As like any other English Language test, IELTS checks the candidate skills in Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking; proficiency in this would insure a sufficient band to satisfy the visa authorities that you have requisite communication skills to manage on the country you are planning to go. There are two variations of the test- the General IELTS that is for candidates who are applying for Permanent residency and the Academic IELTS for those who are intend to apply for a student visa.
Each test is graded in bands from1 to 9. The average of all the four bands from each test is given as the overall band. Band requirement would vary according to the course and university applied for.
Difference between General and Academic Test
Two of the tests- Listening and Speaking are common for both General and Academic tests. There are minute differences between Reading and Writing tests, which will be mentioned in detail in their respective chapters.
Section I: The Listening Task tests your ability to follow a set of recorded conversations and to answer questions based on them, there are 40 questions that you need to answer.
Section II: The Writing Task consists to two questions to be answered in a span of an hour. The first question is different for Academic and General students. Academic candidates would require you to write down your interpretation of a graph or a chart in 150 words and General candidates have to write a letter. The second question would ask your opinion on a topic and you have to write your views or experience to showcase the ability to write on it for 250 words.
Your writing skills are assessed in terms of your vocabulary and grammar skills, also as it is a paper based test spelling mistakes would bring your score down.
Section III: The Reading task is divided into three sections containing passages or information snippets (for General candidates) each section is followed by 12 to 16 questions totaling to 40 questions.
Section IV: The Speaking Task checks your ability to converse in English; it’s not a job interview type of task but the ability to speak fluently is checked. Your comfort level with the language and the ability to answer the implied questions confidently is essential; the total time for the test is 10 to 15 minutes.
Two of the tests (Reading & Listening) are objective type (marks are given based on the answer you have written), and the other two (Writing & Speaking) are subjective (marks are given based on the performance of the candidate in the test).