girl with a book at school environment

The IELTS Academic test is designed to measure your English language proficiency and to assess if it is suitable for an academic environment. The test reflects aspects of academic language and evaluates whether you’re ready to begin training or studying in English.

Why take IELTS Academic?

IELTS Academic is the best option if you want to:

  • Study at either undergraduate or postgraduate level anywhere in the world
  • Apply for Tier 4 Student Visa at a university that is a Tier 4 Sponsor in the UK
  • Work in a professional organisation in an English-speaking country.

If you are applying to a UK University that has requested you to take a UKVI IELTS test (Visas and Immigration) you must take another type of test. Learn more about the UKVI IELTS test

What else do you need to know about the exam?

Duration: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Format: The exam has four parts: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

When you register for the IELTS test at one of the British Council's official centres, you can choose between taking your test on paper or computer, or you can take it remotely with IELTS Online. They all have the same content and level of difficulty.

You can take your Speaking test on the same day as the other parts of the exam or a week before or after the date you selected. You will be notified of your Speaking test date in advance.

IELTS Academic: parts of the test


Duration  30 minutes plus ten minutes to transfer your responses to the answer sheet
Format  Four audio recordings in varying accents. 
Number of questions  40, ten per section 

You will write your answers using: 

  • 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 (social needs): a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2 (social needs): a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.
  • Recording 3 (education and training): a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.
  • Recording 4 (education and training): a monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture.

Assessors will be looking for evidence of your ability to understand the main ideas and detailed factual information, the opinions and attitudes of speakers, the purpose of a word and evidence of your ability to follow the development of ideas.

Note that: 

  • Before the start of each part of the listening test, you will have time to read the questions.
  • After the end of each part of the listening test, you will have time to review your answers.
  • At the end of the listening test, you will have 2 minutes to check your answers.
  • The time to complete the listening comprehension test is 30 to 34 minutes.
  • Response times for the listening test are slightly different when the test is presented on a computer. This is because the paper test requires users to transfer their answers to an answer sheet. This step is skipped when responding directly from a computer.


Duration 60 minutes
  • 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.


Duration 60 minutes
  • 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.


Duration Ten to 14 minutes

Face-to-face interview with your examiner including short questions about familiar topics and speaking in detail about one

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, then IELTS Academic is the right test for you.

At the British Council, we are committed to providing you with the support you need to enable you to do well in the test. When you book with us, you get free unlimited access to IELTS Ready: Premium. This includes a range of study resources, practice tests and masterclasses designed to help you develop your language skills.

Before you register, be sure to confirm with the organisations that request the exam which one you need.

IELTS Online

With IELTS Online, you can take your test at home or any private location with a stable internet connection.

If you choose this option, you will write the answers to the Listening, Reading and Writing sections on your computer. The Speaking test will be conducted with a trained IELTS Examiner via an online video call.

See also