IELTS Exam Pattern 2023 - Check IELTS Section-wise Exam Format, Marking Scheme & Duration

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Cyril Zachariah
Updated on Feb 24, 2023 11:40 AM IST

There are two types of IELTS tests: Academic and General Training. Each consists of four components, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing sections, which are used to assess candidates' English language competence.

The listening and speaking sections of the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training exams are the same. The reading and writing sections, on the contrary, have a different IELTS exam pattern.

The Listening, Reading and Writing sections are conducted on the same day whereas the speaking section can be completed for up to a period of 7 days before or after the other tests.

On this page, you will be able to find the differences in the exam pattern of the different tests and other important details regarding the IELTS exam pattern.

Highlights of IELTS Exam Pattern 2023

Given in the table below are some of the major highlights for IELTS exam pattern 2023:

Particulars Details


4: Speaking, Reading, Listening and Writing

Total Duration

2 hours and 45 minutes

Number of Questions

82 + an oral interview

Score Range


Mode of Exam

On Paper and On Computer

Section-wise IELTS Exam Pattern

As mentioned above, there are four sections in IELTS namely reading, writing, listening and speaking. The time duration of each section is different. Let us have a look at the four sections of the exam and their IELTS exam pattern:


Duration (minutes)

Marks Per Question


Around 30 (+10: transfer time)







Reported in whole and half bands



Reported in whole and half bands

While the Listening and Speaking sections of IELTS 2023 follow the same pattern for both IELTS Academics and IELTS General Training, there is a slight variation in the exam pattern for the Writing and Reading sections.

IELTS Academic vs IELTS General Exam Pattern

While both the tests contain similar topics and evaluate a candidate’s language proficiency, there are some differences in the IELTS exam pattern for Academic and General Training tests. As per official sources, the exam pattern for the listening and speaking sections are similar between the two tests, however, the writing and reading sections may show differences in approach.

For the IELTS listening section, the exam pattern for the test outlines four recordings, i.e. two monologues and two conversations, that have been set in academic and general contexts. Test-takers must remain alert since recordings will only be played once. The question types for the listening section will include multiple-choice questions, sentence completions, matching details and more.

In the IELTS speaking section, candidates engage in face-to-face or video call interviews with the examiner. They will be asked to give a self-introduction, speak from cue cards and discuss follow-up questions with the examiner.

The reading sections of IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training are different as test-takers get academic situations in the first type and general topics in the next.

Similarly, the writing sections also differ. In IELTS Academic, candidates are required to write responses and an essay whereas in IELTS General Training they have to write a letter and an essay.

Before gearing up for IELTS preparation, refer to these guides for better planning:

How Much Time is Required to Prepare for IELTS

Why IELTS Exam is Required

Benefits of IELTS Coaching

How to Prepare for IELTS Exam in One Month

How to Crack IELTS in First Attempt

Common Mistakes You Must Avoid While Preparing for the IELTS Exam

IELTS Writing Task 1

IELTS Writing Task 2

IELTS Type of Questions

As per the IELTS exam pattern, the four sections of the exam contain a variety of questions. While the listening and reading tasks contain 40 questions each, the writing task has two questions and the speaking test contains 3 questions. Let us look at the IELTS question types asked in the test.


Total Number of Questions

Types of Questions



Matching, MCQs, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, plan/map/diagram labelling, sentence completion



Identifying information, Multiple Choice Questions, matching information, identifying the writer’s views/claims, matching headings, matching sentence endings, matching features, sentence completion, note completion, table completion, diagram label completion and short-answer questions, summary completion, flow-chart completion



Task I: Describing visual information (graph/table/chart/diagram) in your own words (150) in 20 minutes

Task II: Add your own point of view or argument or problem in 250 words in 40 minutes



Oral interview with the examiner

Task I: Personal introduction

Task II: Speaking from cue cards

Task III: Discussion with interviewer

IELTS Exam Pattern for Listening Section

Candidates need to hear the recordings or audio and answer questions in the IELTS listening section. They must be careful and attentive listeners as the recordings will be played only once and then they have to write answers to them.

There are four parts in this section. Since January 2020, the word section has been replaced by parts. 10 questions are there in part of the listening section which means there is a total of 40 questions. 

