IELTS Academic Exam: prepare for higher education

The IELTS Academic exam assesses the level of your academic English. The exam content reflects the language used in higher education or other academic environments.

Take this test if you would like to: 

  • study at undergraduate or postgraduate level anywhere in the world.
  • apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa at a university that is a Tier 4 sponsor in the UK.
  • work for a professional organisation in an English-speaking country.  

If you are applying to a university in the United Kingdom which has requested that you take IELTS for UKVI (Visas and Immigration), find out more information about the IELTS for UKVI exam

Duration: 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Format: the exam has four sections: listening, reading, writing and speaking. When you book your IELTS exam with the British Council, it will take place in one of our official British Council IELTS examination centres.

You can take your speaking exam on the same day as the other sections, or up to a week before, or after the date of your listening, reading and writing exam. You will receive a notification in advance with the date of your speaking exam.  

IELTS Academic, Part 1: Listening tasks

Duration: 30 minutes with an additional 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

Format: four audio recordings with different accents. 

There are several different styles of question: 

  • multiple choice
  • matching
  • diagram labelling
  • sentence completion

You will listen to four recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of questions

  • Recording 1: a conversation between two people in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2: a monologue in an everyday social context, for example a speech about local facilities. 
  • Recording 3: a conversation between up to four people in an educational or training context, for example a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment. 
  • Recording 4: a monologue about an academic topic, for example a university lecture.

The examiners will look to find evidence of your ability to understand the main ideas and detailed factual information, opinions and attitudes of the speakers, as well as your ability to follow the development of ideas and arguments. 

IELTS Academic, Part 2: Reading tasks

Duration: 60 minutes

Format:

  • Three long reading passages with tasks (including diagrams, graphs or illustrations).
  • Texts range from descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical.

The Reading section consists of 40 questions, designed to test a wide range of reading skills. These include skim reading, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, understanding logical arguments and recognising writers' opinions, attitudes and purpose.

This section includes three long texts which range from factual information to discussion pieces and analysis. These are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. They have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for people entering university courses or seeking professional registration.

IELTS Academic, Part 3: Writing tasks

Duration: 60 minutes

Format:

  • One written task to describe, explain or summarise text or diagrams (minimum 150 words)
  • One essay task (minimum 250 words).

Topics are of general interest to, and suitable for, test takers entering undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration. There are two tasks:

  • Task 1 – you will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.
  • Task 2 – you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem.

Responses to both tasks must be in a formal style.

IELTS Academic, Part 4: Speaking tasks

Duration: 10 - 14 minutes

Format:

  • Face-to-face exam with your examiner including short questions about familiar topics and speaking in detail about one topic.
  • Please note: depending on the test centre location, you may be required to book the Speaking section of your test on a different day.

The speaking section assesses your use of spoken English. Every test is recorded.

  • Part 1 - the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics, such as home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between four and five minutes.
  • Part 2  - you will be given a card which asks you to talk about a particular topic. You will have one minute to prepare before speaking for up to two minutes. The examiner will then ask one or two questions on the same topic.
  • Part 3 - you will be asked further questions about the topic in Part 2. These will give you the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issues. This part of the test lasts between four and five minutes.

Book your IELTS Academic test

Success starts with IELTS. If your goal is to study at university or work in an English speaking country, IELTS academic is the right test for you.

At the British Council, we are committed to providing you with the support you need in order to do well. When you book with us, you will get free unlimited access to our online preparation course Road to IELTS. This includes nine videos giving advice and tutorials, 100 interactive activities and two IELTS Academic practice tests for each of the four skills.

Book your IELTS Academic test date

Before booking your test, make sure to check the suitability of the exam with the relevant organisations.