The International English Language Test System is one of the most acceptable ways to determine a person’s ability to survive in an English-communicating country. The IELTS is acceptable in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Unlike most English language test, the IELTS is function-specific – meaning it will gauge the communicating abilities of a test-taker depending of what kind of communicating this person would most likely need to do.
Having two types of IELTS exam – the so-called modules- is what makes the test unique. These modules are the Academic and the General Training (GT).
What is the difference?
As stated before, the IELTS is unique because it takes into consideration the kind of communication a test-taker would most likely need to do – thus the existence of the two modules.
The difference lies in the content of the exams, particularly in Reading and Writing. If you are sitting the Academic module, then the reading materials in the Reading Exam are most likely topics that a university or college student would be encountering. Articles may have been lifted from or written for text books, journals, research compilations and the like. In the GT module, however, the contents are mostly from advertisements, posters, instructional materials, and other every day reading materials. However, you must remember that the question types for both Academic and General Training Reading are the same.
The Academic and GT module also differ in the Writing sub-test, although for both, you need to write an essay for Task 2. Task 1 of Academic Writing is data description. You will be given data in a table, chart, or diagram and – just like in school – you have to describe it. In General Training, you will be required to write letters, which are mostly in the formal tone.
Many people say that the GT module is much easier than the Academic test. In a way, this is true, particularly in Reading. After all, it is much easier to read a poster than a 5-paragraph article. Content-wise, those taking GT Reading should have the advantage. However, the IELTS levels the playing field: the raw score requirement to get the same band score in the GT module as compared to the Academic test is much higher. For instance, you would need 30 out of 40 points to get a band 7, if you are taking Academic Reading, but if your module is General Training, that 30 will only be equivalent to a 6.0. The content may be easier, but the score requirement is higher.
In terms of the Listening and Speaking examination, the kind of module you take does not have much of a bearing. Academic and GT IELTS test takers sit the Listening sub-test together. In Speaking, there are no topic distinctions. You may be taking the GT module, but you might still be asked about global warming, genetically-modified food, and globalization.
At the end of the day, it does not really matter whether you are taking Academic or GT module. What matters is still your preparation.
One last tip: the module you will take shall be dictated by the embassy, school, or agency that requires the IELTS. Make sure you clarify which one you really need to take.