General Training or Academic - Which IELTS test do I need?
To put it simply, the Academic version was originally designed for university entrance as it includes academic reading texts and writing tasks, simulating the kind of language you would expect at university level. For instance, in the reading, you will see academic articles about common university topics taken from journals and magazines, whereas in the General version, there are texts related to everyday life and work situations. The writing sections also differ as the Task 1 in the Academic test requires you to write a report about information presented in graphs, charts and diagrams while Task 1 in the General test requires you to write a letter which could be formal, semi-formal or informal.
However, nowadays it is not just a simple question of doing Academic IELTS for university entrance and General IELTS for visa applications or work purposes. Many sectors and industries now also require potential employees from overseas to prove their English proficiency with Academic IELTS.
For example, if you are applying for skilled migration in Australia, some skills assessing authorities require candidates to sit the Academic version. Similarly, in the UK if you wish to apply to the General Medical Council (GMC) to work as a doctor or the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) as a nurse of midwife, you will need to take the Academic test.
So, how do I find out which test I need to take?
The best thing to do is to contact the organisation or company you wish to work for and find out directly from them which test is required. Similarly, if you’re applying for a visa to work overseas, you need to contact the immigration authorities in that country and find out which test is best for your situation or profession. Also make sure which band score you need to achieve. If you want to study abroad, you will definitely need Academic IELTS but again check the university’s website or contact them directly to find out which band score is required for the course you wish to study.
Which test is easier?
It’s difficult to say which test is easier although it is generally accepted that the reading texts in the Academic test are more complex in nature and are certainly longer. In the Writing paper, it depends what you are used to. If you are a student or business professional who is used to writing reports based on statistics, the Academic Task 1 will probably be easier for you. On the other hand, if you are more comfortable writing letters and emails, the General Task 1 will be much more familiar. The Task 2 essay is the same for both tests.
Similarly the Speaking and Listening tests are the same for both Academic and General Training.