The IELTS Academic and General training tests are used to assess reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills in non-native English speakers.
The IELTS, which takes about three hours to complete, is primarily taken by prospective university students and applicants for immigration visas. The IELTS is a paper-and-pencil examination in which answers are filled in by hand.
Each section of the exam contains a variety of exercises and question types.
IELTS Listening Section
The IELTS listening section, which is the same for the Academic And General Training Tests, includes four sections of 10 questions each. Total section timing is about 30 minutes, and students are allowed an additional 10 minutes to fill out their answer sheets. Each set of questions is based on a recorded listening passage that will be played only once.
Each listening passage is unique in terms of the topic and the number of speakers. The first two passages are on topics of general interest, with one conversation and one monologue. The second pair of passages concerns academic subjects, also with a conversation (such as a student discussion) and a monologue (such as a lecture). Test-takers should expect several types of questions, including chart completion, multiple choice, short answer, sentence completion, labeling of a diagram, classification, and matching.
IELTS Speaking Section
The IELTS speaking section is also the same for Academic And General Training. On this section of the IELTS, test-takers are subjected to a live interview, which will be recorded for subsequent assessment. The speaking paper has a three-part structure that lasts for a total of 11-14 minutes. In part 1 (4-5 minutes), students answer questions on topics with which they are familiar, such as current events, hobbies, or preferences. During part 2 (3-4 minutes), students must discuss a topic covered in a provided booklet, and they are given approximately one minute to prepare their discussion. In part 3 (4-5 minutes), the test-taker answers more in-depth questions on the topic discussed in part 2.
IELTS Reading Section
The IELTS academic and general training tests each have their own different reading papers. The main difference is the subject of the reading passages. The academic reading paper contains three academic texts, while the general training reading section includes 5-6 texts, most of which are shorter and intended for general readerships.
The timing (1 hour), number of sections (3), and number of questions (40) are the same in both versions, but there are very small discrepancies of the structure. Each section of the academic test will have between 12 and 14 questions, but the sections of the general training test have exact sets of questions (14 for part 1 and 13 each for parts 2 and 3). The academic reading paper has 11 different types of exercises, while the general training test has 12. Test-takers are not given additional time to transfer their answers to the answer sheets on this section of the IELTS.
The IELTS writing paper is also special to one version of the test or the other, although they have a great deal in common. On both versions, students are given one hour to complete two separately timed writing tasks. The first writing task (20 minutes) is worth half as much as the second (40 minutes), and all essays are evaluated according to similar assessment criteria. On both exams, the longer exercise is a “discursive essay” in which students must be able to argue a certain position or present a solution to a given problem.
The general training short essay is a letter written in reaction to a given situation, while the academic short essay is a written description of a chart or graph. The recommended length for short essays is 150 words, and 250 words are the suggested length for long essays.
Grading and Scoring System
Answers to the questions on the listening and reading passages are objectively either correct or incorrect, and grading is, therefore, a straightforward matter. All questions have the same value and are equal factors in the section scores. The speaking and writing papers involve the subjective evaluations of IELTS graders, who equally weigh several areas of assessment. Students receive band scores of 0 to 9 for each paper, and half-point scores are possible. All sections contribute equally to the total band score, which is the mean of all four section scores, rounded up or down to the closest half-point.
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