Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

How are the academic and general training exams the same?

How are they different?

Today we’ll zero in on the IELTS Reading exam.

You will learn what these exams have in common and what is different.

We’ll also share strategies that will help you on either exam.

For all the strategies you need, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS!

Congratulations to 3 Keys student Neeharika!

She posted in our Facebook group that she just earned amazing scores on IELTS and an overall 8.

She had joined our course back in 2019 for general training IELTS.

At the time, she got her “magical” scores of 8777 by following our strategies.

She then needed to take academic IELTS.

She was able to get the scores she needed after reviewing for just ten days

We’ll have her on the podcast soon, so look for that episode!

How are the academic and general reading exams different?

The difficulty level of the reading passages are different on the exams.

On general training, passages will often be brochures, advertisements or short passages.

They are samples of texts that you would see in daily life.

In contrast, longer, more difficult texts are found on the academic exam.

The number of passages are also different.

Because they are shorter, there are usually more passages on the general IELTS exam.

Similarity #1: Question types

The question types are the same on both academic and general IELTS exams.

On both exams you might see:

  • True/False/Not Given or Yes/No/Not Given
  • Multiple Choice
  • Summary Completion
  • Table, Diagram or Map Completion
  • Matching Names to Statements
  • Matching Headings to Paragraphs
  • Matching Information to Paragraphs

Each of these question types require specific strategies.

These strategies are the same for both academic and general.

Strategies Created by a Former IELTS Examiner

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Similarity #2: Time

Both exams are the same amount of time.

You are given 60 minutes to complete the IELTS Reading exam.

This does not change depending on the exam you take.

Due to this, you should not spend longer than one minute on each question.

If it is taking longer than this, you should mark it to come back to and move on.

Similarity #3: Number of questions

For both academic and general IELTS, there are 40 questions.

This does not change depending on the type of exam you take.

To complete 40 questions in 60 minutes, it’s important to realize this is not a comprehension exam.

You do not need to read entire passages to get the answers correct.

In fact, you will likely not have time to read entire passages, especially on academic IELTS.

Skimming, scanning and reading for detail

These 3 steps are vital to get answers correct on the Reading exam.

  • Skimming: read a bit to get the main idea
  • Scanning: look for specific information quickly
  • Reading for detail: read every word near key words

Instead of reading entire passages, you are looking for key words.

After finding key words in the question, you scan the text until you find them or their parallel.

You then read the sentences around the key words to find the answer.


You must be an active reader on the IELTS Reading exam.

When reading questions and looking for keywords, you must also make predictions.

What type of word does the question need?

Is it a noun, a verb or a name?

You also need to predict what the answer might be.

This will help you know what to look for as you scan.

Ignore distractors

Another reason not to read entire passages is that the rest of the text will contain many distractors.

These are traps included by test writers to try to trick you.

Don’t fall for them!

You must also ignore words you don’t know.

Words that are very difficult and uncommon will very rarely be in the answers.

You don’t need to know what these mean to find the answer.


It is vital that you have strategies for the IELTS exam.

Luckily, the strategies are the same for both academic and general training exams.

Today’s episode gives you strategies to get 7+ on the IELTS Reading exam.

Use these as you take practice exams.

Time yourself and spend only one minute on each question.

Then, skim, scan and read for detail.

For all the strategies you need for every part of the exam, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS.

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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