IELTS Academic module – Handout 1

October 29, 2015 User 2

A brief introduction to the exam format of the IELTS Academic module.


The IELTS Academic module is designed to assess your English skills for higher education purposes, i.e. if you want to study at a university, or work at an organization that requires high degree of English proficiency.

The IELTS Academic score operates on a band of 0.0 to 9.0, the latter being the highest. Most higher education and relevant institutes require candidates to have an IELTS score between 6.5 and 7.5. If you want to study at any notable institution in the UK, you should target to achieve at least 7.5 out of 9.0.

Format of the Exam:

The total duration of the IELTS Academic module is approximately 2.5 hours. The exam is broken down into four components in the following order:

  • Listening – 30 minutes
  • Reading – 30 minutes
  • Writing – 30 minutes
  • Speaking – 10 to 15 minutes Note: the speaking test may be conducted on the same day (before or after the first three components) or be scheduled on a different date.


The listening test assess your ability to understand common forms of English accent, and how good you are at identifying and acquiring information from audio conversation.

The exam lasts 30 minutes, plus 10 minutes to transfer your answer from the question paper (where space is provided for you to log the answers while the listening audio is playing) to the answer sheet.

The listening questions has four recorded conversation, starting with a relatively easy conversation to a more fast-paced fluent conversation.  

There are 40 ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ answers you have to complete in this section.


The reading test is 60 minutes, containing three reading passages. You are presented with articles from a wide range of authentic sources, often containing diagram and illustrations. You will be trained on the techniques of skimming and scanning texts to answers questions based on the passages.

There are 40 questions in this sections that you have to answer from the three passages. These types of questions in this section are mainly: True-False-Not Given; identifying referring paragraph; Multiple choice questions; and two to three word answers.


 This is a 60-minute test consisting of two separate writing tasks. Usually, the first writing task is accompanied with diagram and illustration to help you understand the context.

The first writing task is one of summarizing information from a given diagram or figure. Your task is to observe the diagram thoroughly and explain only the information that is represented by the diagram. You are not required to provide any critical evaluation or additional information. The minimum word limit is 150.

The second writing task requires you to combine your existing knowledge, using examples where relevant, to analyse a specific issue. This task is designed to see your ability to understand and evaluate ideas such as importance of maintaining old historical buildings, or free education. You can provide arguments both for or against as well as remain a neutral position, depending on the question. The minimum word limit is 250 words.


The speaking test is approximately between 10 – 15 minutes. This test is designed to assess you pronunciation, nature of tonality, range of vocabulary, and your ability to converse on fairly complex topics.

The speaking test has three sections. The first section is the interview phase where you familiarize with the exam rubric, the interviewer, and share some general information about yourself.

In the second section, you are given a specific topic to talk about. You are given one minute to prepare for it, after which, you speak on the topic for about 2 minutes. The interview then asks you few questions regarding the topic.

The third and final section of the speaking test involves an in-depth conversation on the topic introduced in the second section of the speaking test. In this section, you are asked additional questions, and also engage in a brief two-way discussion with the interview on the topic.

This document is accompanied with a free E-book on IELTS.



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