IELTS Exam Syllabus: Section-Wise IELTS Syllabus & Test Pattern

Updated on 08 September, 2023

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

ielts exam syllabus

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an English language proficiency exam for work, study, or migration. With the right knowledge of the IELTS exam syllabus and pattern, cracking the popular English test won’t be difficult. The exam scores are especially important for students who wish to study abroad at reputed universities.

Studying abroad is one of the most important decisions made by graduates and high school students. It is an opportunity for them to see the world and explore global opportunities. The education system and the job market are dynamic and promising in various countries like the USA, Australia, Canada, Europe, and Germany. All reputed global schools, colleges, and universities demand English proficiency before offering admission to international students.

The test allows an evaluation of international students based on their proficiency and command of the English language. It is mainly intended for non-native English speakers aspiring to study abroad. English is a medium of communication in almost all foreign universities. IELTS is a standard English test that every student who did not have their first language English has to appear for. The accepted score and eligibility depend upon the country and the university. There are two types of test – Academic and General Training—and the IELTS syllabus slightly differs for them.

Two Types of IELTS Exams

The IELTS exam is of two types - Academic and General Training. The IELTS Academic and General Training Test assesses a student’s English language skills in terms of their reading, writing, listening, and speaking capabilities. The IELTS Academic test is for those who want to opt for professional registration or higher education in countries where English is a fundamental language. IELTS General Training is for those students who aspire to get admitted to countries like New Zealand, Canada, the US, Australia, and the UK for below degree level education and training programs. Under academic and general training, there are four sections–reading, writing, listening, and speaking. While the IELTS syllabus for listening and speaking remains the same for all test takers, the reading and writing tests are different for academic and general training types. The duration of the examination is 2 hours and 45 minutes and the score range is from 0 to 9. The IELTS score is valid for 24 months and the maximum attempt limit is once a week or four times a month.

IELTS is one of the largest English language proficiency examinations conducted by IDP Education Ltd. More than 10,000 universities and 140 countries accept IELTS scores for admission. There is no minimum score to qualify for the examination, and it depends upon the educational institutions to decide which score is necessary for eligibility. The top 100 globally ranked universities have a high IELTS cut-off for which international students need to have a strong preparation to compete for seats. Therefore, it is important for international students to get acquainted with the IELTS full syllabus so that they can score high and get through the admission process easily.

Here are few more Samples Reading Answers for IELTS
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ielts exam syllabus 2023

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Reading sample test
Writing sample test

IELTS Exam Pattern

The exam is divided into four sections that check the students’ proficiency in the English language. These sections are reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The students need to work on all the aspects of the English language to get a good IELTS exam score. The table below highlights the exam pattern and discusses the topics and the time allotted to attempt each of the sections:



Number of Questions

Listening- 30 minutesThe Listening section will have four monologues and recorded conversations.

40 questions in total based around 4 recordings

Reading- 60 minutesThe reading section will have four passages and there will be tasks.

40 questions in total

The tasks from the passage will be fact-based, descriptive, and discursive. The analytical portion will be based on the non-verbal part and will have graphical representations, images, illustrations and texts from various books and study material.


60 minutes

1 short essay of around 250-word limit.

2 questions in total

A task of 150 words where the candidates need to describe, analyze, summarize, and explain the graphical representations, images and illustrations.
Speaking- 11-14 minutesThe speaking section will have a structured and detailed discussion on various topics, short face-to-face interview questions, and some lengthy questions about various topics of interest.

3 questions in total


IELTS Syllabus

The IELTS syllabus 2023 is vast, it includes two modules and four chunky sections. The four sections have a fixed structure, pattern, time duration, and the number of questions. Here is how the IELTS full syllabus will look like in detail:

Writing Syllabus

The writing segment is the first section of the IELTS examination which consists of short essays or reports. There are two tasks in the writing portion. Firstly, the candidates need to draft a 150-word essay after examining and understanding the graphical representations, diagrams, data, and tables. Secondly, the aspirants need to prepare an essay of their own words based on a view, idea, or argument that is presented to them.

1. IELTS Academic writing

The IELTS Academic syllabus for the writing section is based on general interest topics and is meant for students applying for a postgraduate or undergraduate degree. The first task will have a diagram, data, or a graphical representation that the students need to analyze and explain in their own words. Secondly, the students need to draft an essay of 250 words based on the data documented and produce a proper view or argument with relevant examples. The writing style of the report and essay must be formal and structured.

Recommended Read: IELTS Academic Writing Task 1

2. IELTS General Training writing

The General writing module has two tasks, but the level will be easier than the Academic module. A situation will be given and based on that; a letter must be written by the students. This letter should be formal or semi-formal based on the type of situation. The students need to explain, argue, or request a certain authority. Based on the viewpoint of the first letter, the next task will be an essay. The tone of this essay can be semi-personal or personal.

