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IELTS Exam Pattern 2021: Test Pattern, Question Pattern, Section wise Exam Details, Tips

Sayantani Barman logo

Sayantani Barman

Study Abroad Expert | Updated On -Jun 10, 2021

IELTS exam pattern comprises four sections – writing, reading, listening, and speaking skills. There are two types of IELTS –  IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.  The total duration of IELTS is 2 hours and 45 minutes. IELTS exam syllabus comprises four-section – Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. IELTS reading, writing and listening are conducted on the same day whereas IELTS Speaking can be scheduled on the afternoon of the test day or within a week. 

What is the passing score for IELTS? 

There is no minimum passing score for IELTS. Each university has a different IELTS band score threshold for admissions. IELTS Test Report Form (TRF) is issued for everyone with a score range of 1-9. If a test-taker fails to appear for IELTS then band 0 will be issued as the result. IELTS pattern is designed for two different sets of people, the contents of the sections are a bit different. IELTS pattern for the reading and writing sections of each format is different. The sources of passages of IELTS reading are different for IELTS academic and IELTS general training. The IELTS writing tasks are also much different and purpose-oriented for the candidates. 76% of candidates take IELTS academic test and only 24% take the general training. So, it is not difficult to understand that it is more popular among the candidates who are willing to studying abroad. 

Also Check    IELTS Academic vs General Training

IELTS Exam Pattern: Section Wise Details

IELTS Exam Pattern

Each section has a weightage of 25% and each section contributes equally towards the overall score of IELTS.

IELTS Listening Pattern

The IELTS Listening section comprises four tasks to be completed. In a task, there will be 1 recording with 10 questions. In total, there will be 40 questions and the total time is 30 minutes. Candidates will be given 10 minutes to transfer their answers to the answer sheet. 

Recording Details

  • Section 1: 10 questions (General conversation between 2 English natives)
  • Section 2: 10 questions (Monologue on the general topic)
  • Section 3: 10 questions (Conversation between 2-4 people around academics)
  • Section 4: 10 questions (Monologue on an academic topic)

IELTS Listening Question Types

IELTS listening test questions include:

  • Multiple choice
  • Matching
  • Plan, map, diagram labeling
  • Form, note, table, flowchart, summary completion
  • Sentence completion
  • Short-answer questions

These questions check how the candidates are focused on the details, and their ability to fetch details as well as their understanding of visual details, key information, and concrete facts, For IELTS academic and general training, there is no difference for this section. 

Check   IELTS Listening Sample Papers

IELTS Speaking Pattern

IELTS pattern for the speaking section is quite easy. The speaking section is like a face-to-face interview between the test taker and the examiner. In IELTS Speaking, grammar, accuracy, coherence and fluency, lexical resources, and pronunciation of each candidate are assessed in 11-14 minutes. Most IELTS Speaking Topics are general in type. Candidates can practice these topics listed on the official website of IELTS. 

IELTS Speaking Questions

  • Test takers have to complete 3 tasks in this section
  • In Task 1, the test-taker has to give a general introduction like education, home, family, and work. Time: 4-5minutes.
  • The test-taker has to pick up a task card for choosing a topic to talk about with the examiner for Task 2. Time: 3-4 minutes (including preparation time). 
  • In Task 3, the examiner will discuss whatever said by the test taker in Task 2. Time: 4-5 minutes.
  • These tasks check the ability of the candidates to communicate their views on everyday topics, any given topic, and the ability to justify what they have said. 

This section is also the same for both the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. 

IELTS Reading Pattern

For IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, the reading section is different for test-takers. Test takers get 60 minutes to complete this section of IELTS Reading. 40 questions to be answered in this section.

For IELTS Academic Reading, the reading passages are of medium length and they are taken from journals, books, magazines, and newspapers. The writing style of most of these reading excerpts ranging from descriptive, factual, discursive, and analytical. In all these passages, a test-taker has to recognize the purpose, attitude, or opinions present in writers behind writing these.

For IELTS General Training Reading, 3 sections are the excerpts from newspapers, books, magazines, guidelines, advertisements, handbooks, and notices. For Task 1, the test-taker has to write about “social survival”. For Task 2, the test-taker has to write about “workplace survival” and for Task 3 it is a general reading passage with a little complex structure.

IELTS Reading Question Types

IELTS reading question types include:

  • Multiple choice
  • Identifying information
  • Identifying the writer’s views/claims
  • Matching information
  • Matching headings
  • Matching features
  • Matching sentence endings
  • Sentence completion
  • Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion
  • Diagram label completion
  • Short-answer questions

As the types of passages are different in IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, the difficulty levels are also different. These tasks also check the candidate’s focus on detail and their skills of understanding relationships between two factors and analytical skills. 

