IELTS General Training & Academic Writing Differences Explained

Learn about IELTS GT (General Training) exam content and writing tasks. Learn how the IELTS GT writing is different from the academic writing test.  Useful links are provided for GT students below.

Understanding GT IELTS

  • The GT listening test is the same as the academic test. Everyone takes the same listening test with the same scoring. You can use my free listening lessons and tips for your preparation.
  • The GT speaking test is the same for everyone. There is one speaking test only with the same scoring. You can use my free speaking lessons and tips for your preparation.
  • The GT reading test is slightly different. The question types are 100% the same as the academic test, but the passages have a different content and layout. You can use my free reading lessons and tips for your preparation, but make sure you do full authentic GT reading tests at home. See this page for more GT reading information:  GT Reading Tips
  • To understand GT writing (both task 1 and task 2), see all the tips below.

This page will explain both writing task 1 differences and writing task 2 differences.

IELTS GT Differences for Writing Task 1

General training students will need to write a letter for writing task 1 but academic students will need to write a report.

  • GT Writing Task 1 = Letters: Formal, informal and semi-formal
  • Academic Writing Task 1 = Report: table, pie chart, bar chart, line graph etc.

This means writing task 1 is completely different for GT candidates. GT candidates do NOT get charts, they are given letters only. See the information below:

General Training Writing Task 1 Letter

Use the following 10 tips and links to ensure you understand GT letters properly

  1. Candidates are required to write a letter which can be formal, semi-formal or informal.
  2. A list of points is given for the letter as well as the aim. It is your task to make sure your letter covers all points with a clear aim.
  3. Pay attention to opening lines, closing statements, paragraphs etc.
  4. You also need to pay attention to style and tone depending on whether the letter is formal or informal.
  5. Get to know the scoring for task 1 – see below. Remember, task 1 is worth only 33% of your writing marks.
  6. You must write over 150 words. But it is recommend not to write over 200 words.
  7. It is recommended to take no more than 20 minutes for this task. It is up to you to manage the one hour given for the whole writing test.
  8. GT students are NOT asked to write a report on a chart or graph.
  9. Sample Practice Letters for GT Students
  10. MUST READ: Essential Tips for IELTS GT Letters

Academic Task 1 Report

  • Students must analyse a chart, graph, table, map or diagram.
  • Students must highlight key features and present data or information.
  • Students must write over 150 words.
  • It is recommended to take no more than 20 minutes for this.
  • IELTS Sample Academic Charts

IELTS Writing Task 1 Scoring

There are four marking criteria for IELTS writing task 1.

Only one criterion is different for GT students.

  • Task Achievement General Training: This refers to using the appropriate tone and also purpose. It also relates to the word count.
  • Task Achievement Academic: This is about presenting key features, having an overview and accurate information. This also relates to the word count.
  • Coherence and Cohesion: This is the same for both GT and Academic. It is based on organisation of information, paragraphing and linking devices.
  • Lexical Resource (Vocabulary): This is marked using the same band scores for both GT and Academic. This is about using appropriate language, using collocations and the number of errors made.
  • Grammar: This is also marked using the same band scores for both GT and Academic. This is about using a range of grammar structures and tenses, punctuation and the number of errors made.

Each criterion is 25% of your total marks for writing task 1. See the task 1 band score descriptors published by IELTS which show the difference between GT and academic writing for Task Achievement.

IELTS GT Differences for Writing Task 2

There are only minimal differences between IELTS general training writing task 2 and the academic task 2. GT candidates can use all my free writing task 2 lessons to prepare.

Below is a list of the minor differences and similarities between the essays.

1. Essay Question Difficulty

One difference is that the essay question for the General Training writing task 2 is often easier. It is written in a way that makes the issues clearly and easier to understand. Here’s a sample of a GT essay question and an academic essay question.

GT Essay Question Sample

Some students travel abroad for one year before starting university.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing this?

Academic Essay Question Sample

Some people think that space exploration is a waste of money and the funds should be relocated to other more needed areas.

