Academic IELTS vs General Training IELTS: What’s the Difference?

Did you know that there are two IELTS exams? It’s true! The two formats of the exam are called IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. The breakdown of Academic IELTS vs General Training IELTS largely comes down to purpose and, to a lesser degree, format. The IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training versions are similar in format, but differ in content in the Writing and Reading sections of the test. Continue reading this post for a breakdown of the major differences between the IELTS Academic vs IELTS General Training, plus an IELTS General and Academic score comparison, and an answer to the question “Which one is easier: the IELTS General or the IELTS Academic?”

IELTS Academic vs. IELTS General Training

The IELTS academic and general tests differ more in their purpose than in their format.

Purpose: Academic IELTS vs. General Training IELTS

Academic IELTS

It might be obvious to you that the Academic IELTS is intended for (prospective) university students applying for admission in universities and programs in which English is the medium of instruction. But that’s not all – many professionals and job applicants may find that they are also required to provide scores for this version of the test.

One example is medical work. If you want to be a medical professional in Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, you’ll definitely need to sit the Academic IELTS. A wide range of medical jobs require this version of the exam, including doctor, nurse, pharmacist, and even hospital lab technician.

Unlike the general training version, the academic version allows test takers to demonstrate some reading and writing skills that aren’t necessarily part of the everyday communicative experience of English speakers. These are considered to be distinct from reading and writing skills for general purposes (see the section on content below).

General Training IELTS

For all other immigration and employment, the general training version is used if you want to enter Canada, the USA, Ireland, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, etc. for general immigration. For example, individuals who are taking the IELTS because they are applying for permission to live in Australia near their grandchildren will find that the General Training IELTS suits their needs.

Get a higher IELTS score? Start your online IELTS prep today with Magoosh.

But the test is not just used for immigration. Multinational corporations sometimes use General Training IELTS scores to assess the English ability of their workers. So test-takers can use their score report to get a job, in some cases.

Format: Two Versions, Four Skills

Both versions of the test have the same general format (check out: The IELTS Format: Four Skills, Four Tests). Your English writing, reading, listening, and speaking skills will be tested separately no matter which version you take. In fact, there aren’t any differences between the listening and speaking sections at all. The same topics and question types can be expected on the IELTS academic or general test.

In format, the same is true of the other two sections. Both writing versions involve two writing tasks (learn more: IELTS Writing Topics) and both reading versions ask 40 questions in response to assigned readings. Differences begin to appear, however, in the nature of the content and task types, which we move on to now.

Content: IELTS Academic vs. IELTS General Training

University students and professionals must be equipped with English reading skills that are strong enough for texts in professional and academic journals, textbooks, and relevant magazines and newspapers. As such, the Academic IELTS uses texts taken directly from these kinds of sources to test comprehension skills. Similarly, the writing tasks specific to this version use sample topics that would be relevant in academic and professional settings. English writing skills will be assessed to make sure they are strong enough to write college-level essays.

Those taking the General Training IELTS, on the other hand, will encounter the kind of language that would appear in advertisements, guidebooks, magazines, notices, or what working people might encounter in employee manuals. A test taker’s written English will be tested on general tasks such as letter writing or basic essay writing.

IELTS General and Academic Score Comparison

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two versions of the test is the way that they’re scored. Granted, IELTS Listening, Speaking, and Writing are scored the same way on both exams. But IELTS Reading, which represents a full 25% of your score, is rated very differently on IELTS academic vs. IELTS general training.

For example, suppose you get 30 out of 40 answers correct in IELTS Reading, also known as a raw score of 30. In general training reading, that’s an IELTS Band of 5.0. But 30 out of 40 gets you a 6.0 in academic reading. Your raw scores have a totally different meaning depending on whether you’re looking at the IELTS academic or general test!

IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training Score Comparison Charts

For an official, but incomplete, chart of these Reading raw score/band score conversions, check out the second chart on the official IELTS Scoring web page. These conversions can help you come up with an IELTS general and academic score comparison.

There is also an unofficial table of the difference between Listening and Reading scores on the IELTS academic or general test. This chart, which comes from the Wikipedia article on the IELTS, is more complete than the official one. It is also very reliable. All figures come from the unofficial-but-accurate online IELTS score calculator. You can see the chart below:

ielts academic vs ielts general training

Source: Wikipedia

Which one is easier: Academic IELTS vs General Training IELTS?

When there are two similar English skill exams, like the IELTS academic or general test, it’s always hard to say whether one is easier. After all, different students find certain things easier or harder. As the expression goes in English, “your mileage may vary.”

With that being said, the answer to the question above is… the General Training IELTS is probably easier than the Academic IELTS. Nearly every IELTS student I’ve talked to feels that it is less challenging. Writing a short letter is easier than summarizing a complicated graph or table! If you decide to pursue the General Training version, you can get started with Magoosh’s IELTS lessons here.

The makers of the test certainly seem to agree. The IELTS assumes that getting 30 out of 40 in general training reading is as hard as getting 23 out of 40 in academic reading. This is why 30/40 general training and 23/40 academic are both band 6.

However, do not assume that IELTS Listening or Speaking will be easier in general training. These two sections are the exact same format and the exact same difficulty level, no matter if you’re sitting for the IELTS academic or general test.

Does the easier nature mean you should choose General Training IELTS over Academic? Not really. Ultimately these tests really are 70% similar, and you won’t have a choice as to which format you sit for. So it’s probably better to figure out how hard the IELTS will be for you, regardless of the version you sit for.

