Overview of the IELTS Test

Start your IELTS preparation here with an overview of each part of the test: listening, reading, writing and speaking.

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Table of contents

Listening

Here are some key points about listening in the IELTS test:

  • There are 4 parts with a total of 40 questions.
  • Each part has 10 questions.
  • The listening section takes approximately 30 minutes in total.
  • You hear each listening passage once only.
  • Each question is worth 1 mark.

Here’s an overview of the 4 parts.

Part
1 a conversation between two speakers in an everyday social context (e.g. asking for information about a gym membership)
2 a monologue in an everyday social context (e.g. speech about school facilities)
3 a conversation between up to four speakers in an academic context (e.g. a student asking a tutor about an assignment)
4 a monologue in an academic context (e.g. a university lecture)

A variety of question types are used.

Listening question types
Multiple choice
Matching
Plan labelling
Map labelling
Diagram labelling
Form completion
Note completion
Table completion
Flow-chart completion
Summary completion
Sentence completion
Short-answer questions

Reading

Here are some key points about reading in the IELTS test:

  • There are 3 reading passages with a total of 40 questions.
  • Each passage has 12–14 questions.
  • The passages gradually become more difficult. That is, READING PASSAGE 1 is the easiest and READING PASSAGE 3 is the most difficult.
  • The reading section takes 60 minutes in total.
  • Each question is worth one mark.
  • The passages are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. They’re authentic and academic but written for a non-specialist audience.
  • The style of the passages may be narrative, descriptive or argumentative. At least one of the passages will contain detailed logical argument.
  • If a passage contains technical terms that need to be understood in order to answer a question, a simple glossary is provided.

A variety of question types are used.

Reading question types
Multiple choice
Identifying information (True / False / Not Given)
Identifying writer’s views/claims (Yes / No / Not Given)
Matching information
Matching headings
Matching features
Matching sentence endings
Sentence completion
Summary completion
Note completion
Table completion
Flow-chart completion
Diagram label completion
Short-answer questions

Writing

Here are some key points about writing in the IELTS test:

  • There are 2 tasks.
  • Certified human raters score your responses.
  • You have 60 minutes to complete the writing tasks.

Here’s an overview of Task 1.

Writing time Length What you need to do
About 20 minutes At least 150 words Describe and summarise visual information in the form of a bar chart, diagram, line graph, map, pie chart or table

Assessment criteria:

  • Task achievement
  • Coherence and cohesion
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy

Here’s an overview of Task 2.

Writing time Length What you need to do
About 40 minutes At least 250 words Write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Discussion, opinion, advantages–disadvantages and two-part essay questions are all common.

Assessment criteria:

  • Task response
  • Coherence and cohesion
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy

Speaking

Here are some key points about speaking in the IELTS test:

  • It’s conducted face-to-face with a human examiner.
  • There are 3 parts.
  • The speaking test takes 11–14 minutes in total.
  • It’s recorded.

Here’s an overview of the various parts.

Part Timing What you need to do
1 4–5 minutes Answer questions about familiar topics such as home, family and work
2 3–4 minutes Speak for 1–2 minutes in response to a task card (following 1 minute of preparation time)
3 4–5 minutes Answer more detailed and abstract questions about the topic from Part 2

Assessment criteria:

  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation