc. Speaking part 1 will be conducted for 4-5 minutes. 

Part 2 (Long turn)

IELTS speaking part 2 which is a long turn session conducted for 3-4 minutes including a 1-minute preparation time. The examiner will give you a task card and then you need to talk about the given topic. In the task card, you’ll be instructed on the points that you need and need not follow. 

Part 3 (Discussion)

Speaking part 3 is a discussion round where you’ll be asked follow-up questions for the part 2 topic. The examiner will ask you questions based on what you discussed in the cue card round. Speaking part 3 will last for 4-5 minutes.

IELTS syllabus pdf

To help the aspirants, we’ve compiled the entire syllabus of IELTS in a pdf format. 

Download the IELTS syllabus pdf

How is marking done in different sections of IELTS?

Check the following marking criteria and the band descriptors for each section of the IELTS test.

Listening

In the listening test, you’ll be answering 40 questions which are assessed with the 0-9 band scale. You’ll be given 1 mark for each of your correct answers. Check the below table to know the listening band score.

Listening band score Raw Score
5 16
6 23
7 30
8 35

Reading

The IELTS reading test also carries 40 questions for which you’ll be awarded 1 mark for each correct answer. The IELTS band score is converted on a scale of 0-9 from the raw score. In the IELTS reading section, both academic and general training reading are assessed differently. Check out the below table to understand better.

Reading band score Raw score - Academic reading Raw score - General Training reading
5 16 23
6 23 30
7 30 34
8 35 38

Writing

IELTS writing involves two tasks, writing task 1 and task 2 which is a 150 and 250 words essay. This writing section is assessed by the following four band descriptors. 

  • Task achievement (Task 1), Task response (Task 2)
  • Coherence and Cohesion
  • Lexical Resource (Vocabulary)
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Speaking

IELTS speaking section is conducted as a face-face interview where your answers are evaluated by the examiner on-spot or by checking the recordings of your answers based on the following band descriptors.

  • Fluency and Coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • Pronunciation

Summary of IELTS syllabus

  • There are two types of IELTS tests: Academic and General Training.
  • The IELTS test contains four sections namely listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The listening and speaking sections are similar for both tests, but the reading and writing sections vary for both academic and general.
  • IELTS academic reading involves three passages with different question types. There are a total of 40 questions that need to be answered in 60 minutes.
  • IELTS general training reading contains three sections with 40 questions which need to be completed in 60 minutes.
  • IELTS academic and general writing contains two tasks - Task 1 and Task 2. The duration to complete the writing task is 60 minutes.
  • IELTS academic writing task 1 is a 150-word essay that can be written by analyzing the given visual representation (graph/table/chart/diagram) in 20 minutes.
  • IELTS general writing task 1 is required one to write a 150-word essay in the form of formal, informal, or semi-formal letters for the given situation within 20 minutes.
  • IELTS writing task 2 requires you to respond to a viewpoint, argument, or problem in 250 words. For academic tests, the response must be in a formal style, and for general training tests, it can be in a personal style.
  • IELTS listening contains four recordings (conversations and monologues) which are based on everyday social context and academic basis. The total number of questions involved is 40 which needs to be completed in 30 minutes plus 10 minutes of transfer time.
  • IELTS speaking involves three parts. Part 1 is an introduction and interview session which lasts for 4-5 minutes. Part 2 is an individual long-turn round that requires you to talk about the topic that is given in the task card for 3-4 minutes. Part 3 is a discussion round where you’ll be asked questions related to the topic of Part 2 which takes 4-5 minutes.

FAQ

1. What is the syllabus of IELTS?

The IELTS syllabus contains four sections namely reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The listening and speaking test is similar for both academic and general training tests but the reading and writing sections vary for both tests.

2. How can I prepare for the IELTS exam?

You can prepare for the IELTS test with the following tips:

  • Understand the IELTS exam syllabus completely
  • Create a preparation plan
  • Conduct frequent practice and mock test
  • Record your speaking test
  • Take the test in the preferred mode
  • Listen to the audio once to answer the questions
  • Practice writing within the word limit
  • Understand the question types of each section

3. What are the 4 skills in IELTS?

The four skills in the IELTS test are reading, listening, writing, and speaking. 

4. Is the IELTS difficult to pass?

No. The IELTS test is not difficult to clear even at the first attempt, all you need is a proper preparation plan and more practice.

5. Can I prepare for IELTS at home? 

Yes. You can prepare for IELTS at home with the resources that are available on the internet. If you’re seeking expert mentoring, you can also get that by taking any online coaching.

6. What is the pass mark for IELTS? 

There is no pass or fail mark in IELTS. The IELTS test is validated on a scale of 0-9, where 1 is the lowest score and 9 is the highest band score. This score is applicable for evaluating each section of the IELTS and calculating the overall score.

7. What is the age limit for IELTS?

The minimum age limit to take the IELTS test is 16 years. The maximum age limit is not specified by the British Council and IDP.

8. How many attempts are there in IELTS? 

There is no limit to the number of attempts you can take for the IELTS test.

 9. Is a passport required for IELTS?

Yes, a passport is mandatory for the IELTS test. You need to carry the passport with you on the test date to the exam center as it will be your proof of identification.

10. Is IELTS Speaking recorded?

Yes. The IELTS speaking test will be recorded for the purpose of evaluation. However, you’ll be assessed by the examiner on the test day itself.

11. Is there maths in IELTS? 

No. IELTS is an English language test conducted for people who are willing to study, work or immigrate to English-speaking countries.

12. What are the best IELTS preparation books?

The best IELTS preparation books are as follows.

1. The Official Cambridge guide for IELTS
2. Barron’s IELTS Superpack
3. IELTS Practice Tests Plus 2 with key and CD Pack Paperback
4. IELTS 15 Academic Student's Book with Answers with Audio with Resource Bank
5. Target Band 7: IELTS Academic Module
6. Road to IELTS 
7. IELTS Book for General Training and Academic 2021-2022: [Includes Audio track access]
8. Check Your English Vocabulary for IELTS
9. Official IELTS Practice Materials 1 with Audio CD
10. IELTS Trainer Six Practice Tests with Answers and Audio CDs (3) (Authored Practice Tests)

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