Recommended Read: IELTS General Writing Task 1 || IELTS General Writing Task 2 Tips

Types of Questions in Writing Section

  • Agree/disagree
  • Advantages/disadvantages
  • Cause/solution
  • Two-part questions
  • Discuss both sides of a question
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Reading Syllabus

The IELTS reading module will have three questions that will be based on general interest and are meant for undergraduate and postgraduate degree students. There will be a total of 40 questions that will include short questions, multiple-choice questions, matching phrases, and data lists. The reading examination of IELTS has a different pattern for academic and general training modules.

1. IELTS Academic Reading

The academic reading section will have three long paragraphs. They will be analytical, descriptive, and based on facts. These paragraphs are mainly from books, newsletters, journals, and articles. The level is for professional and post-graduate students aspiring to study abroad.  

2. IELTS General Training reading

The format of the general training reading examination will be the same as that of the academic module. However, this portion is relatively easier because it will have topics that the students come across in their day-to-day lives. The three reading passages will be based on topics like pamphlets, advertising, and brochures among others. 

Type of Questions in Reading Section

  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • Short-answer questions
  • Matching information
  • Matching headings
  • Matching features
  • Identifying information
  • Identifying writer’s views/claims
  • Sentence completion
  • Matching Sentence Endings
  • Diagram label completion
  • Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion

Listening Syllabus

The syllabus for the IELTS listening section is the same for the two modules - Academic and General Training examinations. There will be a total of four recordings that students have to listen to and answer 40 questions surrounding it. The first two conversations will be based on social and environmental needs, while the last two will revolve around educational situations. All the conversations will be three minutes each. The students are allowed to hear the four conversations only once. Based on these conversations, questions like note completion, multiple-choice and sentence completion will be asked.

  • Conversations 1 and 2 will be based on social and regular situations. Under this, the first conversation will be between two people in a common scenario and setting. The second one will be a monologue that will be based on a common everyday situation too.
  • Conversations 3 and 4 will be based on educational situations. Under this, the third conversation will be among four people in a proper education or training context. The fourth conversation will be a monologue based on any academic context or subject. 

Type of Questions in Listening Section

  • Multiple Choice Questions 
  • Sentence completion
  • Matching
  • Plan, map and diagram labelling 
  • Table, flow- chart, summary completion

Speaking Syllabus

The IELTS speaking examination is the very last section and it has the same pattern and structure for both the modules - Academic and General Training. The section assesses the general speaking skills of the candidates and will test the knowledge and effective communication skills of the candidates to communicate overseas. There will be a total of three questions that will contain personal interviews, a discussion, and a small speech.

Types of Questions in Speaking section

Part 1 – This part focuses on the self-introduction of the candidates. Candidates are asked questions on general topics and they need to talk about themselves, their background, hobbies, and educational qualifications and achievements. The focus should be on the tone, structure, sentence construction, and usage of words.

Part 2 – Here the candidate will be given a topic for which they will get around two minutes to jot down everything related to the topic that is relevant and speak about it. After the speech of the candidates, there will be a short question and answer round.

Part 3 – This will be a lengthy discussion and the questions will be deep, relevant, and abstract. The discussion will be based on serious issues and topics.

IELTS is an important exam for aspiring candidates to take up education in popular countries like the USA, Australia, Europe, Canada, and Germany. The IELTS exam pattern and syllabus are vast as it has two modules and four sections. Students need to give time to understand the exam pattern, types of IELTS exams, and the kind of questions asked. Visit upGrad Abroad to get the right guidance and support to crack IELTS in a single attempt.

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IELTS Preparation Tips

Get yourself oriented with the examination pattern and syllabus

Go through the previous year’s question paper and try to understand the types of questions asked and the time allotted for each section of the IELTS exam. 

Chalk out a preparation strategy that suits you

Create a study plan and preparation strategies that suit you the best. Make pointers on what you intend to study each day, for how much time, and cover every section. Highlight your weak areas and devote additional time. Make sure to practice sample tests intensively some days before the exam.

Focus on improving your vocabulary

Practice reading newspapers, news websites, and magazines. Learn common phrases and word arrangements with the help of a monolingual dictionary. Converse every day in English, but avoid translating sentences from your native language.

Work on your writing skills

Practice various writing questions from sample tests and do not forget to keep a check on the time you are taking. Proofread your task and make sure that you do not write below the prescribed word limit. 

Upgrade your listening skills

Take as many listening tests as possible and listen to the recordings without pausing them since you will be allowed to listen to them only once. Make necessary points while listening so that you do not face any problems in answering. 

Focus on enhancing your fluency and pronunciation

Talk aloud for a long time in English and jot down the points you need to work on. You can also record your speech on various topics. To improve your pronunciation, start watching English news channels, movies, and TV series.

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How is the Marking Done in different Sections of IELTS


The IELTS Listening test consists of 40 questions. On answering each correct answer, the candidate is awarded one mark and the scores are converted to the nine-band IELTS scale.

Band Score

Raw Score 0ut of 40











The IELTS Reading test contains 40 questions and a candidate is awarded one mark on every correct answer. The score that a candidate receives out of 40 is converted to the IELTS band scale from zero to nine. 