IELTS Reading Samples

IELTS Writing Pattern

Like IELTS Reading, IELTS Writing is different for both Academic and General Training test takers. In this section, test takers have to complete 2 tasks in 60 minutes. For IELTS writing task 1, candidates have to write 150 words in 20 minutes and for IELTS Writing task 2, candidates have to write 250 words in 40 minutes. 

IELTS Writing Question Types

For the IELTS Academic Writing Test, the test-takers need to skim and scan the reading passages to find out important facts present within passages. 

  • For Task 1, the test taker gets a minimum of 20 minutes. The word limit to complete Task 1 is 150 words. 
  • Similarly, for Task 2, the test-taker gets a minimum time of 40 minutes. The word limit for the 2nd task is 250 words. 

Every piece of information should be relevant enough to complete a writing task. Test takers should write down all the important information given through graphical representation. Examiners mark the test takers on basis of 4-5 criteria like task achievement or task response, coherence, lexical resource, and grammatical accuracy.

The duration, word limit, and marking criteria are the same in the IELTS general training writing section. Here Task 1 is a letter-writing but in IELTS academic, task 1 is a description of a graph or chart. For Task 1, the test-taker has to write in a formal, semi-formal, or personal format. Task 2 (essay) will be personal in style. 

IELTS Writing Samples 

IELTS Preparation Tips

Every year thousands of test-takers take IELTS and a minimum of 6 months to score 7-7.5 for higher studies or employment. Following preparation tips for IELTS can help the candidates:

  • Before attempting IELTS, beware of the exam format properly
  • Start reading English novel or newspaper or magazine to improve vocabulary
  • Learn new words to strengthen your vocabulary
  • Incorporate new words and proper usage of grammar in writing sections
  • Watching regular news and interviews in English and English movies will help in improving listening and speaking skills
  • Speak in English to gather confidence
  • Practice writing daily to reduce spelling mistakes
  • Strict time management will help the test taker to attempt questions properly
  • Regular mock tests will help in scoring well in each section
  • Focus on understanding every section rather than memorizing
  • Attempt all questions as there is no negative marking

No matter you are looking for a career in English-speaking countries or study there, IELTS is necessary to qualify. Have excellent preparation for IELTS and see your dreams come true.

Check  IELTS Sample Papers

IELTS Exam Pattern FAQs

Ques.  Is there a passing score for IELTS?

Ans. No, there is no passing score in IELTS. IELTS scores are reported in the form of band scores on a scale of 0 to 9, 9 being the highest. A brief about IELTS scores is as follows:

  • 9: Expert user
  • 8: Very good user
  • 7: Good user
  • 6: Competent user
  • 5: Modest user
  • 4: Limited user
  • 3: Extremely limited user
  • 2: Intermittent user
  • 1: Non-user
  • 0: Did not attempt the test

Ques. Does my accent matter during the interview?

Ans. No, as long as you communicate clearly, your accent won’t play a role in your scores. However, try to get familiar with different accents like British, American etc, as the interviewer can be of any origin and so instant understanding shall lead to a smooth conversation. 

Ques. Is it allowed to take down notes during the listening test?

Ans. Yes, candidates can make notes from the recordings during the listening test. 

Ques.  Will the recordings in the listening text be replayed?

Ans. No, recordings in the listening text will not be replayed and therefore candidates are requested to listen to the recordings carefully and take down notes when required.

Ques.  Will there be negative marking?

Ans. No, there is no negative marking in IELTS. However there are there are parameters that candidates are judged on and therefore candidates must adhere to the deadline. 

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, which will be updated soon subject to the notification issued by the University/College.


What is the syllabus of reading section?
diya suresh

The reading section for IELTS General training and academic is different with score range in between 1 to 9.

  • IELTS Academics – There will be long passages from sources like Books, Journals, Magazines, and Newspaper
  • IELTS General Training – There will be 2-3 short texts on everyday life, 2 short-factual texts on work-related issues, and 1 long text on general interest from sources like Notices, Advertisements, Company handbooks, Official documents, Books, Magazines, and Newspapers

To get more details visit IELTS Reading 2021.

ambar ahirawar
What is the time duration given for different sections in the exam?
priya negi

The time duration for different sections as mentioned below:

  1. Listening – 30 Min
  2. Academic Reading – 30 Min
  3. General Training Reading – 60 Min
  4. Speaking interview – 11-14 Min
  5. General Training Writing – 60 Min
  6. Academic writing – 60 Min
How many sections in the exam are objective based?
diya suresh

There will be 4 sections in IELTS exam namely reading, writing, speaking and listening. Among these 4, Reading and Listening section will include multiple choice questions. Though there will be other type of questions as well but MCQs are part of reading and listening section. To get detailed exam pattern for IELTS exam visit IELTS exam pattern 2021.