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

Most Popular Resources

26 Responses to Academic IELTS vs General Training IELTS: What’s the Difference?

  1. Varun April 1, 2019 at 10:54 pm #

    For engineering which exam should I take?- general or academic

    • David Recine
      David Recine April 9, 2019 at 8:24 am #

      That’s a good question. It depends a lot on both the job and the country you’re wanting to move to. I’ve seen employers and immigration offices ask for either IELTS General Training or IELTS Academic for engineering. IELTS GT is definitely the more common requirement. But again, you’ll want to double check to make sure.

  2. Shalini May 8, 2019 at 1:25 am #

    Can I apply for job instead of any course in Australia if i have cleared ielts academic exam?

    • David Recine
      David Recine May 9, 2019 at 11:37 am #

      Some Australian work-based visas accept IELTS Academic. This is especially true for jobs in medicine or healthcare. Many other skilled migrant visas to Australia require either IELTS General Training or TOEFL, however. So you’ll want to double-check the exact testing requirements for the particular type of job you’re looking to get.

  3. Vijay Kumar Gupta May 16, 2019 at 6:20 pm #

    I am an engineer. I applied & got offer letter from a Shipping company of Australia, They required IELTS score. For applying of the test which one module will be suitable for me, Academic or General training module?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 19, 2019 at 12:46 pm #

      Hi Vijay!

      For immigration purposes, the IELTS General test is usually the one you want. With that said, you could probably contact the company to ask for the exam they want. 🙂

    • tanish magar June 10, 2019 at 9:13 am #

      Hey, I am a student and I am in my senior year of high school and i want to apply to universities in US and UK for my undergraduate program, so which ielts exam should i consider to take?

      • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
        Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 11, 2019 at 7:53 am #

        In that case you’ll definitely want IELTS Academic!

  4. Suhail May 17, 2019 at 11:29 pm #

    Hi, I am planning to apply for Canadian PR. Which IELTS test should I take? please note that I am working professional with engineering background.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 19, 2019 at 12:44 pm #

      Hi Suhail!

      For the most part, IELTS General is accepted for Canada PR. For more information, check out this link here.

  5. Dominic May 20, 2019 at 2:15 am #

    Is it possible to immigrate with my family if I want to take IELTS Academic to study and work in Canada?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 24, 2019 at 9:53 am #

      Hi Dominic,

      Our expertise is in test prep, not immigration legal advice, so I’m afraid we aren’t the best people to answer this question! I recommend that you contact an immigration lawyer or look at Canadian immigration laws for an answer 🙂 Good luck!

  6. philemon July 23, 2019 at 4:27 am #


    Am doing Bachelors of Business Administration in my country Uganda but would love to upgrade for a masters in UK, USA, Australia, Canada and work at the same time. which IELTS should i take ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 23, 2019 at 7:46 pm #

      Hi Philemon,

      For graduate programs, you’ll want to take the IELTS Academic. 🙂

  7. Umair July 27, 2019 at 12:09 pm #

    Hello, I am applying for canadian express entry program and planning to give my ielts test next month. Which ielts test is required for that? general or academic?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 30, 2019 at 7:33 pm #

      Hi Umair,

      For Canadian Express Entry, you’ll take the General Training IELTS. For more information, check out this website.

      Government of Canada – Express Entry

  8. Lucia August 6, 2019 at 4:38 am #

    Thanks for the info. If I relocate to Canada for example, using IELTS GT, can I at any time apply in same country for admission into PG courses even as I must have worked and lived there with my IELTS GT?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 23, 2019 at 12:34 pm #

      Hi Lucia,

      Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions or immigration advice, so I’m afraid we aren’t the best people to answer this question! I recommend starting by doing some research and contacting schools directly. Good luck!

  9. ABHISHEK KUMAR August 17, 2019 at 10:55 pm #

    Hii…. I am looking for Ph D in UK universities. So which IELTS I need to do and how to prepare for this exam. Also want to know university how much need IELTS grad.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 18, 2019 at 1:35 pm #

      Hi Abhishek!

      If you’re taking the IELTS for graduate programs, you’ll want to take the Academic IELTS. 🙂 The IELTS score you need will depend on the schools that you’re interested in. I’d recommend doing some research on your own to find programs that you’re interested, from there, you can check out their admissions pages or contact their admissions offices directly for more information on IELTS requirements. 🙂

      Now, let’s talk about how you can prepare for the IELTS. We can definitely help you. The first thing I’d recommend is to check out our study schedules. Additionally, you could try out Magoosh IELTS with a free 7-day trial.

  10. SHRUTI September 23, 2019 at 12:30 pm #

    i wants to peruse my MS in NZ or UK, shall I go for academic IELTS>

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 19, 2019 at 7:31 pm #

      Hi Shruti,

      If you’re planning to take the IELTS for graduate school, then you should take the Academic IELTS. 🙂

      Hope this helps!

  11. Priya December 13, 2019 at 1:55 am #

    Does the general reading comprise of smaller and simpler passages as compared to academic? Does academic have more full length pages to be read and answered ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 20, 2019 at 12:59 pm #

      Hi Priya,

      The passages on the general test are generally easier to understand than the ones on the academic exam.

  12. Greater December 15, 2019 at 8:16 am #

    Good day
    I would like to migrate to Canada or Australia for job opportunities in areas like banking(customer service officer,bank manager ,etc).Can i take the IELTS general test

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 20, 2019 at 12:58 pm #

      Hi Greater,

      Our expertise is in test prep, not immigration law. I recommend that you consult with an immigration agency or lawyer.

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will only approve comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! 😄 Due to the high volume of comments across all of our blogs, we cannot promise that all comments will receive responses from our instructors.

We highly encourage students to help each other out and respond to other students' comments if you can!

If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service from our instructors, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

Leave a Reply