Be better prepared for your IELTS test!

Test Format

Format: There are four sections to the test: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The order in which Listening, Reading, Writing tests are taken may vary. There are no breaks between these three tests. When you book your IELTS test with the British Council, the test will take place in an official British Council IELTS test centre, whether your choose test on paper or on computer.

You will receive notification about your Speaking test date a week in advance. If you choose a test on computer, you have a free choice of Speaking test dates.


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


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.


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 topic.

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.