Sir please tell me when I will get my IELTS exam exam was on 23rd January
diya suresh

IELTS test score or result is out after 3-5 days of attempting the test. The score will be available for 28 days on the official website. Also IELTS life skills result is available within 7 days and for computer based test, result can be generated within 5-7 days of the test.

The score card will be delivered via post to the candidate’s registered address as well. Check more details at IELTS result 2021.

riya gupta
How is the exam score calculated?
manisha malik

The band score helps to check the exam score. For example for the Listening section:

  1. Band score 6 = 23 correct out of 40
  2. Band score 7 = 30 correct out of 40
  3. Band score 8 = 35 correct out of 40
rinki mahapatra
What is the syllabus of writing section?
diya suresh

Hi Rinki, for details of IELTS syllabus section wise click here.

ramesh kumar gupta
What is the syllabus of IELTS writing?
manika gupta

Hi, Syllabus of IELTS Writing is as follows:

A writing task of at least 150 words where the candidate must summarize, describe or explain table, graph, chart or diagram, and another short essay task of at least 250 words

bineeta kachhap
What is the difference between IELTS and IELTS for UKVI. Which among these are considered for the applying in universities?
manika gupta

Hi, The IELTS is suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate courses along with professional registration purposes. While the IELTS UKVI is only accepted for foundation courses. Safety: Even though both tests are computer-based, the IELTS is considered more secure.

mohammed najamuddin
What is the syllabus for listening section?
manika gupta

Hi, IELTS Listening Syllabus

  • It includes four sections, 40 items
  • One is a conversation between two individuals
  • Second is a monologue/speech
  • The third section is a conversation among a maximum of four people set in an academic setting
  • The final one is a monologue on an academic subject
utkarsha khatri
Which section is usually the toughest one?
manika gupta


  • Many students find the listening section the hardest, largely because the amount of information that you have to hear and remember before answering the questions. 
  • The speaking section is the part that the majority of students will be most comfortable with, as they have practiced it the most.
swati srivastava

Hi Utkarsha, reading part is considered the tough one. For more details visit: IELTS EXAM

Is there any other format for the visually impaired person to give IELTS exam?
swati srivastava

Hi Prahasti, for visually impaired person there are papers available as contracted, uncontracted and unified english braille. For more details visit: IELTS EXAM

sunny pandey
How many rounds are there in the IELTS exam?
aniket ranjan

Hii Sunny, Greetings from collegedunia. There are two IELTS tests available, IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training and both have four papers: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. For more details Click Here

aniket ranjan

Hii Sunny, Greetings from collegedunia. There are two IELTS tests available, IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training and both have four papers: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. For more details Click Here

mohammed najamuddin
Is IELTS score considered in PhD admission?
diya suresh

Hi Najamuddin,

Yes IELTS score is considered for doctoal course but it depends from country to country. Some prefer TOEFL over IELTS. It is better to know the criteria before applying. To know more click here.

utkarsha khatri
Is there any difference in syllabus in IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training?
devnath tiwary

Dear Utkarsha Khatri

Greetings from Collegedunia. There is a lot of difference in the IELTS Academic and General Training Syllabus. The cut-off varies between Academic and General Training of IELTS. For more information, kindly go through this link – IELTS Exam Pattern and Syllabus

How can I practice for Listening section?
aditi arun

Hello Sameer,

Our Study experts have curated the best tips to ace the listening section of IELTS. Kindly visit – IELTS Listening skill

fauzia shahid
What is the toughest section in IELTS?
manika gupta

Hi Fauzia, 

  • Many students find the listening section the hardest, largely because the amount of information that you have to hear and remember before answering the questions. 
  • The speaking section is the part that the majority of students will be most comfortable with, as they have practiced it the most.
ankit kumar
Is the syllabus same as TOEFL?
devnath tiwary

Dear Ankit Kumar

Greetings from Collegedunia. IELTS Syllabus is different than TOEFL Syllabus. For more information, kindly go through this link – IELTS Syllabus and Exam Pattern

How can I check the cut off of different Universities?
devnath tiwary

Dear Muheshraj

Greetings from Collegedunia. We have the IELTS Cut-Off for various Universities in New Zealand, Australia, USA, etc. For more information, kindly go through this link – IELTS Cut-Off 2020

sadim ansari
Is it very tough to score Level 7.5 in IELTS?
swati srivastava

Hi Sadim, with proper preparation you can score 7.5 in IELTS exam. For details visit: IELTS PREPARATION 

yash raj singh
What is the difference in the syllabus of IELTS and TOEFL?
manika gupta

Hi Yash, The TOEFL, however, is entirely multiple choice, while the IELTS has a mix of short answers and essay questions. The TOEFL is available as a paper-based test, but the internet-based test is more popular.