To what extent do you agree?

* Please note that it is still possible to get the education essay question in the academic test.

2. Topics for Essays

Another slight difference is that the topic giving for the IELTS general training essay question is a more common topic, such as family, society, TV, schools, communication etc. However, in the academic test, there is a wider range including space exploration. Even so, it is best for GT candidates to prepare all topics because the topic of space exploration could come in the speaking test.

3. Essay types for General Training

The types of essays are the same for both general training and academic IELTS papers. You could get an opinion essay, a discussion essay, an advantage disadvantage essay, a solution essay or a direct question essay. At the bottom of the 100 IELTS essay questions page, you will find some practice essays for each type. And on the writing task 2 page, you will find model essays for each type. All this is suitable for both GT and academic students.

4. Marking & Scoring

The marking criteria and band scores are the same for both GT and academic students in writing 2. Here is a link to learn about the band scores for writing task 2 from band 5 to 8. To see the band score descriptors published by IELTS, click here. You will see that there is only one scoring for all essays.

5. IELTS GT Essay Writing Techniques

Another similarity is the technique for essay writing. It is the same for both GT and academic essays. Students for both the GT test and academic test will study from the same methods, tips and advice for IELTS essay writing.

This means all writing task 2 lessons on this blog are suitable for both GT and academic IELTS students. See here: IELTS Writing Task 2 Tips, Model Essays and Free Video Lessons

6. Essay Length and Timing

The length of the GT essay is over 250 words which is the same as the academic essay. Likewise, 40 minutes is the recommended length of time for both types of essays.

Using the Official Writing Answer Sheet

Students taking the general training or academic writing test, must select the right box to tick on the official writing answer sheet in the test. Please watch this lesson about filling in the official IELTS writing answer sheet. It explains about selecting the right box for either general training or academic writing.

Recommended IELTS Tips

IELTS GT Writing Task 1 Letter: Essential Tips

IELTS Writing Task 2 Lessons, Tips & Model Essays


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  1. Hello Liz,
    I follow your website for a good time now and thank you for all the resources you put up for free, it’s really interesting and useful.
    I am preparing for ielts general training and I read above that almost all sections are same except the writing task 1 where you have to write a letter in GT and a report in GA and the writing tast 2 the question essay is easier than the one in GA.
    My question is should I give my opinion in the essay for GT.

  2. Hi Liz

    I am from New Zealand and here I am on visitor visa , I am thinking to give GT ielts test.

    I just wanted to ask I am neither working or nor studying so when a examiner ask me a question are you working or studying then what should I reply.

    • As with all speaking questions, just be honest and answer directly: I don’t work or study at the moment. I’m here on a visitor visa.” There are no trick questions.

  3. HASSAN FARAZ says

    Dear Liz,
    Your info on ielts is helping me alot. I have a query in my mind i wish to ask you. can we write bullet points on question paper during listening module ? is it allowed to write points to remember on question paper ?

    • You can write all over the question paper in any way you wish. No one will see it. The question paper is destroyed after the test has finished.

  4. Hi Liz,

    I am planning on taking GT of IELTS and I am in USA. I would like to know if I have an option for Computer based test?

    • Each test center is different and offers different options. Just contact a number of test centers and ask if they do CD IELTS (computer delivered).

  5. Tony Thomas says

    Hello Liz,

    Recently I got stuck with a question, I am not able to understand what the statement is talking about.

    As well as making money, many people believe that businesses also have responsibilities to society. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

    I m not able to understand this question, as well as what to do if I don’t understand questions properly?

    Do you think its an academic or general type question?


    • This is a common question in IELTS writing and you can find ideas for that topic in my e-book “Ideas for IELTS Essay Topics”. Part of your preparation is to prepare ideas for topics. If you don’t understand the topic in the writing test, you will get low marks for your ideas (Task Response = 25% of your marks. This is typically from the Academic test, but similar topics can come in the GT test. You can see my e-book and Advanced Writing Task 2 lessons here:

  6. Hi Liz,

    I purchased your tutorials for writing part 2. Now I’m much clear about the approach to be followed. Is there any other courses where you give feedback to students writings?

