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IELTS 2016 PATTERN & SYLLABUS

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IELTS Exam Pattern

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing system. IELTS is designed by British council as the standard guideline for the English language. IELTS must be cleared to get admission to any college on your choice outside India. Some colleges in India are now demanding the candidate to clear the IELTS exam so that they are sure about the efficiency in the English language.

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The IELTS exam is conducted such that the IELTS exam pattern has a difference in only the reading and writing section. The IELTS exam listening and speaking sections are same for both the IELTS general and IELTS academic writing. The IELTS exam for the general and academic test takers are conducted on the same day. The IELTS exam has 4 sections. The IELTS exam sections are designed to test the speaking, writing, listening and reading abilities of the candidate. The IELTS exam ability testing is done by giving different formats of the test task. The IELTS exam duration is 2 hours 45 minutes.

Check  TOEFL vs. IELTS: Which one to choose?

The IELTS exam tasks have complexity varying from the low to high difficulty levels. The complexity level of the IELTS speaking topics can change for the candidate if the candidate is well prepared. The IELTS speaking test duration is about 30 minutes. The IELTS Reading test has the duration of 60 minutes. The IELTS Writing test has the duration of about 60 minutes. The only point of difference is the IELTS Practice test are designed differently for the academic and general writing.

READ MORE ABOUT IELTS

Important IELTS Exam Pattern Highlights

The IELTS exam must be prepared according to the IELTS exam pattern. The IELTS exam pattern defines the important highlights of the IELTS. The IELTS Preparation Tips help the candidates to prepare well for good scores in IELTS. The IELTS exam pattern must be studied before the exam preparation is started. The IELTS highlights are as follows:

IELTSPattern details
Total Marks (raw score IELTS 3 sections reading, writing, listening)80
Total Questions2 (academic writing)+ 2(general writing)+3 tasks(speaking)+general reading(40 questions) + academic reading( 40 questions)+ listening (4 tasks)= 91
Total Time2 hours 45 minutes
No. of Sections4
Marks per Sections40
Time per SectionsIELTS Listening- 30 minutes
IELTS Reading (general)- 60 minutes
IELTS Reading (academic) 60 minutes
IELTS writing (general )- 60 minutes
IELTS writing (academic)- 60 minutes
IELTS Speaking- 11 or 14 minutes
Questions per SectionIELTS writing : 2 (academic writing)
IELTS writing : 2(general writing)
IELTS Speaking: 3 tasks(speaking)
IELTS reading : general reading(40 questions)
IELTS reading : academic reading( 40 questions)
IELTS Listening : listening (4 tasks)
Marks per Question1 mark per question for IELTS reading
Time per QuestionVaries with the section
Marking SchemeVaries with the section

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IELTS Listening test

The IELTS listening section is designed to check the listening ability of the candidate. The IELTS listening test duration is about 30 minutes. There will be a total of 40 questions in the IELTS listening section. The candidate has to go through the 4 tasks in the IELTS listening section. The IELTS listening section is designed to check the understanding of the accents in the new locations for which the candidate is appearing to give the IELTS. Thus, in the IELTS listening section we get following 4 tasks:

Section 1: A communication recording between two people in general everyday context.

Section 2: A one- way dialogue delivery recording e.g. a speech

Section 3: A group communication recording

Section 4: A subject lecture recording

Detailed format IELTS listening: one point common to all the IELTS listening task is that a variable number of questions is asked. So you cannot prepare any one task specifically.

Task typeTask details (format)Task focus
Type 1 (Multiple choice)The test taker has to choose 1 option correct from the three options A , B and C as were given. The correct sentence ending has to be selected.Complete understanding of the task is required.
Type 2 (Matching)Answers have to be marked in the question paper. Many variations of the questions are possible.Detailed analyses of the listening skill are done, the ability to understand the description is tested and ability to check the connection between the objects is checked.
Type 3 (Plan, map, diagram labeling)The ability to complete the visuals from the recording heard is checked. A set of pictures are given and the candidate has to select the right kind of diagram from the set given and mark it in the answer sheet.Ability to complete the visual details on the basis of the auditory recording.
Type 4 (Form, note, table, flowchart, summary completion)A variety is possible in the case. The ability to complete the exact “word” details is checked. The details may be numeric, directive or inductive in nature. The answer to be marked on the answer sheet. The marks are awarded for the exact correct word or number.Main information that is gathered by the candidate naturally in the scenarios.
Type 5 (Sentence completion)The completion of the sentence has to be done using one word/number. A part of the sentence is given. The other part has to be completed. The penalty is there if more than one word/number is writtenAbility to identify the key information
Type 6 (Short-answer questions)The phrase has to be written just to complete the sentence. The group of 3 words/numbers has to be written on the basis of the recording heard. The penalty is charged for more words.Ability to listen to the concrete facts- such as places, prices or time is checked

