The Academic IELTS ( International English Language Testing System) exam is recognised widely as a reliable means of  testing the English language ability of candidates who need to study through English.  The exam is scored on a band so you cannot fail the exam, however, if you don’t get the band you need you may not be accepted to study on your course of choice. For example some Undergraduate courses require a 5.5 band average while others will only accept a 6.5 band. (The University of Cambridge requires a 7.5) IELTS is owned by three partners, The University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council and IDP (Education Australia.) Further information can also be found on

The test format is taken in the following order

Listening (4 sections, 40 items) 30 minutes
Academic Reading (3 sections, 40 items) 60 minutes
Academic Writing (2 tasks) 60 minutes
Speaking (11-14 minutes)
Total Test Time 2 hours 44 minutes


Simply English Edinburgh gives the same advice to all our students which is practice, practice, PRACTICE. Always use with a timer when studying at home. This is the only realistic way of judging how much you can read or write in an allocated time. If you are not using a timer then you may struggle to finish the last of the questions which can lead to the loss of valuable marks.

Read widely in terms of topics so you are not phased by the questions, especially in the speaking section. Remember you only have 11-14 minutes and you don’t want to be wasting precious time trying the think of  relevant vocabulary to use. The topics range from chemical engineering to linguistics (all academic topics) so our advice is to read broadly before the exam. You don’t need to be an expert in the area to answer the questions, you just need to be able to handle the topic even if your own personal knowledge is poor. The assessment takes into account fluency and coherence, grammatical range and accuracy, pronunciation and lexical resource so you need to show skill in vast areas to score highly. You are also alone so you do not have partner to help you along.

How is IELTS scored?

The results of the Academic IELTS are reported on a 9 band scale. In addition a score is provided in each of the 4 skills (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.) To score a 9 you are classed an an Expert User. This is described as having “full operational command of the language.” A 6 is classified as a Competent User meaning you are portrayed as being “generally effective in command of the language”

Here is an example of an Academic IELTS score


At Simply English Edinburgh we have a lot more tips and advice we can give you to help you with your Academic IELTS exam. Throughout August and into the Autumn we are running intensive IELTS classes for small groups of 6 students. We have 6.5 classes and 6.5+ classes for those who wan’t to be pushed further.To contact us to arrange an appointment with a teacher or join a class please send an email to We hope this post helps some of you to begin your IELTS journey.

Best of Luck!

Simply English Edinburgh

4 Thoughts on “The Academic IELTS exam”

    • Hello! The exam takes place in various locations around the UK. We are based in Edinburgh so are helping students living there mostly.

      Let me know if you want to book into a class!

      Simply English Edinburgh

    • Hello Anwar!
      We are helping students in Edinburgh pass the IELTS exam! If you are interested send us a message. All of the prices of the courses are on the website. We have weekly and intensive classes.

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