IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is a standardized English proficiency test that is recognized all around the world.  Unlike the TOEFL test which originated from the USA however, IELTS was a collaboration between The University of Cambridge ESOL (UK), the British Council (UK), and the International Development Program - IDP (Australia).

The IELTS test measures how well non-native speakers can use and understand English (BritishEnglish)for further study or general purposes such as vocational purposes and immigration. Therefore, there are two types of IELTS tests, the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General TrainingBoth types of tests are divided into 4 sections:

    - Listening

    - Reading

    - Writing

    - Speaking

In the IELTS Academic test, the Reading and Writing sections are slightly more difficult in comparison to those in the IELTS General Training test. However, the Listening and Speaking sections are the same in both tests.

So let's take a closer look at what the IELTS test is like.

IELTS Test Sections







Section 1: Listening


*Parts 1 & 2 are in a social context

*Parts 3 & 4 are in an academic context



Part 1:

A conversation between 2 speakers on an everyday topic

10 Questions

Total Time: 40 Minutes

(For 40 Questions)

Band: 0 –9

Part 2:

An informative monologue

10 Questions

Part 3:

A discussion on an academic topic

10 Questions

Part 4:

An academic lecture or presentation

10 Questions


Section 2: Reading

Passage 1

13 Questions


Total Time: 60 Minutes

(For 40 Questions)



Band: 0 –9

Passage 2

13 Questions

Passage 3

14 Questions

Section 3: Writing

Part 1:

Analytical Writing (analyzing graph, chart, table or diagram)

150 words minimum

20 minutes

Band: 0 –9

Part 2: Argumentative Writing (discuss idea or opinion)

250 words minimum

40 minutes

Band: 0 –9

Section 4: Speaking

Part 1:

A short introductory conversation, briefly discussing personal information, experiences & hobbies


2-5 Minutes

Band: 0 - 9

Part 2:

Prepare and present a response to an assigned topic/subject with 1 or 2 follow-up questions.


1 Minute to prepare

2 Minutes to present

Part 3:

Further discussion based on your responses from the previous parts


2-5 Minutes


Useful links:


Score Acceptance

Most Universities accept IELTS scores of at least an average score of 6. However, many prestigious universities and some higher education programs will require a minimum average score of 6.5 or 7. A minimum score, however, does not guarantee acceptance into the university or program of choice.


Key note/question: Should I take IELTS or TOEFL?

Nowadays most universities around the world are beginning to accept IELTS test scores as well as TOEFL test scores, both tests being rather interchangeable. That being said, many people start to contemplate whether they should take the IELTS test instead of the TOEFL because they have an assumption that the IELTS test is easier.

In our opinion, we think that there are different challenges in different sections of both tests. Many people find the Listening and Reading sections more challenging in the IELTS test in comparison to the TOEFL test. This is because the Listening and Reading sections in the IELTS comprise of different types of tasks (ie. Multiple choice, completion, labelling, true/false/not given, matching, etc). In the TOEFL however, the Listening and Reading sections only comprise of multiple choice questions.

On the other hand, there are people who find the Speaking and Writing sections in the TOEFL test more challenging in comparison to the IELTS test. This is because the Speaking and Writing sections in the TOEFL test demands ‘integrated’skills (eg. Having to listen to a monologue prior to providing an opinionated response.) Furthermore, in the TOEFL Speaking section, test takers are required to speak into a recording headset/microphone instead of a live-examiner like that of the IELTS test. Preference may vary from individual to individual, whilst some may prefer a face-to-face conversation with an examiner, others may find it more comfortable to speak into a microphone.


Useful Links:

IELTS Schedule and Registration at IDP

IELTS Schedule and Registration at British Council



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