Comprehensive Look at IELTS Exam Structure | Academically

Inside the IELTS Exam: A Comprehensive Look at IELTS Exam Structure

Jul 03, 2024 4 min read
IELTS Exam Structure

Key Takeaways:

  • Understand the four key sections of the IELTS exam Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking and the allotted time for each section to manage your time during the test effectively.
  • Gain insights into the IELTS scoring system, the band scale from 0 to 9, and how your overall band score is calculated based on your performance in each section.
  • Adopt a strategic approach to the IELTS exam, focusing on your strengths, identifying areas for improvement, and setting realistic target band scores.

Picture this: you stand at the crossroads of global opportunities, with aspirations of studying abroad, forging a career in an English-speaking land, or embarking on an exciting journey as a skilled immigrant. But how?

Fear not, for the IELTS exam structure is your trusty ship, navigating you towards language excellence and opening doors to boundless horizons.

IELTS Exam Preparation Course

Welcome to the gateway of global opportunities the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam! 

As you set foot on this language expedition, understanding the intricate IELTS exam structure is essential to navigate the journey successfully. 

In this comprehensive guide, we take you on a thrilling exploration of the IELTS exam's ins and outs, revealing its sections, scoring system, and invaluable tips to help you conquer this language challenge with confidence.

IELTS Test Format

IELTS is available in two formats: Paper-based and Computer-based. The test format may vary depending on the test centre and location. 

In the computer-based format, the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections are taken on a computer, while the Speaking section remains face-to-face with an examiner.

IELTS Test Duration

The total test time for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training is 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

The section-wise breakdown is as follows:

Listening: 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes of transfer time)

Reading: 60 minutes

Writing: 60 minutes

Speaking: 11-14 minutes (usually scheduled on a separate day)

IELTS Test Sections

The IELTS exam is of four parts, each section designed to assess specific language skills. Let's explore the details according to the IELTS Academics and IELTS General.

IELTS Academic: Paving the Way to Educational Excellence

IELTS Academic is a gateway to esteemed universities and educational institutions worldwide, designed for those seeking to undertake higher education or professional registration in an English-speaking academic environment. 

This exam version evaluates your ability to comprehend complex academic texts, engage in academic discussions, and present coherent arguments in writing.

Section 1: Listening Sharpening Your Academic Ears

In the listening section, test-takers encounter university-style lectures and academic conversations, honing their ability to comprehend and retain information. Engaging with various accents and topics, candidates are evaluated on their ability to extract essential details and grasp the main ideas.

Section 2: Reading Unraveling Academic Texts

The reading section challenges test-takers with three academic passages, each accompanied by a series of questions. Candidates must demonstrate their ability to scan for specific details, identify main ideas, and comprehend complex arguments presented in the passages.

Section 3: Writing Articulating Academic Excellence

In the writing section, candidates are tasked with two academic writing assignments. Task 1 requires test-takers to interpret visual data, such as graphs or charts, while Task 2 prompts them to construct a well-structured essay expressing an argument or discussing a specific topic.

Section 4: Speaking Articulating Your Academic Journey

During the face-to-face speaking test, candidates engage in a structured interview with an examiner. The conversation revolves around familiar topics and academic subjects, assessing the ability to convey ideas clearly and fluently.

IELTS General Training: Your Key to Work and Migration Opportunities

For those aspiring to migrate to English-speaking countries, undertake work-related training, or seek employment in such environments, IELTS General Training provides the perfect pathway. This exam version evaluates your practical language skills in everyday social and workplace contexts.

Section 1: Listening Navigating Everyday Conversations

The listening section in IELTS General Training includes a mix of everyday conversations and social situations. Test-takers must demonstrate their ability to follow directions, understand opinions, and extract relevant information from the recordings.

Section 2: Reading Comprehending Daily Texts

The reading section features a variety of texts, such as advertisements, job descriptions, and newspaper articles. Candidates must answer questions based on the given texts, showcasing their ability to understand practical information.

Section 3: Writing Conveying Everyday Messages

In the writing section, Task 1 requires candidates to write a letter responding to a given situation or request, such as applying for a job or seeking accommodation. Task 2 involves writing an essay on a general topic, expressing opinions or providing arguments.

Section 4: Speaking Communicating in Social and Workplace Settings

During the speaking test, candidates engage in a face-to-face conversation with an examiner, discussing everyday topics and situations. The test evaluates their ability to express ideas clearly, engage in discussions, and communicate effectively in social and workplace contexts.

IELTS Test Scoring

The IELTS exam employs a band scale that ranges from 0 to 9. Each band score corresponds to a level of English language proficiency, measuring your ability to understand and use the language across the four test sections.

Each band score represents a specific level of English proficiency. Let's explore what each band score signifies:

Band 9: Expert User You have full command of the language, understanding and using English with complete accuracy and fluency.

Band 8: Very Good User You have a strong command of English, using it accurately and confidently in most situations.

Band 7: Good User You are a competent English speaker, with occasional inaccuracies and misunderstandings in unfamiliar situations.

Band 6: Competent User You can handle communication in your own field of interest but may face difficulties in complex language contexts.

Band 5: Modest User You can convey basic information and understand general communication but struggle with detailed language usage.

Band 4: Limited User You possess basic competence and are able to communicate in familiar situations, but with frequent errors and misunderstandings.

Band 3: Extremely Limited User You can convey and understand only general meanings in very familiar situations.

Band 2: Intermittent User You have great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.

Band 1: Non-User You have no ability to use the language, even for the most basic communication.

Band 0: Did not Attempt You did not take the test or left it completely blank.

The higher the band score, the more proficient you are in English.

Calculating the Overall Band Score

To determine your overall band score, the scores from each section are averaged. The average is rounded to the nearest half or whole band.


The IELTS exam is not just an assessment of language skills; it is an opportunity to open doors to global opportunities, embark on new journeys, and forge connections across cultures. With dedication, determination, and a deep understanding of the IELTS exam structure, you are poised to reach new heights in language proficiency and accomplish your aspirations.

As you continue your IELTS expedition, embrace the challenge, embrace the language, and embrace the world of possibilities that await you. Let your IELTS journey be a transformative experience, shaping your language abilities and propelling you towards a future filled with boundless opportunities.

So, prepare diligently, practice relentlessly, and let your passion for the English language be the guiding light that leads you to success in the IELTS exam. May your language adventure be an enriching and fulfilling experience, opening doors to a world of endless possibilities!

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Dr. Akram Ahmad
Dr. Akram Ahmad
about the author

Dr. Akram Ahmad is a clinical pharmacist and lecturer with over 10 years of teaching and research experience across various subjects of medicine in India, Malaysia and Australia. He is an educationist and a medpreneur with extensive knowledge of the global healthcare diaspora. Through his articles, videos and engaging sessions, he always aims to impart unexplored knowledge about the healthcare world to interested students and professionals.