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Home » IELTS Exam Syllabus, Course & Format: All You Need to Study for Success

IELTS Exam Syllabus, Course & Format: All You Need to Study for Success

ielts exam syllabus

IELTS online test is a jointly managed test by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, British Council, and IDP Education Australia. It is one of the crucial exams for students planning to study abroad! And thus, having complete knowledge of the IELTS exam syllabus is very much required. By familiarizing yourself with the IELTS exam syllabus, you can gain a clear understanding of the format, content, and expectations of each section. This knowledge will enable you to focus your preparation efforts, identify areas for improvement, and ultimately enhance your chances of achieving a high score.

IELTS online test typically has 2 formats – A) IELTS Academic; and B) IELTS General Training. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the golden key that unlocks opportunities for millions of individuals around the world.

IELTS or International English Language Testing System assesses your proficiency in English concerning 4 components:

  1. Listening
  2. Reading
  3. Writing
  4. Speaking

IELTS syllabus 2024 & exam questions for Listening and Speaking are the same for both formats (Academic & General Training), but the subject matter of the Reading and Writing sections differ between the formats.

This essentially means that the Listening and Speaking components are the same for the 2 formats. However, the types of questions asked in the Reading & Writing sections and your approaches to those questions will altogether differ with the test format you take.

Before we move further remember, success favors the prepared. So, let’s dive into the IELTS exam syllabus and seize the opportunities that await us!

Overview of the IELTS exam syllabus

Here’s an overview of the IELTS exam syllabus:

IELTS Exam SectionDescription
ListeningMeasures your ability to understand spoken English through a range of audio recordings. Includes conversations, monologues, and academic lectures.
ReadingAssesses your reading comprehension skills through various texts, such as articles, newspapers, and academic journals.
WritingEvaluates your ability to express yourself in written English. Consists of two tasks: Task 1 requires you to interpret and describe visual information, while Task 2 tests your ability to present an argument or discuss a specific topic.
SpeakingExamines your spoken English skills in a face-to-face interview with an examiner. It is divided into three parts: an introduction and interview, a short speech, and a discussion.

The IELTS exam syllabus is designed to provide a comprehensive assessment of your English language proficiency. Each section plays a crucial role in determining your overall score. Familiarizing yourself with the format, content, and expectations of each section is essential for achieving a successful outcome.

Throughout the examination, candidates are evaluated on various aspects, including vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, coherence, and fluency. It is important to dedicate ample time to practice and develop these skills to confidently navigate the IELTS exam.

For, exam pattern, refer to our IELTS Exam Pattern blog post!

Now we are good to go! Let’s dive in to understand the exam syllabus of each section mentioned above…

IELTS Listening Syllabus

(Same for both formats – Academic & General Training)

Format and Duration:

The Listening section of the IELTS exam is designed to assess your ability to understand spoken English in various contexts. It consists of four recorded audio passages, with a total duration of approximately 30 minutes. These passages represent both monologues and conversations, covering a range of topics relevant to everyday life and academic settings.

  1. Total no. of questions: 40+
  2. Total time: 30 minutes
  3. Sections 1 and 2 of the Listening section primarily focus on common, social situations that occur in everyday life. Recording 1 presents a dialogue between two individuals, portraying a conversation in a casual, social context. Moving on to Recording 2 takes the form of a monologue where a single speaker discusses a topic relevant to everyday social situations.
  4. On the other hand, Sections 3 and 4 shift the focus to education and training scenarios. Recording 3 presents a conversation involving four individuals, all engaged in an educational or training context. This recording aims to assess your ability to understand and follow discussions related to academic subjects. Lastly, recording 4 consists of a monologue that delves into an academic subject, further testing your comprehension of educational content.

The audio recordings are played only once, so it is crucial to pay close attention and take notes while listening. You will be provided with a question booklet and an answer sheet to record your answers during the test.

Scoring Criteria:

The Listening section is graded on a band scale of 0 to 9, with half-band increments. Your performance is assessed based on your ability to comprehend the audio passages and answer the corresponding questions accurately. Your final score is given as a band score in whole or half bands e.g., 5.5 or 7.0. The scoring criteria include:

  1. Correct answers: Each question carries one mark, so it is essential to provide accurate responses.
  2. Partial credit: In some cases, you may receive partial credit for partially correct answers.
  3. No penalty for wrong answers: There is no negative marking for incorrect responses, so it’s better to make an educated guess if you’re unsure.