IELTS Reading Test

The IELTS Reading test section is both for the general purpose testing and the skill based testing. The IELTS Reading test for the academic purpose is designed to check the reading skills related to the subject chosen to appear for in the IELTS exam.

READ MORE ABOUT IELTS SCORE

IELTS Reading Test – Academic Test

The IELTS Reading test for the academic purpose is of 60 minutes duration. There are 40 questions in the IELTS Reading Test designed to check the academic understanding. The kind of questions in the IELTS Reading Test can vary depending upon the following:

  • Reading for gist
  • Reading for main ideas
  • Reading for detail
  • Skimming
  • Understanding logical argument and recognizing writers' opinions, attitudes and purpose

The academic version of IELTS reading test includes 3 long tests which are designed to check the analytical and discursive ability. The paragraphs are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. The view is very general in nature and the entrants of professional courses can easily understand the issues discussed.

Academic test detailed format

The IELTS reading test has some more details added to it. The academic IELTS reading test can be prepared well if you are in a habit of reading. There are several types of questions that can be asked on the basis of the passages provided. The academic IELTS reading test has following details on the question types:

Task TypeTask details(format)Task focus
Type 1(Multiple choice)The candidate has to select the best answer from the 4 options/ best 2 answers from the 5 options/ best 3 answers from the 7 option. The answers will appear in the order they are given in the choices. The candidate has to complete the stem given.All round testing of reading skill
Type 2 (Identifying information)The true/false/not given are the three choices given in the IELTS answer sheet. The candidate has to analyze the nature of passage and then answer the question. Just to note that “false” is different from “not given” option. By “false” they mean that the question is opposite in nature to what is asked in the passage. By “not given” they mean that the data is not provided in the passage.Ability to identify the key points.
Type 3(Identifying writer’s views/claims)The options are yes/no/not given. The choice is on the basis of the answer to the question “Do the following statements agree with the views/claims of the writer”. Yes means complete agreement. “no” means the view is opposite to what is expressed in the passage. “not given” means that you cannot reach a conclusion as the views are neither confirmed nor contradicted. The ability to identify the main opinion is tested. These types of questions test the discursive or argumentative texts.
Type 4(Matching information)Use to identify more than one piece of information from the given set of information. The information can be located in multiple paragraphs. The use of alphabets is allowed in such cases.The ability to identify the general information is tested as opposed to the main idea.
Type 5(Matching heading)To identify the information related to the question has to be obtained from the paragraph. The letters will be used to mark the correct passage from which the information has been obtained. The letters have to be filled in the answer sheet.The ability to identify the main information.
Type 6 (Matching features)The candidate has to match the information given in the two sets of columns. The information is present completely in the paragraph given.The ability to identify the relation between the information was given is tested.
Type 7 (Matching sentence endings)The first half of the sentence is given and the second half has to be selected by the candidate. The information is present in the chronological order.Ability to identify the main idea.
Type 8 (Sentence completion)The specific number of words like 2 or 3 can be used to complete the task given. The candidate has to complete the sentence in the word limit specified. The penalty is there if more words are used. Ability to identify the information as asked in the question is tested.
Type 9 (Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion)The answers are to befilled in the format it is asked in the question. The answers will be in one section of the passage. The answers will appear in order. There can be two type of questions that are asked. The answers have to be completed in the defined number of words. The marks will be lost if more words are used to describe an answer. The answers can include the number, figures or words. If a list is given, single word answer has to be written.The ability to identify summary, notes, main idea and additional information are tested.
Type 10 (Diagram label completion)The labels have to be completed on the basis of the description given in the text. The word limit is defined. The ability to identify the main information or relation to the same is tested.
Type 11 (Short-answer questions)The questions are based on the facts given in the text. The answer has to be written in form of words or numbers as asked in the answer sheet. Numbers can be written using figures or words. Contracted words are not tested. Hyphenated words count as single words.Ability to identify the precise information is tested.