The Academic and General Training Reading tests are the two tests with questions of the same genre and text type. Academic Reading tests feature questions with more difficult vocabulary or greater complexity of style. To secure a better score on a given band score, a candidate has to answer more questions in the General Training Reading test correctly.

The tables below indicate the average number of marks a candidate has to achieve to receive a particular band score in Listening, Academic Reading and General Training Reading.

Band score

Academic Reading (raw score out of 40)

General Training Reading (raw score out of 40)















The IELTS Writing section consists of two tasks where you are required to write a summary on visual information in 150 words and an essay in 250 words based on a point of view or argument. Examiners use several assessment criteria to award a band score from zero to nine and it is weighted equally and the score on the task is the average. 

  • Task Achievement (for Task 1), Task Response (for Task 2)
  • Coherence and Cohesion
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy


The IELTS Speaking test is a face-to-face interview with the examiner where the speaking capabilities of a candidate is assessed on three tasks. Examiners use assessment criteria to award a band score which is an average of the scores received in an individual task.

  • Fluency and Coherence
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  • Pronunciation

Calculation of Overall Band Score in IELTS

The overall band score in IELTS is an average of the band scores received in all four sections and rounded off to the nearest whole or half band. If the average of the four band scores ends at .25, the candidate’s overall band score is rounded up to the next half band. However, if it ends in .75, the overall band score would be rounded up to the next band score. The overall band score is rounded down if the average ends with a fraction below .25 or .75.

For examples:

  • Reading 6.5 + Writing 5 + Speaking 7 + Listening 6.5, Total= 25
    Divide the total by 4 = 6.25, since it ends in .25, the overall band score will be rounded up to the next half band which is 6.5
  • Reading 6.5 + Writing 5.5 + Speaking 6.0 + Listening 6., Total = 24.5
    Divide the total by 4 = 6.125, since it ends in .125, the overall band score will be rounded down to the next whole band which is 6.0.
  • Reading 3.5 + Writing 4.0 + Speaking 4.0 + Listening 4.0 = 19.5
    Divide the total by 4 = 3.875, since it ends with a fraction above .75, the overall band score will be rounded up to the next whole band which is 6.5

Study abroad with upGrad Abroad

To cater end-to-end requirements of learners planning to pursue higher education abroad, upGrad Abroad has launched a Booster Program. The 12-weeks long extensive program is designed with a keen focus on equipping learners to kick-start their international undergraduate/ postgraduate journey after completing their first year in India. The Booster Program has been designed to offer support to students in preparation for IELTS, Academic Writing, Profile Building, International Faculty Masterclass, and University Application, Education Loan, and Visa Support.

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Frequently Asked Questions on IELTS Exam Syllabus

Which is the most difficult section in the IELTS exam?

The IELTS exam has four sections-writing, listening, reading, and speaking. Each of the sections will need a good amount of practice. The difficulty level of sections will vary from student to student. While some students find listening difficult, others may find writing difficult. Writing includes a lot of structure and listening needs patience. When students practice and devote time equally to all the sections, all the segments will become easy. 

Is it difficult to pass the IELTS exam?

IELTS is a leading examination to test English language proficiency. This test is not a difficult one. However, the four sections demand a lot of practice and consistent efforts. If the students can focus on each section and dedicate a good amount of time to each section, it will be an easy examination to crack.

How can I prepare for the IELTS exam?

IELTS preparation can be done at home or at a coaching center. The students need to understand the test format and syllabus. The modules and sections of IELTS need to be understood clearly. Sample questions, past papers and practice tests need to be taken on a regular basis. The listening and writing sections will need a lot of practice and improvement. The right IELTS study material will help students prepare better.

What is the eligibility for the IELTS exam?

IELTS only has an age requirement and that is 16 years of age. There are no eligibility criteria in terms of marks or percentage. Irrespective of the total percentage which the students gained in school or graduation, they can appear for the IELTS examination.

How many times can one take the IELTS exam?

The IELTS examination does not have any fixed number of attempts for international students. The examination can be attempted up to four times a month. That means IELTS exams are conducted around 48 times a year. Students can prepare and take the examination as many times as possible. The aim should be to earn a good score according to the eligibility of the universities.

Is there any syllabus for IELTS?

The IELTS test has a syllabus for its four sections, i.e. Reading, Speaking, Writing, and Listening. For the IELTS Academic and General Training test, the Reading and Writing sections are different for both versions, while the Listening and Speaking sections remain the same.

What does the IELTS test consist of?

The reading section of the IELTS test consists of four paragraphs from which 40 questions will be asked to the candidate. The listening section of IELTS consists of four monologues and recorded conversations and the candidate has to answer 40 questions in total based on those four recordings. The writing section consists of two tasks with a 250-word limit essay and a 150 worded explanation of graphical representations, images, and illustrations. Lastly, the speaking section will have a structured and detailed discussion on various topics of interest, short face-to-face interview questions, and some in-depth discussions of various topics.

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