what do they ask in an ielts exam?, ielts listening tasks, ielts speaking tasks, ielts reading tasks, ielts writing tasks, ielts examiner, academic ielts, general training ielts

What do they ask in an IELTS exam?

By Keith Pilkington

In locations where it’s permitted and safe to do so, IELTS testing is going ahead, with additional precautions in place to help protect the health of test takers and staff.

If you are an overseas healthcare professional wanting to work in the UK, you’ll need evidence of your English language abilities as part of your tier 2 visa application; an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam result is acceptable proof of this.

There are two main types of IELTS exams; the Academic and General Training. The listening and speaking sections of the exam are the same for both test formats, but the subject matter of the reading and writing sections differ depending on which test format you sit.

IELTS listening tasks

For this section of the IELTS exam, which lasts 30 minutes, you’ll need to listen to four recorded texts and conversations by a range of English speakers, and then answer 40 questions. These questions will test your ability to follow the development of an idea, understand main ideas, facts and figures and recognise opinions and attitudes. You’ll hear each section only once.

IELTS speaking tasks

This section lasts 11-14 minutes. An IELTS examiner will assess your use of spoken English, asking you general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics, such as home and family. You’ll then be given a card that asks you about a particular topic, for which you’ll have one minute to prepare before speaking about that topic for up to two minutes. You’ll be asked further questions to give you the chance to discuss more abstract ideas too.

IELTS reading tasks

  • Academic IELTS: The reading section is made up of 40 questions, to test a wide range of skills. These include reading for main ideas, detail, and understanding logical argument and opinions. The section includes three long, authentic texts that range from the factual to the analytical.

  • General training IELTS: This section is also made up of 40 questions, but also requires test takers to read extracts from books, magazines, newspapers and guidelines (materials you’re likely to come across on a daily basis in an English-speaking environment).

IELTS writing tasks

  • Academic IELTS: The writing section includes two tasks; firstly, you’ll be presented with a graph, table or diagram and will be asked to describe the information in your own words. You may be asked to explain data or how something works. Secondly, you’ll be required to write an essay in response to a point of view or problem.

  • General training IELTS: This section also includes two tasks; you’ll be asked to write a letter requesting information, or explaining a situation, and will need to pen an essay in response to a point of view.

For more information about overseas worker requirements, read our collection of blogs.