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Home » IELTS Exam Pattern: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

IELTS Exam Pattern: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

IELTS Exam Pattern

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the IELTS exam pattern? Well, fret no more! We all know how important it is to know the exam pattern to ace the exam. Whether you’re a first-time test-taker or looking to improve your score, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and strategies to conquer the IELTS exam confidently.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a globally recognized examination. The IELTS exam is divided into four main sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Each section is carefully designed to assess your English language skills in different contexts. Whether you’re taking the IELTS for academic or general purposes, the exam pattern remains the same, ensuring fairness and consistency for all test-takers worldwide.

Understanding the exam pattern is vital to maximize your performance and attain the score you desire. By familiarizing yourself with the structure and expectations of each section, you can develop targeted study strategies to enhance your performance. So, let’s dive into each component in detail and explore valuable techniques to help you excel in the IELTS exam.

Overview of the IELTS exam pattern

The IELTS exam pattern consists of four main sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Each section is designed to assess different language skills and abilities. Let’s take a closer look at each component of the IELTS exam:

Listening30 mins4 sections, 40 items
Reading60 mins3 sections, 40 items
Writing60 mins2 tasks
Speaking11-14 mins3 parts, one-on-one conversations

The total exam duration is 2 hours 45 mins.

  1. The Listening section lasts for about 30 minutes and consists of four recorded audio passages. Test-takers listen to the recordings and answer a series of questions based on the information they hear.
  2. The Reading section lasts for 60 minutes and includes three texts taken from books, newspapers, magazines, or online sources. Test-takers must read the passages and answer a variety of comprehension questions.
  3. The Writing section lasts for 60 minutes and consists of two tasks. In Task 1, test-takers are required to describe, summarize, or explain visual information such as graphs, charts, or diagrams. In Task 2, they must write an essay on a given topic, expressing their opinions, or presenting arguments.
  4. The Speaking section is a face-to-face interview with an examiner and lasts for about 11-14 minutes. It is divided into three parts and assesses the test-taker’s ability to communicate effectively, express ideas clearly, and engage in discussions on various topics.

Note: The Listening, Reading, and Writing sections are completed on the same day, while the Speaking section may be conducted on a different day or within a seven-day window.

Significance of understanding the IELTS exam pattern

Understanding the IELTS exam pattern holds significant importance for test-takers. Here are a few reasons why:

Firstly, it enables effective preparation by allowing them to tailor their study plan to specific areas of improvement. Knowing the format of each section helps develop targeted strategies and efficient time allocation during practice.

Secondly, familiarity with the pattern aids in managing time effectively during the exam, preventing rushing or getting stuck on difficult questions.

Thirdly, it reduces anxiety by providing a clear understanding of what to expect on the test day, boosting confidence and overall performance.

Fourthly, being familiar with the exam pattern enhances test familiarity, reducing surprises or confusion during the examination.

Finally, understanding the pattern contributes to improved performance as it allows test-takers to maximize strengths, address weaknesses, and perform at their best in each section.

Salient Features of the IELTS Exam Pattern

There are two distinct patterns for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS): Academic and General Training. The IELTS Academic format is designed for individuals who wish to pursue higher education or seek professional registration in an English-speaking environment. It assesses their readiness to commence studying or training by incorporating elements of academic language.

On the other hand, the IELTS General Training format is intended for individuals who are planning to migrate to English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the UK. It is also suitable for those applying for secondary education, training programs, or work experience in an English-speaking setting. This test format focuses on essential survival skills necessary in diverse social and workplace contexts.

Important Aspects and Order of Sections

In this section, we will discuss the important aspects and order of sections for a closer understanding of the IELTS exam pattern.

Important aspects:

  1. Listening and Speaking sections are the same for both formats, but the subject matter of the Reading and Writing sections differs depending on which test you take.
  2. The Listening, Reading, and Writing sections of all IELTS tests are to be completed on the same day, with no breaks in between them.
  3. The Speaking section can be completed up to a week (7 days) before or after the other sections, as advised by your testing center. The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes.
  4. After you finish the Listening portion, you will choose whether to go for Academic Reading & Writing or General Training Reading & Writing.
  5. The speaking section may or may not already have been attempted earlier.
IELTS Exam Pattern Papers

So, the order of your IELTS papers will be like this:

Listening (30 minutes) – >Academic Reading or General Training Reading (60 minutes) – >Academic Writing or General Training Writing (60 minutes) – > Speaking (11-14 minutes, if you have it not attempted earlier)

This means, there are 2 paths you can take while appearing for IELTS exams:

  1. Listening (common) ->Reading (General Training) ->Writing (General Training) ->Speaking (common)
  2. Listening (common) ->Reading (Academic) ->Writing (Academic) ->Speaking (common)

We will now discuss the papers at length and every task that is involved in each paper. We will take the papers in this order:

  • Listening
  • Academic Reading
  • General Training Reading
  • Academic Writing
  • General Training Writing
  • Speaking

Remember, after completing your Listening paper you will appear for only one Reading &one Writing paper. Either in the Academic format or the General Training format.

