Should you take academic or general IELTS?

The answer depends on why you are taking IELTS.

  • Academic IELTS is for people who are applying to a university or a highly skilled job in an English speaking country.
  • General IELTS is for people who are immigrating to an English speaking country.

This article will explain the differences between academic and general IELTS.

What is the difference?

First of all, general IELTS is easier.

However, academic and general IELTS have a lot in common.  In fact, there are many parts of the test that are exactly the same!

These parts are the same:

  1. Speaking
  2. Listening
  3. Writing task 2

These parts are different:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing task 1


1. Academic reading vs. general reading

Academic reading

  • 60 minute time limit
  • 3 long reading passages (increasing in difficulty)
  • 40 questions
  • Reading passages are about academic topics, such as:
    • science, history, medicine, technology, or sociology
  • Reading passages are from academic sources, such as:
    • articles from an academic journal
    • parts of a textbook

General reading

  • 60 minute time limit
  • 4 short passages (increasing in difficulty)
  • 40 questions
  • Reading passages are about general topics, such as:
    • job descriptions, life skills, or news
  • Reading passages are from general sources, such as:
    • magazines, newspapers, advertisements, or travel brochures

2. Academic writing task 1 vs. general writing task 1

Academic writing task 1

General writing task 1

Which test is right for you?

You should ask the organization where you are applying about which test they require.  That is the best way to get an answer.

For example, if you are applying for a job that requires IELTS then you should ask the hiring manager.

If you are applying for citizenship in a new country, ask the embassy or consulate closest to you.

However, I hope these example situations will be helpful.

Pablo wants to start a new life in Canada.  He doesn't have a job yet, but he is confident that he will be able to find one.  He needs to take general IELTS.

Khirul has a degree in computer science and several years of work experience in his home country.  He is applying for a job as a project manager for an IT company in New Zealand.  He should take academic IELTS.

Neha graduated from high school last year.  Now, she is applying for universities in England.  She needs to take academic IELTS.

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