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General training- reading test intro

The IELTS Reading test is for general training is designed to check the general reading skills. The questions are designed to identify the main idea, details, skimming, understanding the logical argument and recognizing writers' opinions, attitudes and purpose. The IELTS Reading test is designed to check the daily communicative language skills.

The material is general in nature. The text is taken from the books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. The general IELTS Reading test is of 60 minutes duration. The questions in this section are 40 in number.

General training- detailed format

There will be 3 subsections. The section 1 will contain two or 3 short texts. The section 2 will contain two medium length texts. The section 3 will contain one long text.  

Section 1 is on “social survival”. The basic language understanding is tested. Section 2 is on “workplace survival”. The questions are about the job description, contract and staff development. Section 3 is a long text and the questions are descriptive and instructive rather than argumentative.

Task TypeTask details(format)Task focus
Type 1(Multiple choice)The candidate has to select the best answer from the 4 options/ best 2 answers from the 5 options/ best 3 answers from the 7 option. The answers will appear in the order they are given in the choices. The candidate has to complete the stem given. Ability to understand the main as well as the subordinate information is tested.
Type 2 (Identifying information)The true/false/not given are the three choices given in the IELTS answer sheet. The candidate has to analyze the nature of passage and then answer the question. Just to note that “false” is different from “not given” option. By “false” they mean that the question is opposite in nature to what is asked in the passage. By “not given” they mean that the data is not provided in the passage.Ability to identify the main information is tested.
Type 3(Identifying writer’s views/claims)The options are yes/no/not given. The choice is on the basis of the answer to the question “Do the following statements agree with the views/claims of the writer”. Yes means complete agreement. “no” means the view is opposite to what is expressed in the passage. “not given” means that you cannot reach a conclusion as the views are neither confirmed nor contradicted. The ability to identify the main opinion is tested. These types of questions test the discursive or argumentative texts.
Type 4(Matching information)The crux information is provided on the answer sheet. The correct information crux has to be matched with each paragraph. The use of alphabets is allowed.The ability to match the correct idea is tested.
Type 5(Matching heading)The heading is to be identified for each of the paragraphs given. The headings are given in sequence in the answer sheet.Ability to identify the crux of each paragraph in the text is tested and not the main theme.
Type 6 (Matching features)Match the information given in the first column to the information given in the question. The best halves have to be matched. The questions may not appear in order.The ability to identify the relationship between the facts given in the text is tested.
Type 7 (Matching sentence endingsThe first part of the text is given and the second has to be filled by the candidate.
The best option from the list given has to be chosen.
Ability to identify the main idea of the text is tested.
Type 8 (Sentence completion)The test taker has to complete the text in the given number of words. The answer is in the text given. The upper limit defined on the word limit must be kept in mind.Ability to identify the main information is tested.
Type 9 (Summary, note, table, flowchart completion)The summary has to be completed of the particular section of the text. Only one part of the text is tested. The information can be in the form of several connected sentences of text (referred to as a summary), several notes (referred to as notes), a table with some of its cells empty or partially empty (referred to as a table), a series of boxes or steps linked by arrows to show a sequence of events, with some of the boxes or steps empty or partially empty (referred to as a flow-chart). The answer has to be selected from the list given. The blanks are more than the words allowed as the text is descriptive in nature.Asses the main idea of the text and to convert it in the form of summary or notes.
Type 10 (diagram label completion)The information has to be completed on the labels given on the diagram. Questions have to be answered in the defined number of words. Negative marking in case the words are more than the word limit. The task type is often descriptive in nature.Ability to convert the information flow from theory to the diagram.
Type 11 (Short-answer questions)Questions are asked on the basis of the fact given in the text. The use of numbers or figures is allowed. Contracted words are not tested. Hyphenated words count as single words. The answer has to be written in the word limit given.Ability to identify the precise information from the text is tested.

Academic Test- Writing Test Format

The IELTS writing task has to be completed within the defined time frame in 60 minutes. The IELTS writing task has 2 tasks. The applicant has to complete both the IELTS writing tasks. The word length for the IELTS writing task in 150 words and the time duration for each of the writing tasks are 20 and 40 minutes respectively.

In IELTS writing task 1 requires the IELTS test taker to explain the illustration given. The IELTS writing task 2 requires the IELTS applicant to complete the IELTS writing task 2 in word limit of 250 words. The IELTS writing tasks must be written in the form of paragraphs and not in bullets.