Tips for Improving:

To enhance your performance in the Listening section, consider the following tips on exam preparation:

  1. Practice active listening: Engage actively with the audio by focusing on the main ideas, keywords, and supporting details.
  2. Build your vocabulary: Expand your range of vocabulary by reading and listening to various English materials.
  3. Familiarize yourself with different accents: Expose yourself to different English accents through movies, TV shows, podcasts, or online resources.
  4. Improve your note-taking skills: Learn shorthand techniques to jot down essential information quickly.
  5. Practice time management: Develop the ability to read ahead and anticipate the next set of questions while listening to the audio.

Types of Questions:

The Listening section includes a variety of question types to evaluate different listening skills. Common question types include:

  1. Multiple-choice: Choose the correct answer from a set of options.
  2. Sentence completion: Fill in the missing words or phrases in a sentence.
  3. Matching: Match a list of options to specific information in the audio.
  4. Note completion: Fill in the missing information in a set of notes or a summary.
  5. Diagram labeling: Label a diagram or a map based on the information provided in the audio.
  6. Short answer questions: Provide brief answers to questions based on the audio.

By familiarizing yourself with these question types and practicing with sample tests, you can improve your ability to comprehend and respond effectively.

IELTS Writing Syllabus

IELTS Writing Syllabus is different for both the formats – Academic & General Training

Format and Duration –

The IELTS Writing section in the Academic module consists of two tasks. Task 1 requires candidates to interpret and describe visual information, such as graphs, charts, or diagrams, in a minimum of 150 words. Task 2 involves writing an essay of at least 250 words on a given topic. The total time allotted for both tasks is 60 minutes.

Scoring Criteria:

The IELTS Writing section is assessed based on four main criteria: Task Achievement, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

  1. Each criterion carries equal weight, and scores are awarded on a band scale of 0 to 9.
  2. Task Achievement evaluates the extent to which the candidate addresses all aspects of the task, while Coherence and Cohesion assess the organization and logical flow of ideas.
  3. Lexical Resource focuses on vocabulary usage, and Grammatical Range and Accuracy evaluates the candidate’s command of grammar.

Tips for Improving:

Here are some of the tips for improving IELTS Writing

  1. Understand the Task Requirements: Carefully read and analyze the task promptly to ensure you comprehend what is expected. Pay attention to the specific instructions, key points, and the desired format.
  2. Plan Your Writing: Take a few minutes to plan your response before starting to write. Outline the main ideas and supporting details for each task. This will help you maintain coherence and avoid unnecessary digressions.
  3. Time Management: Allocate your time wisely between Task 1 and Task 2. Remember that Task 2 carries more weight in terms of word count and scoring criteria, so plan accordingly.
  4. Develop Vocabulary: Enhance your lexical resource by expanding your vocabulary. Practice using a wide range of words and phrases related to different topics. Read extensively and make note of useful vocabulary during your preparation.
  5. Grammar and Sentence Structure: Focus on improving your grammatical accuracy and sentence construction. Review common grammatical structures, tenses, and sentence types. Seek feedback from a teacher or utilize online resources to identify and rectify any recurring errors.

Type of Questions:


  1. Task 1: Candidates may be presented with various types of visual information, such as line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, tables, or diagrams. The task requires summarizing and describing the key features, trends, or comparisons in the provided data.
  2. Task 2: Candidates are given a specific topic or statement and asked to present an argument, provide a solution, or discuss the given statement from different perspectives. It is important to clearly express your opinion, support it with relevant examples, and provide a logical conclusion.


  1. Task 1: In the first task of the IELTS Writing section, individuals will encounter a visual representation such as a graph, table, chart, or diagram. Their objective is to depict, summarize, or elucidate the presented information using their own words. This may involve describing and providing an explanation of provided data, illustrating the stages of a process, outlining the steps in a flowchart, or elucidating an object or event.
  2. Task 2: For the second task, candidates are required to compose an essay in response to a specific point of view, argument, or problem. It is crucial to adopt a formal and academic writing style for both tasks. When presenting arguments, it is essential to support them with relevant examples that strengthen the overall content of the essay.

