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The IELTS Academic test measures whether you have a level of English language proficiency necessary for an academic and higher education setting.

This exam evaluates some of the characteristics of academic language and indicates if you are ready to start studying or training.

Take this test 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.

You can choose between an Academic IELTS test on paper or on a computer and take either format in various of our official test centres in the Caribbean.

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

What else do you need to know about the exam?


2 hours and 45 minutes


The exam has four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. When you register for the IELTS test with the British Council, you can take it at one of our official test centres, both for paper and computer formats.

Your Speaking test can be taken on the same day as the other sections of the exam or during a week before or after the date you have selected. You will be notified in advance.


Duration: 30 minutes plus 10 minutes to transfer your responses to the answer sheet

Format: Four audio recordings in varying accents. 

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 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2 – a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.
  • Recording 3 – 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 – 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: 10 - 14 minutes


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

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.

From January 2021 some of our IELTS test centres will start delivering the IELTS Speaking test via video calls. This means more flexibility and more availability of IELTS Speaking tests.  

You will take the Video-Call Speaking test at an official IELTS test centre with the same high standard of identity verification. The test will be exactly the same as the in-person Speaking test in terms of content, scoring, timing, level of difficulty, question format and security arrangements.  

Delivered by an IELTS Speaking Examiner, the video-call Speaking test will maintain the face-to-face feature of the in-person Speaking test.

For more information, please contact your local test centre.

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 Road to IELTS Last Minute course. This includes nine videos giving advice and tutorials, 100 interactive activities and two IELTS Academic practice tests for each of the four skills.

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

See also