Academic Writing Test Detailed Format

The IELTS writing task 1 has following details to it:

  • The important facts and figures must be identified and written first.
  • The minor details can be missed
  • No penalty on marks if the word count is less or more than 150 words
  • The IELTS writing task must be completed in 20 minutes
  • The information must be presented in the form of paragraphs
  • The information presentation must be unique
  • Negative marking is there if the information written was irrelevant
  • The presentation style must be same as followed in an academic writing
  • The important information about trends must be written from a graph, chart, table or diagram accurately
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The IELTS writing task 2 has following details to it:

  • The information given by the applicant in the IELTS writing task 2 must be to the point
  • The writing style can vary from semi-formal to neutral
  • The word limit is 250 words for IELTS writing task 2
  • Negative marking is there in IELTS writing task 2 if the word limit is less than 250 words
  • Negative marking will be done if the content is irrelevant
  • No address must be put at the top of the IELTS writing task 2 even if required
  • No plagiarism will be accepted
  • Must attempt the question in 40 minutes and must re- read the answer written

General Training- Writing task

The IELTS writing is under this subhead is designed to check the general purpose writing like a letter. The IELTS writing tasks have to be completed in the defined time duration of 60 minutes. The IELTS writing task 1 has to be completed in 20 minutes and IELTS writing task 2 has to be completed in 40 minutes. The pattern of the general and academic writing is similar but has some minor differences.

The IETLS writing task 1 has following details:

  • The task type is generally a letter requesting  information or explaining a situation
  • The situation presented in the IELTS task 1 must be read well to make sure that all the relevant information is presented correctly
  • The presentation of information in the form of bullets is allowed
  • The writer of IELTS exam is allowed to express the viewpoint
  • They can present information by expressing view points, like dislikes or facts
  • The information must be presented in a coherent fashion
  • The situation is very general in nature
  • The time duration for the IELTS task 1 is 20 minutes
  • The word limit is 150
  • Negative marking is done if the word limit is too less than 150 words
  • No negative marking if words are more than 150 words

The IETLS writing task 2 has following details:

  • Writing style is semi-formal/neutral discursive.
  • Word limit is 250 words
  • Instructions are provided on how to present the general factual information, outlining and/or presenting a solution, justifying an opinion, evaluating evidence and idea.
  • Only information relevant to the topic is acceptable
  • The time allotted is 40 minutes
  • The content must be original
  • Negative marking is done if the content is copied or contains irrelevant information
  • The grammatical structure of the sentence must be correct
  • Use of vocabulary is allowed
  • Negative marking is done if the content is too short

IELTS Speaking

The IELTS speaking test is conducted to check the language speaking ability. There will be 3 tasks given under the IELTS Speaking section. The IELTS Speaking section has to be completed in some 11 to 14 minutes. The IELTS Speaking section can be completed for some candidates on the same date of the IELTS exam and some may be asked to come later. The gap is because of the number of test takers of the IELTS exam.

Part 1 IELTS Speaking

The questions are related to the introduction of the self. The questions about family, relationships, home, work, studies, etc have to be answered.

Part 2 IELTS speaking

A topic is given to speak about. 1 minute is given to prepare the IELTS speaking topic. The candidate has to speak continuously for 1 minute. The examiner will ask 1 or 2 questions later.

Part 3 IELTS speaking

More questions are asked about the topic, that the candidate received in part 2. This will give more time for expression of the ideas. This can last for 4-5 minutes.

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Detailed format

Part 1 – Introduction and interview

This round is designed to make candidate open up with the examiner. Questions are asked about family, friends, work, home, etc to make the applicant comfortable. The ability to communicate the familiar ideas is checked. The section may last for 4-5 minutes.

Part 2- long turn

Some time is given usually 1 minute to prepare the topic given to the candidate. The candidate expresses his/her viewpoint on the topic selected. The candidate speaks maximum for 2 minutes. The examiner asks questions on the basis of the content delivered by the candidate. The ability to speak at length about the topic is tested. The time duration is 3-4 minutes for this part.

Part 3- discussion

The information given by the candidate forms the basis for the discussion. The topic is discussed in greater depth. The test takers' ability to express and justify opinions and to analyze, discuss and speculate about issues is tested in the part.

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