IELTS Speaking Syllabus

(Same for both formats – Academic & General Training)

Format and Duration

The IELTS Speaking test is an individual face-to-face interview conducted by a certified examiner. It is designed to assess your English-speaking skills and is divided into three parts. The total test duration is approximately 11 to 14 minutes.

Part 1: Introduction and Interview (4-5 minutes)

In this part, the examiner will introduce themselves and ask you some general questions about yourself, your work/study, hobbies, interests, etc. The questions are typically straightforward and serve as an icebreaker to make you feel comfortable.

Part 2: Cue Card (3-4 minutes)

In this part, you will be given a cue card with a topic written on it. You will have one minute to prepare your response, and then you need to speak on the topic for about two minutes. The cue card will usually contain prompts to guide your speech.

Part 3: Discussion (4-5 minutes)

In this part, the examiner will engage you in a deeper discussion related to the topic in Part 2. The questions will be more abstract or thought-provoking, allowing you to express your opinions, give reasons, and provide examples.

Scoring Criteria

The IELTS Speaking test is evaluated based on four criteria: Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, and Pronunciation. Each criterion is given a band score from 0 to 9, and the four scores are averaged to determine your overall speaking band score.

  1. Fluency and Coherence: This criterion assesses your ability to speak fluently, maintain a coherent flow of speech, and link ideas together logically.
  2. Lexical Resource: It examines your vocabulary range and the accuracy and appropriateness of the words and phrases you use.
  3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy: This criterion focuses on your grammatical range and your ability to use a variety of sentence structures correctly.
  4. Pronunciation: It evaluates your ability to pronounce words, sounds, and intonation patterns accurately and be easily understood by a native English speaker.

Tips for Improving:

Below are some of the tips for improving IELTS Speaking: 

  1. Practice Speaking English Regularly: Engage in conversations with native English speakers or join English-speaking clubs to gain more confidence and fluency in expressing yourself.
  2. Expand Your Vocabulary: Read widely and make a habit of learning new words and phrases. Use them in your daily conversations to improve your lexical resources.
  3. Work on Grammar: Study English grammar rules and practice using different sentence structures. This will enhance your grammatical range and accuracy.
  4. Practice Cue Card Speaking: Familiarize yourself with common topics and practice speaking on cue cards within the given time limit. Focus on organizing your thoughts and delivering a clear and coherent response.
  5. Record and Evaluate Yourself: Record your speaking practice sessions and listen to them critically. Pay attention to areas where you need improvement, such as pronunciation, fluency, or grammar.

Types of Questions:

The IELTS Speaking test includes a variety of question types to assess different language skills and abilities. Here are some common question types:

  1. Personal Questions: These questions are about your background, family, interests, hobbies, and experiences.
  2. Opinion Questions: You will be asked to express your opinion on certain topics and provide reasons or examples to support your viewpoint.
  3. Descriptive Questions: You might be asked to describe a person, place, object, or event in detail.
  4. Hypothetical Questions: These questions ask you to imagine a situation or scenario and provide your response or opinion.
  5. Comparison Questions: You might be asked to compare two things, such as two cities, two books, or two methods of doing something.
  6. Problem-Solution Questions: You will be given a problem or situation, and you need to suggest possible solutions or discuss the consequences.

IELTS Reading Syllabus

The reading module of the IELTS test consists of three passages or sections that are relevant to candidates entering undergraduate or postgraduate courses. Both the Academic and General Training modules include three texts of general interest. The passages can cover a range of topics and may be descriptive, factual, or analytical. These texts are typically sourced from newspapers, research papers, journals, books, magazines, advertisements, company guidelines, and brochures.

Format and Duration

  • Total no. of questions: About 40
  • Total time: 30 minutes


In the Academic module, the passages are longer and are aimed at testing the reading comprehension skills of non-specialist audiences, such as those aspiring to pursue higher education or professionals seeking employment opportunities abroad.


In the General Training module, the passages are similar in format to the Academic module, but they are generally easier. They are selected from everyday sources that individuals encounter in their daily lives, such as advertisements, company guidelines, brochures, and other practical texts.

The reading passages in both modules are followed by approximately 40 questions that assess various reading skills. These questions can include multiple-choice, sentence or summary completion, short-answer questions, matching lists, or phrases, and identifying writers’ views or attitudes.

