Overview of the IELTS Test

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

Overview of the IELTS Test

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

A variety of question types are used:

  • 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:

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 timeLengthWhat you need to do
About 20 minutesAt least 150 wordsDescribe and summarise visual information in the form of a graph, table, chart or diagram

Assessment criteria:

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

Here’s an overview of Task 2:

Writing timeLengthWhat you need to do
About 40 minutesAt least 250 wordsWrite an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem

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:

PartTimingWhat you need to do
14–5 minutesAnswer questions about familiar topics such as home, family and work
23–4 minutesSpeak for 1–2 minutes in response to a task card (following 1 minute of preparation time)
34–5 minutesAnswer more detailed and abstract questions about the topic from Part 2

Assessment criteria:

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

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