IELTS Academic Vs IELTS General Training

Did you know that there are two versions of IELTS? That’s right! When taking the test, you will have to choose between IELTS Academic and General Training, which have differences in the Writing and Reading sections . To help you decide which of the two modalities you should do, we have brought here a guide comparing the main points on which they differ, and what the purpose of each is. Check out!

IELTS Academic and General Training: a comparative guide

In general, IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training differ more in purpose than in format:



IELTS Academic

It may be obvious to you that the Academic IELTS is intended for (potential) university students who are applying to universities in which English is the primary language. But that’s not all: many professionals and job seekers may need to provide scores in this version of the test.

An example is the health professions. If you want to be a doctor, nurse, pharmacist and even a hospital laboratory technician in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand or other Englishspeaking countries, you will definitely need to do the IELTS Academic. According to, IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System.

Unlike the general training version, the academic version allows participants to demonstrate some reading and writing skills that are not necessarily part of the everyday communication experience of English speakers. That is, they are considered to be distinct from “general” reading and writing skills.

IELTS General Training

For all other immigration and employment options abroad, IELTS General Training is used. For example, many multinational companies sometimes use General Training scores to assess their employees’ English proficiency. Thus, test participants can use their score report to get a job, in some cases.

Format: two versions, four skills

Both versions of the test have the same general format. Your English writing, reading, listening and speaking skills will be tested separately, regardless of the version chosen. In fact, there is no difference between the listening and speaking sections at IELTS Academic and General Training. The same topics and types of questions can be expected in both modalities.

In the format, the same goes for the other two sections. The two versions of Writing involve two tasks, and the two modes of Reading have 40 questions related to the texts presented. The differences begin to appear, however, in the nature of the types of content and task, which we will now discuss.

IELTS General Training


Students and professionals must have English reading skills that are strong enough to understand and produce professional and academic texts and publications, textbooks, magazines and specialized newspapers. As such, IELTS Academic uses texts extracted directly from these types of sources to test the tester’s understanding.

Likewise, writing tasks specific to this version use examples of topics that would be relevant in academic and professional settings. English writing skills will be assessed to ensure that they are strong enough to write articles, for example.

On the other hand, those who take IELTS General Training find the type of language that would appear in advertisements, guides, magazines, notices or in manuals. Written English, in this case, will be tested in general tasks, such as letter writing or basic writing.


According to, the biggest difference between IELTS Academic and General Training is the way they are scored. In fact, Listening, Speaking and Writing are scored the same in both exams. But IELTS Reading, which accounts for 25% of your grade, is rated very differently on the academic test when compared to the general.

For example, suppose you hit 30 out of 40 questions in IELTS Reading. In the reading section of General Training, this is a 5.0 score of the final score. At the IELTS Academic, the same number of correct questions will give you a 6.0 grade. Your gross scores will have a totally different meaning, depending on which modality you do!

IELTS Academic and General Training

IELTS Academic and General Training: which is easier?

When there are two similar English proficiency tests, such as IELTS Academic and General Training, it is always difficult to say whether one is easier than the other. After all, some people find certain things easier and others more difficult.

With that said, the answer to the question above is… IELTS General Training is probably easier than IELTS Academic. Almost every student feels that the general test is less challenging. After all, writing a short letter is easier than summarizing a complicated chart or table!

The British Council, IDP and Cambridge Assessment English, organizations responsible for formulating IELTS, seem to agree. For example, they assume that getting 30 out of 40 at General Training Reading is as difficult as getting 23 out of 40 at Academic Reading. That is why 30/40 in the general test and 23/40 in the academic are classified as 6 in the final grade.

However, it is important not to assume that Listening or Speaking will be easier in General Training. These two sections have exactly the same format and the same level of difficulty, regardless of whether you are taking the IELTS academic or general test.

Because it is easier, does it mean that you should choose IELTS General Training over Academic? Not really. At the end of the day, these tests are really 70% similar and, depending on what your goal is abroad, you will not have the option to choose which format you want. So it’s probably best to find out how difficult IELTS will be for you, regardless of the version you need to make.