  7. Muhammad Khurram Saleem says

    Hi Elizabeth, I want to ask you about computer-based writing task.
    1. I heard that the software they’re using for writing task underlines the misspelled words and grammatically incorrect sentences. Is this correct?
    2. Does cutting affect our score if we’re attempting it on paper?
    3. If someone prepared reading and listening on paper and writing on computer, what should they do?
    Thank you in anticipation.

    • 1. There is NO language advantage to taking the test on a computer. The computer is not set up to help you with spelling or grammar.
      2. Deleting words is fine – just make sure new words are easy to read.
      3. The computer based test means you take listening, reading and writing on the computer.

  8. Hi Liz,
    Based on this topic essay: Prevention is better than cure. Researching and treating diseases is too costly so it would be better to take preventive measures. to what extent do you agree?

    Can my introduction and thesis be the following? –
    Although some people think investing in research and development to find a permanent cure for diseases is the right path to pursue, many prioritize and believe that prevention is better than cure. In my opinion, I disagree and strongly align to treating diseases that is far more superior than taking preventive measures. This essay will explain the reasons by taking an example of tobacco.

    Can I write this: This essay will explain the reasons by taking an example of tobacco – is this the correct way of framing?

    Does the intro + thesis make sense?

    Thanks for your help

    • Just a couple of points –
      1. Don’t be so wordy. Control the length of your sentences and don’t use unnecessary words:
      “many prioritize and believe that prevention is better than cure.” = “many prioritize prevention.”
      2. Don’t try to use impressive vocab in your thesis statement – get the meaning clear instead: “In my opinion, I disagree and strongly align to treating diseases that is far more superior than taking preventive measures. ” = “However, I disagree and believe that funding treatment is much more important than focusing on prevention.”
      3. Keep on topic – this is about funding – it is about where money goes and how it is used.
      4. Examples are not for the whole essay – this essay question is not about tobacco – don’t change the essay question. An example is a small point inside a body paragraph
      5. You do not need “This essay will explain the reasons…” – that sentence is not actually required in IELTS
      I hope these tips help.

  9. Hello liz,
    Thank you very much for all your tips. i am worried about GT task 2 . please can you help clarify my doubts about this?
    based on my teachers advice, if a question is asked about to what extend do you agree or disagree ? there are two ways to tackle this,
    first either you choose i totally agree or disagree (hence it becomes a one sided) and give only reasons for such,
    or you take words like i somewhat agree or disagree making it two sided .here you have to explain why you agree and what you disagree or agree about. but am confuse please can you help clarify me if this the right approach to such essay type?

    • Those approaches are all possible. You can agree. You can disagree. You can partially agree which means you present a specific view point which agrees in some part but disagrees in others – this means your view is specifically quantified and explained.

  10. Arashdeep says

    Hello madam! Is it true if general and academic exam on same day it makes academic exam easy ??

  11. Hello liz, I find your website very useful. Can you please let me know how sentence structure affects the band score. I got 7 in writing task and I need point five more. Although I write complex sentences in my essays, someone told me that the structure I use is quite simple and should be more complex. Can you suggest something

    • Grammar counts for only 25% of your marks. All mistakes will lower your score. Band 5 = frequent errors, Band 6 = some errors Band 7 = few errors. So, your aim is not just to create complex sentences, it is to avoid errors. If you make more errors using complex sentences, you should avoid using them. Aim for accuracy at all times.

  12. Hi Liz, thanks for being a source of help as far as IELTS is concerned. I am not doing well in the writing task. Each time I try to attempt a question, I get stucked on the way. I do not really know how to put the words together even when I have ideas of what is requested of me in the question.

    • Your English is fine. This means the problem could be:
      1. you are not familiar with the essay layout and content.
      2. you need to develop more details with your ideas for topics
      3. you need to approach this more naturally and just write your ideas clearly avoiding informal language.
      See my FREE Lessons – writing task 2 page.

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