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Test Sections for the IELTS

The IELTS Reading Paper

The reading paper on the IELTS academic test lasts for one hour, including the time necessary to fill in the answer sheet. This section features a total of 40 multiple choice questions on three reading passages (12-14 questions for each). The reading passages are similar to what might be encountered in textbooks on academic subjects, but specialized knowledge is not required. There are 11 "task types" on the academic reading paper: multiple choice (with one, two, or three possible correct answers), identifying information, identifying writer claims, matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, chart completion, labelling diagrams, and short answers. The general training reading paper has a similar 40-question structure, for which test-takers are given one hour. General training reading passages are more vocational in nature, and there is a 12th type of task (multiple matching).

The IELTS Writing Paper

The writing section of the IELTS academic and general training tests both feature two essays. The first should be approximately 150 words long and written in 20 minutes, while the second is about 250 words in 40 minutes. Task 2 is given twice as much weight in the section score as Task 1. On both tests, Task 2 is a "discursive essay" based on an essay prompt. Students must either provide evaluations or solutions to the given problem, challenge an argument, or compare and contrast ideas. The only difference between the academic and general training writing assessments is in the demands of the first writing task. The former is a summary of visual information, while the latter is a letter written in response to a given situation. Test-takers are graded equally on four criteria: task achievement, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource, and grammatical range and accuracy.

The IELTS Listening Paper

The IELTS academic and general training tests include the same listening and speaking papers. Students are allowed 30 minutes to complete the listening section exercises, and they are given an additional 10 minutes to fill out the answer sheet. The listening paper is divided into four sections of 10 questions each (all questions have the same value). Sections 1 and 2 are based on social situations, while sections 3 and 4 are drawn from academic contexts. Task types include chart completion, multiple choice (with one or two correct answers), short answer, sentence completion, labelling a diagram, classification, and matching. Listening passages will be played only once.

The IELTS Speaking Paper

The IELTS speaking paper is an interview with a live IELTS examiner that lasts for 11-14 minutes. Section 1 (4-5 minutes) includes questions on everyday topics, such as hobbies or personal preferences. In section 2 (3-4 minutes), test-takers discuss a topic they read about in a provided booklet. The examiner asks questions about that topic in section 3 (4-5 minutes). The four evaluation criteria for the listening paper are fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation.

IELTS Life Skills Assessment Areas

The IELTS life skills test involves evaluation of writing and speaking skills only, which are assessed simultaneously in the presence of an examiner. This test is used for visa applicants, and the exact length is determined by the type of visa sought (the total can be anywhere from 16-22 minutes). The life skills test is administered to two students at a time, and is either two or three sections (again, this depends on the relevant visa category). The first section involves answering general questions, while the second section features an audio recording that test-takers must discuss. On the third section, the two students plan an activity together. Each student is graded individually, and the result is either "pass" or "fail."