The international English language testing system (IELTS) is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration. IELTS assesses four areas of your English skills – Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.It is designed to reflect how you will use English for studying, at work, in everyday situations or in your new life overseas.


IELTS uses a one-on-one speaking test to assess your English communication skills. This means that you are assessed by having a real-life conversation with an actual person – the most effective and natural way of testing your English conversation skills.You can choose either the IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training – depending on your future plans and needs.

Whatever your reason for taking IELTS, this is your opportunity to make the most of your language skills.

IELTS Academic vs IELTS General Training

Which version of IELTS is right for you?

There are two versions of IELTS to choose from:

  • IELTS Academic
  • IELTS General Training
 What do you want to do?The version you need
 I want to: study at university at
undergraduate or postgraduate level;
or join a professional organisation
in an English-speaking country
You should take IELTS Academic
I want to:
train or study at below degree level
work or undertake work-related
training in an English-speaking
country emigrate to an English-speaking country
You should take IELTS General Training

Find out which test you need

Every organisation sets its own entry requirements. In some cases both versions of IELTS may be accepted.

If you are not certain as to which version to take, you should contact the organisations directly in order to check their requirements.

IELTS Test Format and Scoring

There are two modules to choose from – Academic and General Training.

  • The Academic module is for candidates wishing to study at undergraduate or postgraduate levels, and for those seeking professional registration
  • The General Training module is for candidates wishing to migrate to an English speaking country (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK), and for those wishing to train or study at below degree level

If you are in doubt as to which module to take, please contact Blue Ocean Academy in order to check which test best suits your requirements.

Both modules cover all four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking. Everyone takes the same Listening and Speaking tests. There are different Reading and Writing tests for the Academic and General Training modules.

The Listening, Reading and Writing tests must be completed on the same day. There are no breaks between the three written tests. The Speaking test may be taken up to seven days before or after the other three tests.

 Test Duration Sections/Items
Listening Test 30 minutes + 10 minutes transfer time 4 sections, 40 items
Reading Test AC or GT 60 minutes 3 sections, 40 items
Writing Test AC or GT 60 minutes Task 1: 150 words Task 2: 250 words
Speaking Test 11 – 14 minutes 

*The Listening and Speaking components are the same for both versions. The Reading and Writing components differ.

IELTS scores

IELTS is designed to assess English language skills at all levels. There is no such thing as a pass or fail in IELTS. Results are reported as band scores on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest).

How to Prepare for the IELTS test

IELTS measures your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills, and assesses your ability to communicate for work, study or life in an English-speaking country.

The first step is to make sure you understand the IELTS test format. You need to know what will be expected of you on test day.

Understand the IELTS test format

  • Study the test format to make sure that you know what to expect.
  • Look carefully at the content of each part of the IELTS test: listening, reading, writing and speaking.
  • Get to know the different types of questions that you may be asked in each part.

Once you are familiar with the IELTS test format, you will need to undertake a number of focused preparation activities.

Recommended preparation activities

  • Blue Ocean can provide a range of IELTS practice test papers and answers.
  • Take practice tests with Blue Ocean under timed conditions.
  • Practice with the IELTS online preparation resources, available free when you book your test
  • Review our IELTS Test Day Advice

IELTS Test Day Advice

IELTS Test Day Advice

Prepare for your test day; success starts with IELTS and Blue Ocean Academy

You will find the IELTS test centre staff friendly, welcoming and highly professional. They will make sure that the test is delivered fairly and securely. Follow their instructions carefully.

The week before your test

Check the start time and location of your IELTS test the week before, and make sure you know how to get there on time.

Remember, the address of your IELTS test location may be different to that of the test centre where you booked your test.

Take the time to read full details of the IELTS test terms and conditions for important information about your IELTS test day.

Your IELTS test day

You need to arrive in good time for your IELTS test. If you arrive late, you may not be allowed to take the test.

Switch off your mobile phone and any other electronic devices. You will be asked to place these with other personal belongings outside the test room.

The Listening, Reading and Writing tests take 2 hours 40 minutes and there are no breaks between each part of the test.

Make sure you are prepared and have something to eat and drink beforehand. You will not be allowed to take food into the test room; you will only be allowed to take a drink in a transparent bottle.

Your identity and photographs

The IELTS test centre staff will check your identity when you arrive.

Make sure you have the right ID with you. If you arrive with the wrong ID, you will not be allowed to take the test.

You may also need two recent identical passport-sized photographs.

Test Day Photography

Staff at the IELTS Test centere will also take a photograph of you on the test day – this photograph will appear on your Test Report Form to provide increased identity security. Your test centre will let you know if it is going to do this. For more information see IELTS candidate identity verification.

Check the details that you were given when you booked the test to make sure you take the right ID and photographs with you.

During the IELTS test

You will only be allowed to have a pen or pencil, an eraser and your ID on your desk.

If you need to go to the bathroom during the test, put your hand up to attract the attention of the invigilator. Do not disturb other candidates.

If you have any questions during the test, raise your hand to ask for help.

When you take the Listening test, check that you can hear the test properly. Raise your hand straightaway and let the invigilator know if you cannot hear the recording.

Please remember that you will have 10 minutes after the Listening section to fill in your answer sheet. You will not have 10 minutes after the Reading section, so please make sure that you write your answers on your Reading answer sheet as you complete each section.

At the end of the test

Stay in your seat until the invigilator gives you permission to leave the room.

If you think that there have been any issues that may have affected your performance, tell the invigilator straightaway.

If you want to make a complaint about your test day, you need to do this within one week of the test date.

Your invigilator will have a Test Day Incident Form. Please fill this in if you want to raise an issue or make a complaint.

Special arrangements

If you have asked for special arrangements as a result of a disability or other condition, adjustments will be made for you on the test day.

Test day tips

Understand the task

Follow instructions carefully during the test. Remember that the Writing parts of the test have specific word length requirements.

Allow enough time for each question

Some questions have suggested time limits for you to follow. Every test room will have a clock on the wall. Stay aware of the time during the test so that you can complete all the questions.

Stay calm enough to do your best

If you feel worried, take deep breaths to calm down. Focus on the questions and do not rush your answers. This will help you to do your best.