The first two recordings will be basically set in everyday contexts while the last two recordings will be based on academic or training contexts. The details of the four parts are given below:

  • Part 1: A recording of conversations between two speakers will be played.

  • Part 2: Test-takers will hear a monologue.

  • Part 3: There will be a conversation between two or more speakers.

  • Part 4: It contains a monologue on an academic subject.

The table below highlights the IELTS pattern for the listening section:

IELTS Exam Pattern for Listening Section


30 minutes

Number of Questions

40 (10 in each part)



Type of Questions

Multiple Choice


 Plan, map, diagram labelling

 Form, Note, Table, Flow-chart, Summary Completion

Sentence completion

Short-answer questions

Total Marks

10 (1 for Each Question)

IELTS Exam Pattern for Reading Section

The IELTS Academic reading section exam pattern consists of 40 questions. There will be three reading passages from which the questions will be set. The length of the text will be around 2,000 to 2,500 words. The text passages will be taken from different newspapers, journals and magazines.

The texts are appropriate for students who will study different undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at universities abroad. The topics are based on general interests without targeting a specialised audience. The questions asked will be discursive, descriptive, factual and analytical. The question passages may also contain tables, charts and graphs from which test-takers have to derive information.

The detailed IELTS exam pattern for reading section is given below:

IELTS Exam Pattern (Academic) for Reading Section


60 minutes

Number of Questions


Type of Questions




Total Marks

40 (1 for each question)

IELTS Exam Pattern for Writing Section

Candidates must understand the IELTS writing section before practising. As per the pattern of the exam, there will be two writing tasks or questions that students must attempt. Writing task 1 contains a pictorial question in form of a diagram, graph or table that requires candidates to study and interpret them. They have to write an answer on the topic in 150 words in 20 minutes.

On the other hand, writing task 2 requires candidates to write an essay or state their point of view on the topic in 250 words in 40 minutes time.

The following table shows the highlights of the IELTS Academic Writing section:

IELTS Exam Pattern (Academic) for Writing Section


60 minutes

Number of Questions


Type of Questions




Total Marks


IELTS Exam Pattern for Speaking Section

The IELTS pattern for the speaking section highlights 3 different parts all including different numbers of questions. Throughout the section, candidates will be asked to describe a piece of visual information through the use of charts, graphs, diagrams and tables. The speaking section topics and questions will be variable and depend on the topic of discussion.

Conducted on a separate occasion from the other sections, test takers will be given 11-14 minutes to speak on different topics and to respond to various questions. The examiner will conduct the section while including the following components of the IELTS exam pattern for the speaking sections.

Part 1: Introduction and Interview

Lasting 4-5 minutes, the examiner will introduce themself to the test-takers and ask generic questions pertaining to their identity and other topics such as family, home, studies, work and interests.

The purpose of the section is to allow examiners to evaluate the test-taker's ability to communicate their thoughts, opinions and knowledge on different day-to-day topics and experiences, through a number of different questions.

Part 2: Long Turn

Aptly called the Long Turn, candidates will be given task cards asking them to talk on a particular topic, covering certain points, while instructing them to explain one aspect of the topic. Here, all test-takers will have one minute to gather their thoughts and prepare to speak on the topic. They will also be given a pen and paper to write down notes.

The exam pattern for IELTS offers 1-2 minutes to test-takers to speak on a given topic, subsequently providing their answers to questions raised by the examiner on the topic. In this section, the examiners often look for the candidate’s ability to talk on a given topic at length, while maintaining appropriate grammar and language.

Part 3: Discussion

The IELTS exam pattern for the section outlines this part as the allotted time to discuss the topics, issues and questions raised in Part 2. The examiner reserves the right to raise questions or points, which may be generic or abstract in nature. Subsequently, the examiner may also ask questions to which candidates may be required to respond in detail. Here, the candidate’s ability to justify and express their opinions as well as analyse, speculate and discuss the issues on any given topic.

Check out the table below to understand the IELTS pattern for the speaking section.

