IELTS Academic Writing v/s IELTS General Training Writing

    Sayantani Barman Sayantani Barman
    Study Abroad Expert

    Are you an IELTS aspirant? You will be well advised to undertake thorough research before you appear for the exam. The first step is to know the usual exam pattern of IELTS and the complete syllabus before appearing for the exam. Do you know there are two formats for IELTS you can choose to appear for? Yes, you can appear for either IELTS General Training or IELTS Academic. The two tests are not only different in their format but also in their purposes.

    If you are a student from a non English speaking country and aspire to gain admission in a reputed university in UK, USA, Australia, Canada and more countries, you will be required to submit your IELTS scores. Similarly, many professionals and job aspirants are also required to appear for IELTS to verify their eligibility. The two versions of IELTS differ in several areas, the most significant one being the Writing section. Read more to find out the details of the difference between the two types of the test.

    How do you decide which exam to take – IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training?

    It is a common scenario in which candidates are unsure of which version of the exam to appear for. Choice actually depends on the purpose behind your endeavours. What are the professional goals that are the driving force behind your test taking? Here we provide you with some vital information about the two versions of the exam that will assist you in making the correct choice.

    • IELTS Academic: if you are seeking admission to any university abroad, you will have to take this version of the exam. Whether it is an undergraduate course or postgraduate course, you have to appear for this exam. In addition to this, if you are applying for any professional, training or diploma course, you will have to take this test as well. Any course in which English is the medium of instruction requires you to pass IELTS Academic. As you can understand from the very name of the test, it expects you to demonstrate certain skills appropriate for academic purposes which are not a part of our common usage of the language.
    • IELTS General Training: if the purpose behind your test taking is migration, you will have to appear for this version of the exam. This test aims to test your knowledge of English language on a general basis, testing your ability of using the language in everyday social situations. If you want to apply for immigration or employment, this is the exam for you.

    What is the format of the two tests – IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training?

    IELTS exam in general has four sections. Each section tests you on your proficiency in four different sets of skills. These skills are as follows: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. No matter which version of the test you decide to appear for, you will have to get all the four skills tested. Here we will inform you about the similarities and differences in the formats of the two exams.

    Listening and the Speaking tasks are the same for the two sections. There is no difference worth mentioning in the question pattern and format of the two skills in the two versions of IELTS. In fact, the format of the other two skills is also the same in both versions. In the Writing section, in both cases, you will be given two tasks to complete. In the Reading sections, in both formats, the candidate is provided with 40 questions based on an assigned set of readings. The actual difference between the two formats lies in Writing and Reading skills sections.

    What is the format of the Writing section of the two versions of IELTS? Now, let us learn more about the similarities and differences between IELTS Academic Writing and IELTS General Training Writing.

    Similarities between IELTS Academic Writing and IELTS General Training Writing

    First of all, we have to note that the test on Writing skills comprises two tasks-Task 1 and Task 2. Task1 has a word count of minimum 150 words and Task 2 should comprise of at least 250 words. Candidates will be given a total time of 60 minutes or 1 hour to complete these two tasks. The main difference between the two versions of IELTS lies in Task 1. In Task 2, both the tests expect you to write an essay of around 250 words.

    Differences between IELTS Academic Writing and IELTS General Training Writing

    • IELTS Academic Writing

    For the IELTS Academic exam, as part of Task 1, candidates will be provided with any of the following mentioned below:

    • Bars
    • Graphs
    • Pie charts
    • Tables
    • Diagrams
    • Maps
    • Process diagrams
    • Line and bar chart
    • Pie and bar chart

    Candidates will be expected to analyse the data provided through any of the above mentioned means. Thereafter, they will be asked to describe the same in around 150 words. You will be given 20 minutes to finish the task of writing a report based on data.