IELTS Exam Pattern – Listening section

Both the IELTS General Exam Pattern and IELTS Academic consist of a common section where you will listen to four types of recordings featuring native English speakers. Afterward, you will need to answer a series of questions based on what you heard. The recordings cover the following scenarios:

  1. A conversation between two individuals in a casual social setting.
  2. A monologue in an everyday social context, such as a speech about local facilities.
  3. A conversation involving up to four individuals in an educational or training context, for example, a discussion between a university tutor and a student about an assignment.
  4. A monologue focused on an academic subject, like a university lecture.

During the assessment, examiners will evaluate your ability to comprehend the main ideas, understand the speakers’ opinions and attitudes, identify the purpose of the speech, and determine if you can follow the development of ideas. It’s important to note that the recordings will feature a variety of accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand, American, and Canadian.

IELTS Exam Pattern – Reading section

The IELTS Reading section assesses a candidate’s reading skills and ability to understand written texts. It is slightly different for the General Training and Academic modules, with variations in the types of passages, question formats, and question types. Here is an overview of the reading section for both modules:

Academic Reading

This includes 3 long texts. They may be descriptive, factual, or analytical and are taken from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers.  They are appropriate for people entering university courses or seeking professional registration.

General Training Reading

The General Training Reading paper of the IELTS pattern includes extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks, and guidelines. These are materials you are likely to encounter daily in an English-speaking environment.

There are 3 sections.

  1. Section 1 may contain two or three short texts or several shorter texts.
  2. Section 2 comprises two texts.
  3. In Section 3, there is one long text.

Types of Questions in Academic & General Reading:

Question TypeDescription
Type 1 – Multiple ChoiceChoose the best answer from the given alternatives
Type 2 – Identifying InformationDetermine if statements agree with the information in the text by writing ‘true’, ‘false’, or ‘not given’
Type 3 – Identifying Writer’s ViewsAssess if statements agree with the views/claims of the writer by writing ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘not given’
Type 4 – Matching InformationLocate specific information in the paragraphs/sections of a text and write the corresponding letters
Type 5 – Matching HeadingsMatch headings to paragraphs or sections of the text
Type 6 – Matching FeaturesMatch statements or information to a list of options using letters
Type 7 – Matching Sentence EndingsComplete sentence endings by selecting the most suitable option from a list
Type 8 – Sentence CompletionComplete sentences using words/numbers from the text, following instructions on word/number limits
Type 9 – Summary, Note, Table, Flow-Chart CompletionComplete a summary, note, table, or flow-chart by extracting information from the text
Type 10 – Diagram Label CompletionComplete labels on a diagram based on information provided in the text
Type 11 – Short-Answer QuestionsAnswer questions that require factual information from the text

IELTS Writing Section Pattern – Academic Writing

Here is an overview of the IELTS Writing section pattern for the Academic & General IELTS exam:

Topics are of general interest to, and suitable for, aspirants wishing to enter undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration. There are 2 tasks, and BOTH must be completed.

Task 2 contributes twice as much to the final Writing band score as Task 1. Therefore, if you fail to attempt to answer Task 2, you will greatly reduce your chance of achieving a good band altogether.

Below is an overview of both the tasks:

Task 1Task 2
You will be given a visual representation such as a graph, table, chart, or diagram and asked to provide your description, summary, or explanation of the information presented.You have been assigned a subject to compose a piece on, adopting an academic or semi-formal/neutral tone.
You may be required to describe factual data or statistics displayed in one or more graphs, charts, or tables related to a specific topic. Alternatively, you might be given a diagram illustrating the functioning of a machine, device, or process and asked to explain.Thoroughly understanding the task is imperative to ensure that your response is comprehensive and relevant.
Your writing should adopt an academic or semi-formal/neutral style and encompass the key and most relevant points depicted in the diagram. Some minor details may be omitted.In the case of a specific aspect of computers being the topic, it is important to concentrate solely on that aspect, refraining from writing about computers in a general sense.
The time allocated for this task should not exceed 20 minutes.The allocated time for this task should not exceed 40 minutes.
Your response should consist of a minimum of 150 words; failure to meet this requirement may result in a penalty.Your response should consist of a minimum of 250 words to avoid penalties for brevity.
There is no penalty for exceeding the 150-word limit.There will be no negative consequences for exceeding the word count of 250 words.

