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What is the difference between IELTS Academic and IELTS general?


As a newbie to the international platform for testing English language, the IELTS exam, the first question that you may ponder is the difference between IELTS Academic and IELTS general exam. Oh sorry, it’s IELTS Academic and IELTS general. I wrote IELTS instead of IELTS just to create humour a bit. So, jokes apart! What is the actual difference between these two exams and how you should know which exam is suitable for you? Let us try to understand this in detail and I am sure, after this reading this article, you would be able to make a decision whether you should register for IELTS Academic or IELTS General.
The Major Difference – Reading and Writing
Let us first talk about the main things that differentiate IELTS Academic and IELTS General exam. Well, the difference lies in two modules; Reading and Writing. Yes, the Reading and Writing modules are different in IELTS exam for Academic and General. Other two modules i.e. Listening and Speaking are the same, in terms of exam pattern and assessment criteria.
What’s the Difference in IELTS Reading?
So, now you know that the difference is about Reading and Writing modules. Let us first give you insights into the Reading module differences in both the exams.
Length of Reading Passages
In IELTS Academic, there are three sections and you will find three long passages. However, though there are three sections in IELTS General as well, you find short passages here especially in Section 1 and Section 2 while Section 3 is a long passage, similar to IELTS Academic. Therefore, Reading module of IELTS Academic is usually lengthy than that of IELTS General.
Reading Text Source
Reading passages in the IELTS Academic exam are taken from extracts of textbooks, scientific journals, newspapers, magazine articles and others, which are more of academic interest to the readers. In comparison to this, employee handbooks, guidelines, organization policies, work related terms and conditions, newspaper advertisements, newspaper notices etc. are some of the sources from where the text is extracted for the IELTS General Reading exam.
Difficulty Level of Reading Module
The level of difficulty in solving the Reading exam in IELTS Academic is comparatively high than IELTS General. The reason is that you need to read and understand advanced vocabulary of academic standard in the IELTS Academic exam, while simple vocabulary and easy to understand statements are given in the IELTS General exam.
Band Score Scale Difference
Due to the relatively high difficulty level, there is a significant difference in assigning band score in both the exams. Following is the band score scale you may view carefully to identify the difference:

IELTS Academic Reading Module
Marks ObtainedBand Score
IELTS General Reading Module
Marks ObtainedBand Score


For instance, you may notice that in order to achieve Band 7, you should get at least 30 correct answers in IELTS Academic, while you must get at least 34 correct answers in order to obtain Band 7 in the reading exam.
What’s the Difference in IELTS Writing?
Now, we will observe the differences in IELTS writing module of both IELTS Academic and IELTS General exam. Well, here, the difference is in the first writing task!

In IELTS Academic, you will be writing a report based on the diagram, while you are to write a letter in IELTS General though writing task 2 is an essay in both the exams. So, let us first discuss about IELTS Academic writing task 1 where you find a diagram in the form of bar chart, line graph, map or process diagram about which you will write the main key features and instead, you are given a question to write a letter which can be a formal, semi-formal and informal letter. Time and word limit are the same for both exams, being 20 minutes and at least 150 words respectively.
Which Exam You Should Register for?
So, which is the right exam for you? If you are planning to study abroad, you should get yourself registered for the IELTS Academic exam, whereas if you want to immigrate abroad to apply for permanent residency or you want to apply for work visa, IELTS General is the right exam for you. Thus, you cannot apply for study visa with IELTS General while writing IELTS Academic is not the right choice for working abroad. There’s an exception though that some health professionals such as doctors or nurses need to register for IELTS Academic exam in order to practice their professions in their destination country.

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