IELTS to the point

IELTS Academic vs IELTS General Training

ielts academic vs ielts general training

Yes, there are two types of IELTS. Many students find it out when we ask them, “Which type of IELTS are your preparing for?” Cambridge has created two versions to test the test-takers’ relevant skills based on their purpose of giving IELTS.

If you are a student who wishes to apply for a Bachelors or Masters course or PhD offered in English Medium, you must use for IELTS Academic. On the other hand, if you are applying for a work visa or permanent residency in an English Speaking country such as Canada or Australia, you must appear for IELTS General Training.

Table of Contents

What is IELTS?

IELTS tests you on the four skills of English: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

Now many students ask, “How will they check my Reading skills? Will they ask me to read aloud?” Some even ask, “How would they know that I am able to hear?” Well, Cambridge wants to know whether you can listen or read and understand the message given to you. And to verify that you have comprehended the message, the test asks you some questions.

For example, you may listen to a conversation between a student and a teacher. The teacher may instruct the student to submit a class assignment within 15 days from 5th of that month. Now, the question on the IELTS may ask “How much time does the student have to submit his assignment from 1st of the month?” Now, if you have understood the audio well, you can answer the question correctly. Similarly, other skills are tested, as well.

Why two types of IELTS?

Since IELTS wants to check only your English skills, they want to ensure that your background should not give you an unfair advantage over others.

For example, suppose one of the test-takers is a working professional and wants to apply for a working visa. In that case, they need not encounter any conversation or reading passage from academia. Also, if the student wants to apply for a university course, they need not deal with a work-place situation. If only one exam is designed for some of the students may have an undue advantage. So, there are two types of IELTS based on the intent of the test-taker.

Before we go further, we must explore the two types of IELTS.

Which IELTS Should I take?

  1.   IELTS Academic
  2.   IELTS General Training

If you are applying for a student visa, take IELTS Academic.

On IELTS Academic, you will face four sections Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. All students who wish to study abroad apply for this test. You could be applying for Bachelors, Masters or even PhD taught in English.

The test helps the university to determine whether you can survive in an English speaking environment or not. As a result, you may read passages from textbooks in IELTS Reading section or hear academic discussions in the Listening section. Also, the essay topics on the test could be more education or school-related.

So if you are applying for any course taught in English medium in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Australia or any other country you must clear IELTS Academic.

If you are applying for a work permit or permanent residency, take IELTS General Training.

Similarly, you face the same four sections on IELTS General Training.

A student’s performance on IELTS General Training helps companies and organisations to understand whether the test-taker can thrive in English speaking office or not. So, you may read a simple set of instructions like professionals do on IELTS Reading in General Training. Also, the conversations in Listening would be more related to workplace situations.

Thus, if you are applying for any work permit or permanent residency in Canada or Australia or any other English speaking country, you must clear IELTS General Training.

Comparison between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training

The following table will help you to understand the similarities and differences between the two tests in brief.







Listening Academic

4 parts

4 conversations or lectures

Mostly related to lectures or conversations with students

40 Questions

30 minutes*

Listening General Training

Mostly conversations on monologues in daily life or offices

Reading Academic

3 parts

3 passages: 1 passage in each part


Academic passages from textbooks

40 Questions

60 minutes

Reading General Training

5 passages: 2 short passages each in first 2 parts; 1 long passages in the last one


First passages from pamphlets or advertisements

Long passage from a long article

Writing Academic

2 tasks

Task 1: Report Writing

Task 2: Essay writing

Write a report on the given chart or diagram.

2 tasks

60 minutes

Writing General Training

Task 1: Letter Writing

Task 2: Essay writing

Write a letter about situation we face in domestic or office life

Speaking Academic and General Training

3 Parts

One on one interview

Relevant questions are asked.

16 to 18 Questions

11 – 14 minutes’ interview

As can be seen from the table, the only difference between Reading and Writing.

IELTS Reading: Difference between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training

The first difference is obviously in the subject matters of the reading passages. While IELTS Academic will have reading texts related to academia, IELTS General Training will have drafts from the workplaces or newspapers or even public notices.

Secondly, on IELTS General Training, the Reading section has two passages each in the first two parts. The length of these passages will usually be half of otherwise expected on IELTS Academic. So, the total number of words a student needs to read in both types of IELTS is same.

IELTS Reading Lessons

Study the types of questions on IELTS Reading section.

IELTS Writing: Difference between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training

In the IELTS Writing section, task 1 on IELTS Academic is Report Writing, whereas in the case of General Training task 1 is Letter Writing. Both of these tasks should be completed in 20 minutes.

IELTS Writing Task 1 (Academic)

Read the lessons related to the report writing.

IELTS Writing Task 1 (General Training)

Read the lessons related to the letter writing.

However, the second task on both the types of IELTS is essay writing.

IELTS Writing Task 2 lessons

Read lessons on Essay writing on IELTS.

Are there any exceptions?

Surprisingly yes. There are some exceptions teachers and doctors may have to apply for IELTS Academic when it comes to work visas in Australia. However, please consult experts before taking any decisions.


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