This is the perfect guide for someone at a point in their study abroad journey where they now wish to understand the IELTS general vs academic difference. Here, we delve into the various parameters that differentiate the IELTS academic test from the IELTS general training exam. Reading this will help you pick a test that aligns with your purpose to go abroad. 

Table of Contents

IELTS General vs Academic Difference: An Overview 

What is IELTS Academic Test?

The IELTS academic test is particularly for people who aim to study in an English-speaking country. The test’s purpose here is to judge whether a candidate is proficient enough in the English language to “study abroad”.

What is General IELTS?

On the other hand, the IELTS general training test is for people who aspire to immigrate or work abroad. The major purpose of the IELTS general training is to judge the candidates in terms of their English proficiency to “work abroad”. 

So, it is simple. If you wish to apply to universities abroad, you need to take the IELTS academic exam. However, if you aim to secure a job abroad, choosing the IELTS general training exam is best. 

Countries known to recognize IELTS for academic programs and job opportunities are the USA, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. 

You can also refer to the table with “IELTS general vs academic difference” below. 

IELTS General vs Academic Difference


IELTS Academic

IELTS General Training


Study in an English-speaking country.

Work or immigrate abroad.


Academic lectures, seminars, and discussions. 

Everyday conversations, interviews, and workplace scenarios. 

Question Types

Main ideas, speaker attitudes, specific details. 

Practical information and workplace and social contexts. 

Scoring Focus 

Academic proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. 

Practical English proficiency for daily use and work environments. 

Academic and General IELTS Difference: Exam Format 

In attempting to understand the IELTS general vs academic difference, you must understand how the exam format differs for both. Let us discuss the individual sections for both these exams to understand if there is any difference between the two: 

Listening Section Format: Academic and General IELTS Difference

While the format for the listening section of both academic and general training tests remains the same, the recordings played for the candidate differ. 

  • Purpose: 

Academic Test- If a candidate is attempting the IELTS academic test, they will be judged for whether they can understand academic lectures and discussions. 

General Training Test- On the other hand, in the IELTS general training test, candidates are assessed for their ability to understand everyday spoken English in various workplace and social contexts. 

  • Content: 

Academic Test- The recordings played to the candidate in the academic test are usually taken from academic scenarios such as seminars, discussions, or lectures. 

General Training Test- For the general training test, the recording features interviews, conversations, or monologues from the workplace or daily life situations. 

  • Question Types: 

Academic Test- Listening section questions in the IELTS academic test are centered around identifying main ideas, speaker attitudes, the purpose of the recording, or specific details. 

General Training Test- For the IELTS general training test, the questions for the listening section will be around extracting information in a practical context like job interviews, public announcements, work meetings, or a social discussion. 

The Listening Section format for both the Academic and General Training tests is as follows: 

  • Recording 1: Conversation between 2 people regarding an everyday social scenario. 
  • Recording 2: Monologue set regarding an everyday social scenario. 
  • Recording 3: Conversation between 4 people regarding an academic or training setting. 
  • Recording 4: Monologue on academic or workplace topics. 

Reading Section Format: IELTS Academic vs General Training

While the format for the reading section of both the IELTS academic and IELTS general training tests remains consistent, there are notable differences in the content and focus of the passages.

  • Purpose:

Academic Test- Candidates are assessed on their ability to understand complex academic texts.

General Training Test- Candidates are evaluated on their capacity to understand practical texts from daily life and work situations.

  • Content:

Academic Test- Passages are taken from academic journals, books, and newspapers, covering a wide range of academic subjects and disciplines.

General Training Test- Passages are more practical and may include advertisements, notices, company handbooks, or workplace documents.

  • Question Types:

Academic Test- Questions often require candidates to identify main ideas, detailed information, opinions, and arguments. They may also involve matching headings, completing summaries, and analyzing diagrams or charts.

General Training Test- Questions focus on extracting information from practical contexts such as job interviews, telephone conversations, public announcements, or discussions with friends. Tasks may include completing forms or notes, matching, and multiple-choice questions.

The reading section format for both the Academic and General Training tests is as follows: 

  • Number of Sections: Three sections.
  • Number of Passages: Three passages.
  • Number of Questions: Approximately 40 questions in total.

Writing Section Format: IELTS General Training vs Academic

While the format for the writing section of both the IELTS academic and IELTS general training tests differs, each test assesses distinct writing skills tailored to their respective purposes.

  • Purpose:

Academic Test- Candidates are required to demonstrate their ability to write academic essays or reports suitable for a university or higher education setting.

General Training Test- Candidates must showcase their writing skills in practical, everyday situations encountered in work or social environments.

  • Task Types:

Academic Test-

  • Task 1: Candidates are presented with a visual representation, such as a graph, chart, table, or diagram, and are asked to describe, summarize, or explain the information in their own words.
  • Task 2: Candidates must write an essay in response to a prompt, expressing and supporting their opinion or argument on a given topic.

General Training Test-

  • Task 1: Candidates are asked to write a letter in response to a given situation or request, such as a formal or informal letter to a friend, colleague, or business.
  • Task 2: Similar to the academic test, candidates must write an essay expressing and supporting their opinion on a given topic.
  • Scoring Criteria:

Both tests are scored based on four key criteria: Task Achievement (how well the task is addressed), Coherence and Cohesion (organization and structure), Lexical Resource (vocabulary range and accuracy), and Grammatical Range and Accuracy (grammar and sentence structure).