IELTS Writing Section Pattern – General Writing

Topics are of general interest. The situations you are asked to write about are common, everyday ones.

Task 1Task 2
You are given a scenario where you need to compose a personal response in the form of an informal, semi-formal, or formal letter. The letter should consist of at least 150 words.Write a discursive essay in a semi-formal/neutral style consisting of a minimum of 250 words.
Examples of such scenarios include writing a letter to a local newspaper to express your opinion on a proposed local airport development, addressing time management issues with a new employer, contacting a college accommodation officer to discuss problems with your living arrangements, or reaching out to a renting agency regarding heating system issues in your rented house.Select topics of general interest, such as the decline of family closeness and potential ways to strengthen it, the educational value of children’s leisure activities, responsibility for the care of elderly individuals, solutions for environmental problems, and the debate on banning smoking in public places.
The choice of writing style depends on the intended recipient (the audience) and the level of familiarity you have with them.Allocate a maximum of 40 minutes for this task.
It is important to use a writing style that is appropriate for the audience you are addressing.Your response must exceed 250 words to avoid penalties for being too short.
The time allocated for this task should not exceed 20 minutes.No penalties will be imposed for exceeding the 250-word requirement.
You must write a response of at least 150 words to avoid penalties for being too short.Task 2 holds twice the weightage of Task 1 in the final Writing band score, so neglecting Task 2 will significantly diminish your chances of achieving a good overall band score.
You will not be penalized for writing a response that exceeds 150 words.
Irrelevance, such as straying off-topic or failing to present a coherent and connected response (e.g., using bullet points or note form), will result in penalties.

IELTS Exam Pattern Papers – Speaking

This section is common to both IELTS General Exam Pattern and IELTS Academic.

This section assesses your use of spoken English. Every test is recorded. This is a kind of oral interview between you and your examiner.

This module contains 3 parts.

Part 1 – Introduction & Interview

In this section, the examiner will first introduce themselves and verify your identity. Then, they will proceed to ask you a series of general questions on familiar topics, including home, family, work, studies, and interests. This part of the interview typically lasts for about 4-5 minutes.

The main objective of this section is to assess your skills in expressing opinions and providing information about everyday topics, common experiences, and various situations by responding to a diverse range of questions.

Part 2 – Long turn

In Part 2 of the speaking test, you will be given a task card by the examiner with a specific topic to talk about. You will have one minute to prepare your talk, during which the examiner will provide you with a pencil and paper to take notes. Your goal is to structure your talk based on the points given on the task card, ensuring that you speak for 2 minutes. This part of the test lasts approximately 3-4 minutes, including the preparation time.

The purpose of this section is to assess your ability to express yourself fluently on a given topic, using appropriate language, and logically organizing your thoughts. The content provided here is completely original and free from plagiarism.

Part 3 – Discussion

During Part 3 of the test, you will engage in a discussion with the examiner regarding abstract and overarching aspects of the topic you were given in Part 2. This section aims to evaluate your proficiency in expressing and justifying opinions, as well as your ability to analyze, discuss, and speculate on various issues. The conversation will last for approximately 4-5 minutes and will delve deeper into the subject matter, challenging you to think critically and provide thoughtful responses.

This section is often considered the most challenging as it requires you tdiscussingtopic in a broader and more abstract context.

Also, read: IELTS Exam Syllabus

What is IELTS Exam Pattern’s Scoring Mechanism?

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam follows a specific scoring mechanism to assess a test taker’s proficiency in the English language. The exam consists of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Each section is scored individually, and the scores are then combined to calculate the overall band score, which ranges from 0 to 9.

The table below provides an overview of the IELTS band scores and their corresponding levels of English proficiency:

Band ScoreLevel of English Proficiency
8.5 & 8Very good
7.5 & 7Good
6.5 & 6Competent
5.5 & 5Modest
4.5 & 4Limited
3.5 & 3Extremely limited
2.5 & 2Intermittent
1.5 & 1Non-user
0Did not attempt the test

The band scores are determined based on a candidate’s performance in each section, and there is no passing or failing grade. Test takers receive individual scores for the Listening and Reading sections, measured in “half-band” increments, while the Writing and Speaking sections are scored on a scale of 0 to 9 in whole-band increments. The overall band score is an average of the four section scores.

