What is the IELTS exam pattern and syllabus 2022?

Updated on: Dec 6, 2022

IELTS is designed to assess the test takers' English proficiency.

There are two test versions available, IELTS Academic and General Training. 

The exam pattern of IELTS comprises 4 major sections- Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The syllabus of each section is generic and based on topics that revolve around our everyday lives.

In this article, let's look at the IELTS exam pattern and syllabus in detail.

IELTS exam pattern 2022

The IELTS test consists of 4 sections:

  • Listening 
  • Reading 
  • Writing 
  • Speaking

The Academic and General training versions have the same sections to assess the candidates. It's important to know that universities accept IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training is just for immigration purposes. IELTS academic score is accepted by all the universities and institutions where you will apply for undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Some professional organisations accept an IELTS score for candidates whose first language is not English. So if you plan to move to an English-speaking country for work purposes, you'll need to take IELTS General Training.                
The duration of both tests is 2 hrs and 45 minutes. Find in detail which IELTS you should take.

While the listening, reading and writing will be conducted in a single day, the speaking section is undertaken either on the same day or seven days before the test day.

Here's the breakdown of each section and the total number of questions.

SectionsIELTS paper patternSyllabus similarity in the Academic and General Training versionTotal questionsDuration
Listening4 recorded monologues and conversations.Same4030 minutes
Reading3 long reading passages with tasks. Descriptive, factual and analytical concepts are covered.Different4060 minutes
Writing2 short essays, each of 150-250 words. Most of the data interpretation.Different260 minutes
SpeakingFace-to-face interview with a few short questions, a brief convo on a familiar topic and a structured discussion.Same3-511-14 minutes

IELTS listening section

The IELTS listening test duration is 30 minutes for the Academic and General Training versions. It consists of 4 sections and 40 questions in total. Each of these has a unique theme or an emphasis.

The difficulty level increases from the first to the final section. The first section will be the easiest, while the last will be the most difficult.

IELTS listening questions format

The four sections in the listening part are:

  • A conversation between two individuals in an everyday social context. 
  • A monologue or speech. 
  • A conversation among a group of people in an academic environment. 
  • A monologue in the lecture format. 
  • Each sub-section in the listening has questions that are: 
  • Multiple choice types. 
  • Labelling a plan, map or diagram. 
  • Matching sentence endings. 
  • Filling in and completing a summary, note, table or flow chart. 
  • Short-answer questions.

Here's an overview of tasks provided in the listening section

Duration30 minutes
Number of questions40
Tasks and question typesMCQs, Matching sentence endings, Plan/Map/Diagram labelling, Form/Note/Table/Flow chart/Summary compilation, Sentence completion
Answering methodYou have to type or write the answers while you are listening. Poor grammar and spelling will deduct marks.
Mark distributionEach question carries 1 mark.

IELTS reading section

The reading section has 40 questions divided into 3 parts. 

Each section has a single passage and related questions. The total duration of the section is 60 minutes.

In Academic version

The reading section of the IELTS exam (academic) includes three long texts that are descriptive, factual and analytical. The texts will be taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers.

In the General Training version

The texts and passages will be extracts from famous books and magazines, mainly in a general context. The IELTS exam syllabus of this version is designed to evaluate your general linguistic knowledge of English.

IELTS reading questions format

The following type of questions are included in the reading section:

  • Multiple Choice Questions.
  • Identifying information and claims.
  • Matching sentence endings.
  • Matching headings (where you'll assign subheadings from given options to each part of the passage).
  • Sentence completion.
  • Data interpretation.
  • Short answer questions.

IELTS writing section

The IELTS writing section's duration is 60 minutes. You have to write two brief, descriptive essays of 200-250 words during this time. The task is the same in Academic and General Training, but the questions' concepts vary.

Mostly, you will have to interpret a passage based on provided data, summarise a debatable concept and provide your point of view.

IELTS writing questions format

In Academic version

Task 1: You'll be given a data interpretation task, where the questions will be either from a graph, data, chart or diagram. You will be asked to write an essay responding to the data provided and describe the flow chart or an object.

Task 2: This is another interpretation essay, and now you have to express your point of view, argument or problem. Keep the tone formal and in the academic style. Also, support your points with relevant examples.

In the General Training version

The tasks revolve around topics of general interest in the General Training paper.

Task 1: The first essay will be letter-writing that may be personal, semi-formal or formal. You have to write one explaining an issue or requesting a piece of information.

Task 2: It's an essay writing task in which you must place your point of view for an argument or a problem. The tone should sound a little more personal than what you will write in the academic paper.

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IELTS speaking test

This is the most crucial part of the IELTS exam. The test happens as a face-to-face interview that lasts for 11-14 minutes. You will be assessed and evaluated for your English communication skills.

The whole session is divided into three parts. In each part, the examiner will speak with you on diverse topics that are simple and general. The entire session is recorded.

IELTS speaking test format

Part 1:

  • Examiners ask general questions about you.
  • These will mostly be about your personal life, academic achievements, family, etc.
  • The session lasts for 4-5 minutes.

Part 2:

  • You'll be given a card to prepare your speech.
  • The speech shall go on for 2 minutes.
  • The topic for your speech will be mentioned on the given card.

Part 3:

  • The final session of the speaking exam will be about your previous speech.
  • In this session, you will share further ideas or thoughts.
  • The duration of the last part is 2-5 minutes.

Related article: IELTS Speaking Tips to Score high

Summary of the IELTS exam pattern

SectionsReading, Writing, Listening, Speaking
Total duration2 hours and 45 minutes
Number of questions82 questions (reading, writing, and listening) with interview questions from the speaking section
Score rangeA band score of 0-9
Mode of examOnline and paper-based

Tips to prepare and ace your IELTS exam

  • The first and foremost point is to develop your vocabulary. For that, start reading more books, magazines and newspapers.
  • To practise listening, play podcasts or YouTube videos and outline what you've heard. 
  • Improve your grammar by taking note of books and the sentence structure and punctuation they use.
  • Work on reading long passages by skimming. This may be the section that'll take the longest during the IELTS test. Practice skimming text and making a mental note of the main points in the passage.
  • For writing, start practising essay writing every day. Read more 300-400 words of articles and create frameworks to write an essay in a structured format.
  • For the speaking session, do not memorise the answers. Use a range of grammatical structures and practice maintaining fluency instead of using big and unfamiliar words.

FAQs: IELTS exam pattern and syllabus

1. Has the IELTS exam pattern changed?

Not significantly. In 2020, the committee renamed the "sections" in the listening category as "parts".

2. How many skills are tested in the IELTS test?

Your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills are tested and evaluated in the IELTS.

3. Is there a break between the listening, reading and writing sessions?

No. These sections are conducted in a single session as one exam.

4. Does the IELTS test accept American English?

Yes. Since the test evaluates your international English proficiency, both (UK and USA) lingo are considered.

5. Are there any pass marks for IELTS?

No, there are no pass marks for IELTS. But scoring above 5 out of 9 will be a decent score. An IELTS score guide will help you understand the scoring pattern in detail.

6. How many times can I take the IELTS?

There is no defined limit to taking IELTS. But you can take 48 times a year for the General Training version and 24 days for the Academic version.

7. What is the eligibility for the IELTS exam?

It would be best to have a valid, non-expired passport and should be at least 16 years of age. Find more about each eligibility criteria in detail.

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