You’ve probably heard of IELTS. It’s the world’s leading test for study, work and migration after all. And as the world begins to travel again, applications for foreign universities and visas are on the rise.

But did you know there are two types of IELTS test? That’s right – the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

Lots of people who take IELTS often aren’t 100% sure which exam they need to sit. That’s why we’re here. We’ll explain the difference between IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic and help you decide which one is right for you!


What is IELTS?

If you’d like to migrate to an English speaking country, or study at an English speaking university, you’ll have to take an accredited exam like IELTS to show your English language proficiency.

Your English will be assessed in the test, and graded on a scale from 1 to 9. You can then show this band score to future employers, schools and immmigration bodies.


Which IELTS test is right for me?

Whether you choose IELTS Academic or General Training depends on your reasons for taking it and where you want to live or study:

IELTS General Training

The IELTS General exam tests your use of everyday English. It is suitable for secondary education, migration or work experience.

  • Secondary education includes anything below degree level such as school or college.
  • Migration includes destination countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada or New Zealand.

As this is preparation for normal life in an English speaking country, expect to see every-day topics related to work and society pop up in the exam.

IELTS Academic

IELTS Academic on the other hand, is ideal if you want to study for higher education, or look for professional registration.

  • Higher education includes undergraduate and postgraduate study at university.
  • Professional registration allows you to work in fields such as nursing, medicine, accounting, law, engineering etc. in your chosen country.

As this is an academic exam, expect to see topics suitable for work and study in the test.

Please note, different countries have their own requirements for both the test type and band score you need. Your organisation may also have its own requirements. So, make sure you check out your destination country’s relevant government or institution website before booking your test.


Are there any differences in test format?

So, you’ve chosen your IELTS test. Now what?

The next step is to get to know the test format for your chosen exam. Luckily, the IELTS tests follow the same format. That means they both have four sections: Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking.

Diferencias entre IELTS General y Academic_Test Format_Oxford House

As you can see, the Speaking and Listening tasks for IELTS General and Academic are exactly the same, but there are some differences between the Reading and Writing sections.

Let’s take a closer look!

IELTS Reading

Both the IELTS General and IELTS Academic tests feature three texts and 40 questions which must be completed within 60 minutes.

The task types for IELTS General and Academic sections are always the same e.g. multiple choice, fill in the gaps, true or false etc. However, labelling a diagram is slightly more common in the Academic test.

There are some other differences between the texts in length, theme and sources, as outlined below:

Diferencias entre IELTS General y Academic_Reading Task_Oxford House

*Although the IELTS Academic texts include themes such as neuroscience, aviation, or air pollution, it’s important to remember they are testing you only on your English skills. You don’t need specialist knowledge of the subjects.

IELTS Writing

The IELTS General and IELTS Academic have two written tasks, to be completed in 60 minutes.

The main difference between the two tests is in Writing Task 1:

Diferencias entre IELTS General y Academic_Writing Task_Oxford House

Both IELTS General and Academic have an essay question for Writing Task 2, which must be written in at least 250 words.

The essay question format is exactly the same for both exams. For example, you will be asked ‘to what extent you agree…’ on a subject. However, the Academic question might be slightly more specific, to get you to focus your answer in a more academic way.


Are there any differences in scoring?

The scoring is the same for both the IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic Writing sections. You are marked on how well you answer the question, how well you organise your ideas, as well as your vocabulary and grammar.

However, tone is more important in the IELTS General Training. You have to think carefully about who you are writing your letter to and why, and choose the right level of formality.

Academic Reading texts sometimes have more difficult vocabulary or are more complex in style than IELTS General. As a result, you may have to answer more questions correctly on a General Training Reading test to get a particular band score.


Still unsure…?

Although students find it more challenging, we often find IELTS Academic is more in demand. Why? Because it gives you greater opportunities for work and study.

That’s why we offer an 8 week intensive course, to help you prepare for all parts of the IELTS Academic exam. And remember, this course can still help you prepare for General if that’s the route you want to take. Sign up now!

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

on the rise (exp): becoming greater or more numerous; increasing.

sit (v): take an examination.

body (n): an organised group of people.

pop up (pv): appear or occur suddenly.

get to know (exp): become familiar with (something/somebody).

slightly (adv): to a small degree; not considerably.

outline (v): give a summary of something.


n = noun

pv = phrasal verb

v = verb

exp = expression

adv = adverb

Pass your IELTS Exam with Oxford House Barcelona

Interested in taking an IELTS preparation course at Oxford House Barcelona? Check the IELTS Intensive course we can offer you.


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