    • IELTS General Training Writing

    For the IELTS General Training exam, as part of Task 1, candidates will be asked to write a letter of around 150 words in any of the following styles:

    • Formal: to an unknown person
    • Informal: to a known person
    • Semi formal: to a person known only formally

    Candidates will get a total time of 20 minutes to write this letter of 150 words.

    IELTS Writing Task 1 – Some general information

    In this section, you will be given a problem and you will be asked to respond to it by writing a letter. You may have to request for information or explain a situation through a letter. The purpose is to test your ability for personal correspondence, your aptitude for providing general factual knowledge and your capacity to express your opinions on various topics through the medium of writing.

    What are the criteria for marking and scores?

    You must note that IELTS score band is quite difficult to comprehend. For IELTS Writing, the marks for this task is only 33% of your total marks in writing. So spend time carefully. Do not waste more time than is required. You will be marked on the basis of various criteria as mentioned below. The marks distribution in each category has also been provided to you below:

    • Task achievement – 25%
    • Coherence and cohesion – 25%
    • Vocabulary – 25%
    • Grammar – 25%

    Some tips on how to complete IELTS General Training Writing Task 1- Letter

    • You are not meant to spend more than 20 minutes writing the letter.
    • Make sure you write at least 150 words minimum. But do not cross the limit of 200 words.
    • Pay attention to the question carefully. See what kind of letter you have been asked to write- formal, informal or semi formal. Write accordingly.
    • Please note that a list of points is provided for the letter. Make sure that your letter covers all of them.
    • The aim of the letter has also been mentioned in the question. You must make sure that your letter achieves that purpose.
    • Pay close attention to the format. Your opening line and closing line should be powerful. Carefully divide the paragraphs to give your letter a good structure.

    Some tips on how to complete IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 – Report writing

    • This is a section in which you can get a variety of questions. You can be given any of these to analyse- bar graph, pie chart, maps or more. Pay attention to the question.
    • You must be able to highlight the key features of the data.
    • You must be able to first understand the data yourself and then explain it through writing to others.

    IELTS Writing Task 2 – Essay

    Task 2 for both the versions of IELTS comprises of writing essays. You need to write an essay of around 250 words within a time limit of 40 minutes to complete Task 2. However, there is a slight difference between the two essays. Here is listed some of the differences that you can observe in the content and difficulty level of the Task 2 of the two tests:

    • Level of difficulty: even though both tests ask you to write essays, the question for IELTS General Training is much easier than IELTS Academic. The essay question for General Training is much easier to understand and write in a more comprehensive manner.
    • The topic for writing: the topics given in General Training essays is of a more common nature. The topics are from everyday life including family, communication, entertainment, society, education and such. However, in case of Academic question papers, the topics for the essays are much more complex and require more expertise.

    Marking system for IELTS Writing Task 2 – Essay

    The scheme of marking and scoring are the same for both the tests. Please note that there is 66% weightage given to this task. This is how your scoring in the essay question will happen:

    • Task response- 25%
    • Coherence and cohesion- 25%
    • Vocabulary- 25%
    • Grammar- 25%

    IELTS Writing Preparation Tips

    IELTS is an exam that requires complete hard work and practice to score more. Test takers can never incorporate complete new writing structures for exams. They have to just focus on a few things to improve writing skills. IELTS Preparation Tips require good plan and strategies to perform well. Few IELTS preparation tips for Writing are as follows 

    • Start attempting Task 2 at first because it has more weightage in marks 
    • Make a proper structure while writing for both Task 1 and Task 2 
    • Task Completion has 25% of total allotted marks therefore it is necessary for test takers to attempt both the tasks 
    • Try to practice Task 1 in strict 20 minutes and Task 2 in 40 minutes 
    • Accurate usage of grammar and vocabulary are required to score well 
    • Try to read English novel, magazines, journals to improve vocabulary 
    • In this section, examiners measure how well the test taker articulate logical argument through writing essays 
    • Coherence should be maintained in between paragraphs 

    These are the few preparation tips that are thought to be basic steps to score well in IELTS Writing section. 



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