Scoring Criteria:

Both the Academic and General Training Reading tests are evaluated using the same scoring criteria. Each question is worth one mark, and your final raw score is converted to an IELTS band score ranging from 0 to 9.

Tips for Improving:

Following are some of the tips for improving IELTS Reading: 

  1. Enhance Your Reading Skills: Develop a habit of reading regularly. Read a variety of texts, including articles, books, newspapers, and academic journals, to improve your reading speed and comprehension.
  2. Expand Your Vocabulary: Build a strong vocabulary by learning new words and phrases. Pay attention to collocations, synonyms, and antonyms, as they often appear in the reading passages.
  3. Practice Skimming and Scanning: Learn to skim through the passage quickly to get a general idea of the content, and scan for specific information by looking for keywords. These techniques will help you locate answers more efficiently.
  4. Improve Time Management: During practice sessions, time yourself to simulate test conditions. Learn to manage your time effectively and allocate appropriate time to each section and set of questions.
  5. Familiarize Yourself with Different Question Types: Understand the various question types that appear in the Reading test, such as multiple-choice, matching, sentence completion, True/False/Not Given, and summary completion. Practice each question type to become familiar with their formats and requirements.

Types of Questions

The IELTS Reading test includes a range of question types that assess different reading skills. Here are some common question types:

  1. Multiple Choice: You will be given a question and a set of options. Your task is to choose the correct answer from the given options.
  2. Matching: You will be presented with two or more lists and asked to match items from one list with items from another.
  3. Sentence Completion: You will be given a sentence with a missing word or words, and you need to complete it using words from the passage.
  4. True/False/Not Given: You will be given statements, and you have to determine whether the information in the passage supports the statements (True), contradicts the statements (False), or the information is not given (Not Given).
  5. Summary Completion: You will be given a summary or a paragraph with some missing information. Your task is to complete the summary by selecting the correct words or phrases from the passage.
  6. Short Answer Questions: You will be asked to provide short answers to specific questions based on the passage.
  7. Diagram/Flowchart/Table Completion: You will be asked to complete a diagram, flowchart, or table by filling in the missing information based on the passage.

It’s crucial to understand the requirements of each question type and practice answering them effectively to improve your performance in the IELTS Reading test.


Hey there! Finally, you’ve reached this end. Anxious about how your IELTS examiner will treat you on that very day? Scared about your preparation? Well, don’t be! If you are wondering about some handholding that can take you a long way in this direction, allow us to help you! We’ve just finished presenting to you important facts about the IELTS syllabus 2024, and essential aspects of the IELTS exam structure. Hope this helps with your preparation for your big day!

If you still have some queries, have a conversation with iDreamCareer’s study abroad counselors to explore your genuine potential! Our specialization lies in helping many talented individuals who are uncertain about their future career choices. For example, consider the case of Anjana Prasanna, who initially lacked self-assurance but, with our assistance and steadfast backing, obtained admission to King’s College London! We have effectively assisted numerous young individuals like Aayush and Tapan in identifying their perfect career paths by offering personalized guidance and support.

Also Read:

IELTS Exam Syllabus: FAQs

What is the syllabus for the IELTS exam?

The IELTS exam syllabus covers four main language skills: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. These skills are designed to assess your proficiency in English. The specific content of each section varies slightly depending on whether you are taking the Academic or General Training version of the exam.

What topics are covered in the Listening section of the IELTS exam?

The Listening section of the IELTS exam includes a variety of recordings that cover everyday social and academic contexts. The topics can range from conversations in daily life to lectures and discussions in an educational setting.

What subjects are included in the Reading section of the IELTS exam?

The Reading section of the IELTS exam consists of three passages, which are taken from books, magazines, newspapers, and online sources. The passages cover a wide range of topics, including social issues, scientific subjects, and general interest articles.

What types of writing tasks are part of the IELTS exam syllabus?

The Writing section of the IELTS exam comprises two tasks. Task 1 requires candidates to interpret and summarize visual information, such as graphs, charts, or diagrams. Task 2 involves writing an essay on a given topic or expressing an argument.

How is the Speaking section structured in the IELTS exam?

The Speaking section of the IELTS exam is conducted as a face-to-face interview with an examiner. It consists of three parts. In Part 1, you will be asked general questions about yourself and familiar topics. Part 2 involves giving a short talk on a given topic. Part 3 focuses on a discussion related to the topic in Part 2.

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