What to expect

IELTS test format

Learn about the 4 different sections of the IELTS test: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

The Listening, Reading, and Writing sections of the test are completed immediately after each other on the same day. This lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes in total.

Your Speaking test will last 10-14 minutes.

Unlike other Test Centres that may programme your speaking test from seven days before up to seven days after your written test, at Certify Education & Assessment we will always programme your speaking test for the same day as your written test. Therefore, you can be sure to complete all sections of the test in one day.

There are two versions of the IELTS test: Academic and General Training. All test takers take the same Listening and Speaking tests but different Reading and Writing tests. Make sure that you prepare for the correct test type.

Listening

Timing and parts

The listening test lasts approximately 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes' transfer time).

There are 40 questions.
A variety of question types are used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, matching, plan/ map/diagram labelling, form completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, summary completion, sentence completion, short-answer questions.

There are 4 sections:
Section 1 is a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context (e.g. a conversation in an accommodation agency).
Section 2 is a monologue set in an everyday social context (e.g. a speech about local facilities or a talk about the arrangements for meals during a conference).
Section 3 is a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context (e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment, or a group of students planning a research project).
Section 4 is a monologue on an academic subject (e.g. a university lecture).
Each section is heard once only.
A variety of voices and native-speaker accents are used.

Skills assessed

A wide range of listening skills are assessed, including:
understanding of main ideas
understanding of specific factual information
recognising opinions, attitudes and purpose of a speaker
following the development of an argument

Marking

Each correct answer receives one mark. Scores out of 40 are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole and half bands.

Reading

Timing and parts

The reading test lasts 60 minutes (there is no extra transfer time).

There are 40 questions.
A variety of question types are used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, identifying information (True/False/Not Given), identifying a writer’s views/claims (Yes/No/Not Given), matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion, short-answer questions.

Academic Reading:
Each section contains one long text. Texts are authentic and are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. They have been written for a non-specialist audience and are on academic topics of general interest. Texts are appropriate to, and accessible to, test takers entering undergraduate or postgraduate courses or seeking professional registration. Texts range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. Texts may contain non-verbal materials such as diagrams, graphs or illustrations. If texts contain technical terms, then a simple glossary is provided.

General Training Reading:
Section 1 contains two or three short factual texts, one of which may be composite (consisting of 6-8 short texts related by topic, e.g. hotel advertisements). Topics are relevant to everyday life in an English-speaking country. Section 2 contains two short factual texts focusing on workrelated issues (e.g. applying for jobs, company policies, pay and conditions, workplace facilities, staff development and training).Section 3 contains one longer, more complex text on a topic of general interest.
Texts are authentic and are taken from notices, advertisements, company handbooks, official documents, books, magazines and newspapers.

Skills assessed

A wide range of reading skills are assessed, including:
reading for gist
reading for main ideas
reading for detail
understanding inferences and implied meaning
recognising writer’s opinions, attitudes and purpose
following the development of an argument

Marking

Each correct answer receives one mark. Scores out of 40 are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole and half bands.

Writing

Timing and parts

The writing test lasts 60 minutes (there is no extra transfer time).

There are 2 tasks.
You are required to write at least 150 words for Task 1 and at least 250 words for Task 2.

Academic Writing: In Task 1, you are presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and are asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.
In Task 2, you are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The issues raised are of general interest to, suitable for and easily understood by test takers entering undergraduate or postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration. Responses to Task 1 and Task 2 should be written in an academic, semi-formal/neutral style.

General Training Writing: In Task 1, you are presented with a situation and are asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal or semi-formal/neutral in style.
In Task 2, you are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The essay can be slightly more personal in style than the Academic Writing Task 2 essay. Topics are of general interest.

Skills assessed

In both tasks, you are assessed on your ability to write a response which is appropriate in terms of:
content
the organisation of ideas
the accuracy and range of vocabulary and grammar
Academic Writing: In Task 1, depending on the task type, you are assessed on your ability to organise, present and possibly compare data; to describe the stages of a process or procedure; to describe an object or event or sequence of events; to explain how something works.
In Task 2, depending on the task type, you are assessed on your ability to present a solution to a problem; to present and justify an opinion; to compare and contrast evidence, opinions and implications; to evaluate and challenge ideas, evidence or an argument.

General Training Writing: In Task 1, depending on the task type, you are assessed on your ability to engage in personal correspondence in order to: elicit and provide general factual information; express needs, wants, likes and dislikes; express opinions (views, complaints etc.).
In Task 2, you are assessed on your ability to provide general factual information; to outline a problem and present a solution; to present and possibly justify an opinion; to evaluate and challenge ideas, evidence or an argument.

Marking

You are assessed on your performance on each task by certificated IELTS examiners according to the IELTS Writing test assessment criteria (Task Achievement/Response, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy). More information on the assessment criteria can be found at ielts.org/criteria.
Task 2 contributes twice as much as Task 1 to the Writing score. Scores are reported in whole and half bands.

Speaking

Timing and parts

The speaking test lasts approximately 11-14 minutes.

There are 3 parts:

Part 1 Introduction and interview (4-5 minutes): The examiner introduces him/herself and asks you to introduce yourself and confirm your identity. The examiner asks you general questions on familiar topics, e.g. home, family, work, studies and interests.

Part 2 Individual long turn (3-4 minutes): The examiner gives you a task card which asks you to talk about a particular topic and which includes points you can cover in your talk. You are given 1 minute to prepare your talk, and are given a pencil and paper to make notes. You talk for 1-2 minutes on the topic. The examiner may then ask you one or two questions on the same topic.

Part 3 Two-way discussion (4-5 minutes): The examiner asks further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2. These questions give you an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas.

Skills assessed

A wide range of speaking skills are assessed, including:
the ability to communicate opinions and information on everyday topics and common experiences and situations by answering a range of questions
the ability to speak at length on a given topic using appropriate language and organising ideas coherently
the ability to express and justify opinions and to analyse, discuss and speculate about issues.

Marking

You are assessed on your performance throughout the test by certificated IELTS examiners according to the IELTS Speaking test assessment criteria (Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, Pronunciation). More information on the assessment criteria can be found at ielts.org/criteria. Scores are reported in whole and half bands.