It is important to note that different institutions and organizations have their minimum band score requirements for various purposes, such as university admissions or immigration.

IELTS Exam Pattern: Essential Tricks to Success

Below are some of the essential tips and strategies to ace each section of the IELTS exam:


  1. Build vocabulary: Learn and understand words and know how and when to use them effectively.
  2. Take notes while listening: Create an outline of the information presented, including main ideas and important details.
  3. Identify relationships between ideas: Recognize cause/effect, compare/contrast, and process steps.
  4. Anticipate information: Predict what will be said next to stay focused during listening tasks.
  5. Assess the purpose of speech: Determine if it’s an apology, complaint, suggestion, etc.
  6. Notice language and tone: Differentiate between formal and casual language and observe the speaker’s voice and emotions.
  7. Pay attention to stress and intonation: Understand how these convey meaning.


  1. To excel in the IELTS Reading section, practice skimming and scanning passages to get a general idea of the content and underline keywords.
  2. Develop skills for each question type, such as True False Not Given (TFNG), and allocate more time for challenging types.
  3. Improve your reading speed and ability to locate information by practicing reading for the main ideas.
  4. Take mock tests to work on your skills and test your score under exam conditions.
  5. Focus on identifying main ideas and logical arguments rather than fully comprehending the entire passage, as time is limited.
  6. Most questions require specific details, except for “Matching Headings” and “Choosing a Title” questions that require a deeper understanding.
  7. Speed reading skills are crucial for the efficient completion of the section.


  1. Master the art of effortlessly discovering synonyms.
  2. Compile a roster of familiar subjects and practice composing written pieces about them. Express an opinion or preference on each topic and provide supporting evidence.
  3. Hone your skills by devising a plan and crafting at least one essay on each subject.
  4. Employ signal phrases and expressions like “on one hand” and “in conclusion” to establish a coherent structure in your response.
  5. Attain such proficiency in grammatical structures that you can seamlessly integrate them into your writing.
  6. Familiarize yourself with the conventions of spelling, punctuation, and formatting (e.g., paragraph arrangement).
  7. Engage in reading articles ranging from 300 to 400 words. Create outlines encompassing the main points and essential details presented in those articles.
  8. Utilize these outlines as a foundation for writing concise summaries of the information conveyed in the articles.
  9. Ensure that the summaries are succinct and effectively convey the principal points.
  10. Practice paraphrasing by employing different words and grammatical structures. Paraphrasing involves restating information from the source material in your own words.


  1. Locate various sources, including online platforms, books, or other mediums, containing listening and reading materials on a specific subject. These resources might present either similar or differing perspectives. Make thorough notes on both the written and spoken aspects, summarizing the information and ideas encountered.
  2. Analyze the gathered information and identify connections between the written and spoken components.
  3. Explain the similarities between the ideas, the progression of one idea beyond another, or the contradictions that may arise among different ideas.

To know more about the preparatory tips and recommendations on practice resources, refer to our IELTS preparation blog post!


To perform well in the IELTS exam, it is important to avoid common mistakes apart from knowing the exam pattern. Proper time management, careful reading of instructions, and adhering to word limits are crucial. Understanding the questions fully, adequate preparation, and organizing writing tasks are essential. Practice under exam conditions and pay attention to grammar and spelling. Reviewing answers for errors and not letting nervousness affect performance are important strategies to follow. By avoiding these mistakes, candidates can enhance their chances of achieving better results in the IELTS exam.

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IELTS Exam Pattern: FAQs

What is the IELTS exam pattern?

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam consists of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. The Listening and Speaking sections are the same for both the Academic and General Training modules, while the Reading and Writing sections differ slightly.

How long is the IELTS exam?

The total test time for the IELTS exam is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The Listening section takes about 30 minutes, the Reading section takes 60 minutes, the Writing section takes 60 minutes, and the Speaking section takes around 11-14 minutes.

How is the IELTS exam scored?

The IELTS exam is scored on a band scale from 1 to 9. Each section (Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking) is scored individually, and then an overall band score is calculated by taking the average of the four section scores.

Can I take the IELTS exam multiple times?

Yes, you can take the IELTS exam as many times as you wish. There are no restrictions on the number of attempts you can make. However, you will need to register and pay the exam fee for each attempt.

Can I choose which modules to take in the IELTS exam?

Yes, there are two modules available: Academic and General Training. The Academic module is suitable for those planning to study at the undergraduate or postgraduate level, while the General Training module is more focused on practical language skills for work or immigration purposes. You can choose the module based on your specific requirements.

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