Can you explain the IELTS Exam Syllabus and Pattern?

Are you planning to study abroad? Well, then, IELTS is the perfect gateway to your preferred foreign study destination. IELTS, or the International English Language Testing System, is one of the most popular competitive standardized assessments that test an applicant’s English proficiency & acumen holistically. At par with the GRE, TOEFL, and PTE exams, the IELTS examination is a globally recognized examination accepted by the biggest universities across the globe. It isn’t easy to ace the exam, though, as every aspect (reading, writing, speaking, listening) of your English skills is tested, and the competition is intense.

If acing IELTS is your next big target, then hard work and proper planning are necessary. At the same time, complete familiarity with all the minuet nuances of the examination can boost your chances of success immensely. In this article,, India’s leading foreign education consultants, offer a precise overview of the IELTS exam syllabus and pattern. Please go through it to learn all the nitty-gritty of the examination and level up your preparation.


The Different Variants of IELTS

There are several different types of IELTS assessments, each tailored for different purposes and individual objectives. The most prominent variants are à

The IELTS Academic

Designed primarily for foreign individuals looking to study in an English-speaking country, this is the most popular variation of the examination worldwide. It tests an applicant’s possible English language abilities, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The test questions put particular emphasis on academic tasks and subjects.

The IELTS General Training

The general training is for individuals looking to immigrate and/or work in an English-speaking country or undertake non-academic training programs. Amongst others, this variant tests every aspirant’s listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills.


Designed specifically for those looking to get a UK VISA for education purposes, this variant checks the language requirements necessary for every VISA applicant. The UK Visas and Immigration Department accept scores as proof of English language proficiency.

IELTS Life Skills

Like IELTS UKVI, the Life Skills variant is a UK Government-approved Secure English Language Test designed to test one’s English acumen at Levels A1, A2 or B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Go for this particular test if you want to acquire a family visa, for an extension of a family/spouse visa, or seek citizenship in the United Kingdom.

Did you know that, besides exceptional IELTS scores, almost all foreign universities also look for various admission-related documents? You may need to submit college application essays, statements of purpose, letters of recommendation, competency demonstration reports, etc. If you need some help crafting them, connect with, the best SOP writing services in India.

Now, it’s time we looked at the IELTS exam pattern and syllabus.

The IELTS Syllabus & Exam Pattern

The pattern of all the different variants of IELTS is the same. In this section, we will look at the exam pattern and syllabi for both the IELTS Academic and General Training examinations.

Let’s dive in.

The Listening Section

The duration of this section is 30 minutes.

  • The test will present four recorded texts in the form of conversations and monologues by native English speakers.
  • Listen to all four recordings minutely. You will then have to answer several questions. The number of questions may vary, but you must answer approximately 40 questions in both the Academic and General Training variants.
  • The questions are designed to assess your listening and comprehension abilities. You must showcase an exceptional grasp of the main ideas, key information, perspectives, attitudes, intonations, etc., as expressed by the speaker.
  • Your ability to understand spoken words’ subject and purpose and ideas’ arrangement and progress.
  • Each recording will only be played once. So, you will need to understand the different voices and accents in the recordings quickly.
  • Listening sections are the same for both the exam’s Academic and General Training versions.
  • Expect monologues and conversations in social and educational contexts. You might listen to a tutor or lecturer discussing an assignment with a student.

The Reading Section

The duration of this section is 60 minutes.

  • You will need to answer 40 questions within the time limit.
  • Expect a diverse range of questions that assess your comprehension skills.
  • Questions will enquire about the general idea, the main arguments, the logic, the facts, and the conceptual details of the section you read.
  • You must present your understanding of the writer’s purpose, perspective, and attitudes.
  • Every question is different and will require you to engage in different manners of reading, from careful & minute reading to skimming.

Some differences exist between the reading sections of the IELTS Academic & IELTS General Training examinations.

  • For the academic variant, you will find three long-form texts incorporating various writing styles. Expect anything, from descriptive to discursive and from factual to analytical. The text and the questions are designed to evaluate the language and cognitive understanding of those seeking undergraduate or postgraduate admissions.
  • In the case of general training, you will have to read newspaper & magazine articles, books, advertisements, notices, handbooks, guidelines, etc. There will be three distinct sections and 40 questions in total.

The Writing Section

The duration of this section, too, is 60 minutes. And, there are certain differences in the question types between the academic and general training sections.

IELTS Academic à  In this case, you will encounter two tasks. The topics of both tasks are academically relevant for aspiring graduates or those seeking any professional registration.

  • Task 1 will ask you to describe, summarize, and explain the information from visual data representation. It might be a chart, graph, table, or diagram.

You will need to provide clear-cut descriptions and explanations, including clear depictions of the processes defined in the visual representations. You may also need to describe how something or some process works.

You can write the answer for Task 1 in essay format. The word count is 150 words.

  • Task 2 involves writing response or reaction essays to answer a particular point of view, logic, argument, or problem statement. 

The word count of the essay will be around 250 words.

Keep in mind that all your answers must be entirely formal in tone. Test your abilities and performance by solving the sample test questions here.

IELTS General Training à  

Here, you must contend with two tasks. The topics for this variant are much more generic, designed particularly to assess one’s communicative abilities in real-life contexts.

  • Task 1 will present you with a situation and then ask you to write a letter requesting more information & clearer explanations regarding the situation. The tone and style of the letter can be formal, semi-formal, or informal/personal.

The word count for your letter is 150 words.

  • Task 2 will have you write an essay responding to an opinion, problem, or argument. The tone and style of the essay can be more personal than that of its academic counterpart.

The essay will be around 250 words long.

The Speaking Section

The time limit for completing this section is between 11 and 14 minutes.

  • This section evaluates your spoken English abilities. Everything you say will be recorded for assessment.
  • Like the listening section, the speaking section is identical for academic and general training variants.
  • There will be three parts in total.
  • Part 1 will have you answering several general questions about yourself. Expect questions on topics such as family, education, likes, hobbies, & interests, etc. The duration of this part will be around four to five minutes.
    • Part 2 will have you reading from a card that will ask you to talk about or discuss a particular topic. You will be given one minute to prepare, after which you will have to speak on the topic for two minutes.

The assessor will then ask you a question or two on the topic.

  • Part 3 involves more questions asked on the topic given in Part 2. These questions dig deeper into the topic, dwelling on abstract ideas, issues, and the like.

An Expert Tip:

Without an expansive and sophisticated vocabulary, it will be extremely difficult to score in the higher percentiles in IELTS. Look up words in dictionaries and thesaurus.  Try to develop a habit of learning new words on daily basis. Read different kinds of content from various sources and practice writing. Watch documentaries, the news, movies, and OTT series & try to grasp the different kinds of accents in UK and US English.

Here are three awesome vocabulary-building apps that can be of great help à

  • Powervocab
  • Magoosh

Well, that’s about it for the IELTS exam pattern and syllabus. Hope this article acts as a handy guide for one & all. Cracking IELTS in one go is no easy feat. Prepare well, work hard, and, if need be, get some expert help from, India’s largest foreign education consultant.

All the best!

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