  • Word Count:

For Task 1, candidates are typically required to write a minimum of 150 words, while for Task 2, the minimum word count is 250 words. Exceeding the word count is acceptable, but candidates should aim for concise and coherent writing.

The writing section format for both the Academic and General Training tests is as follows:

  • Number of Tasks:

Academic Test- Two tasks.

General Training Test- Also two tasks.

  • Word Count:

For Task 1: Academic Test – Minimum 150 words, General Training Test – Minimum 150 words.

For Task 2: Academic Test – Minimum 250 words, General Training Test – Minimum 250 words.

Speaking Section Format: Difference Between Academic and General IELTS

While the format for the speaking section is the same for both the IELTS academic and IELTS general training tests, the topics and questions may vary to suit the different purposes of the tests.

  • Purpose:

Academic Test- Candidates are evaluated on their ability to engage in discussions on academic topics, express opinions, and present arguments.

General Training Test- Candidates are assessed on their ability to discuss everyday topics, such as hobbies, family, work, and social situations.

  • Sections:

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

Part 2: Long Turn (3-4 minutes)

Part 3: Discussion (4-5 minutes)

  • Question Types:

Part 1: The examiner asks general questions about familiar topics such as work, studies, hobbies, interests, and family.

Part 2: The candidate is given a task card with a topic and prompts. They have one minute to prepare and then speak for up to two minutes on the topic.

Part 3: The examiner asks further questions related to the topic in Part 2, focusing on abstract ideas, opinions, and implications.

  • Scoring Criteria:

Candidates are assessed on their fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation.

The speaking Section format for both the Academic and General Training tests is as follows:

Duration: Approximately 11-14 minutes.

Sections: Three sections (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Question Types: General questions, task card prompts, follow-up questions.

IELTS General vs Academic Difference Sections


IELTS Academic

IELTS General Training


Academic lectures, seminars, and discussions.



interviews, workplace scenarios.


Academic texts, journals, books,


Practical texts, advertisements, notices, and company handbooks.


Task 1: Describe visual info. Task 2: Academic essay.

Task 1: Formal/ informal letter.

Task 2: Opinion essay.


Part 1: Academic topics. 

Part 2:Speak on a given topic. 

Part 3:Discussion on abstract ideas.

Part 1: Everyday topics. 

Part 2: Speak on a given topic. Part 3:Discussion on practical ideas.


Scoring: Difference Between IELTS Academic and General

The scoring criteria for the IELTS General and Academic tests are the same, but the required scores may vary depending on the purpose of taking the test, such as academic study, immigration, or work.

  • Scoring Criteria:

Both the IELTS General and Academic tests are scored on a nine-band scale. Candidates receive a score for each of the four criteria:

  1. Task Achievement: How well the candidate addresses the task and presents relevant ideas.
  2. Coherence and Cohesion: The organization and clarity of the response, including paragraph structure and logical progression of ideas.
  3. Lexical Resource: The range and accuracy of vocabulary used.
  4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy: The range and accuracy of grammar and sentence structures.
  • Required Scores for Different Purposes:

Academic Study:

Universities and institutions may have different score requirements, but generally, a score of 6.5 or above is considered acceptable for undergraduate and postgraduate study.


For immigration purposes, such as applying for permanent residency or citizenship, different countries have their own score requirements. For example, Canada’s Express Entry system typically requires a minimum overall score of 6.0 or 6.5, depending on the program.


Employers may also have their own score requirements for English language proficiency, depending on the nature of the job and the level of communication required. A score of 6.0 or above is often sufficient for most work-related purposes.

  • Scoring Scale:

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

Preparation Tips: General IELTS vs Academic IELTS

Preparation for both the IELTS General and Academic tests requires a strategic approach tailored to the specific requirements of each test. Here are some tips to help you prepare effectively:

  1. Understand the Test Format: Familiarize yourself with the format of the test, including the number of sections, types of questions, and timing. This will help you know what to expect on test day.
  1. Practice Regularly: Dedicate time to regular practice sessions to improve your skills in each section of the test. Use official IELTS practice materials and sample tests to simulate exam conditions.
  1. Develop Time Management Skills: Practice managing your time effectively during the test. Allocate specific time limits for each section and practice completing tasks within the allotted time.
  1. Build Vocabulary and Language Skills: Work on expanding your vocabulary and improving your grammar and sentence structure. Read widely and listen to English audio materials to expose yourself to different language styles and accents.
  1. Focus on Weak Areas: Identify your weak areas and focus on improving them. Whether it’s reading comprehension, listening skills, writing coherence, or speaking fluency, targeted practice can help you overcome challenges.
  1. Take Practice Tests: Regularly take full-length practice tests to assess your progress and identify areas for improvement. Analyze your performance and adjust your study plan accordingly.
  1. Seek Feedback: If possible, seek feedback from teachers, tutors, or language experts to identify areas where you can improve further. Constructive feedback can help you refine your skills and strategies.
  1. Stay Calm and Confident: On test day, stay calm and confident. Remember to pace yourself, read instructions carefully, and focus on doing your best in each section.


In conclusion, identifying the IELTS general vs academic difference is important for your academic or professional pursuits abroad. VIS stands ready to assist with specialized training programs for both test formats. With expert IELTS instructors and downloadable resources, we’re committed to helping you achieve success on the IELTS exam. Contact VIS today to embark on your journey towards realizing your aspirations overseas!

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