IELTS Speaking Section Exam Pattern


11-14 Minutes

Number of Questions


Type of Questions

3 Parts fulfiling specific functions in interaction pattern, task input and test-takers output.



Total Marks


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IELTS Indicator (Online Home Test)

The IELTS Indicator option is available for students who wish to take the test at home and submit the score for admission purposes at universities abroad. However, the IELTS Indicator test is not a substitute for the in-person IELTS test and the test taker may have to take the in-person IELTS test at an IELTS test center.

Here are some key points to know about the IELTS Exam Pattern for IELTS Indicator 2022:

  • It can be taken at home and is a session-based online test.

  • The exam pattern for IELTS Indicator is similar to the in-person IELTS in terms of the content, test structure, and time allocated.

  • IELTS examiners score the online exam and therefore, are as reliable as other options.

  • However, candidates cannot expect the same quality and security procedure in an IELTS Indicator test as seen in the in-person format of IELTS.

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FAQs on IELTS Exam Pattern

Is the exam pattern of IELTS Indicator similar to IELTS Academic?

The exam pattern for IELTS Indicator is similar to the in-person IELTS in terms of test structure, time and content of the test. IELTS Indicator is a session-based online test that may be completed from the comfort of one's own home. In terms of content, format, organisation, and scheduling, the test is identical to IELTS. It is graded by qualified IELTS examiners, so you can be confident that it will provide a trustworthy estimate of your IELTS test result.

How is the IELTS Speaking Section Analysed by the examiner?

IELTS Speaking Section’s examiners analyse your performance based on four factors including fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical variety and correctness, and pronunciation. Your Speaking results are presented as band scores ranging from 0 to 9. Each whole and half band score represents a level of English proficiency. Candidates will receive a certificate on completion of the IELTS Speaking section based on the Introduction, Interview and Discussion of the test.

What are the types of questions asked in the IELTS Writing Section?

There are two questions asked in the IELTS Writing Section, wherein a candidate is required to describe visual information presented in the form of graphs, tables, charts or diagrams. IELTS Writing Task 2 questions are divided into five categories: agree/disagree, advantages/disadvantages, two-part, cause/solution, and discuss both sides.

Is the syllabus for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training the same?

The listening and speaking sections follow the same syllabus for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. The Academic and General Training IELTS Writing and Reading assessments are not the same. The Academic test will include themes relevant to anybody enrolling in a university or a professional institution. The General Training exam will cover subjects of general interest.

What are the types of questions asked in the IELTS Reading section?

There are 10 types of questions asked in the IELTS Reading section are:

Multiple-choice questions Completion of the summary
Information identification questions It has matching features
Information matching Matching sentences ends
Sentence completion Matching information
Head Matching Short answer questions

Has the IELTS exam pattern changed in 2022?

No, the IELTS exam pattern has not changed in the year 2022. However, the IELTS Online Test (IELTS Indicator) went live in early 2022. Although it has the same material and format as the existing paper-based and computer-delivered IELTS exams, it will be held on a purpose-built secure remote proctoring test platform.

Is it possible to get a full score in IELTS?

Yes, it is possible to get a full score in IELTS. Each of the four abilities on which a candidate is tested, namely speaking, reading, writing, and listening, is assigned a unique score band that ranges between the same. Finally, you will receive a consolidated band score for your whole exam, which will indicate your overall language skill.

What is the IELTS exam passing band score?

The IELTS exam total band score is the average of all parts added together. The IELTS exam is graded on a scale of 0 to 9. There is nothing like passing or failing when it comes to evaluating a candidate's linguistic abilities. However, each university abroad has its specific IELTS cutoff, which a candidate needs to meet in order to seek admission. 

How many sections are included in IELTS?

According to the IELTS exam pattern, test-takers will be asked to attempt questions via a total of four sections, viz. reading, writing, listening and speaking sections. The Reading and Writing sections for the Academic and General Training sections will be different, however, there will be no difference in the listening and speaking sections of the two tests.

What is the total duration for the IELTS test?

Candidates attempting the test this year will have to complete all the sections within 2 hours and 45 minutes. As per exam policies, candidates will have to complete the Writing, Reading and Listening section on the same day with limited breaks in between. Candidates can schedule their speaking test anytime between 7 days before or after the test.

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