GMC Registration

An overview of the IELTS

A guide to the IELTS for international medical graduates

The International English Language Testing System, known as IELTS, is an international English language exam which assesses the language proficiency of people looking to work where English is used as a language of communication. 

What is IELTS?

The IELTS is an international English language exam which assesses the language proficiency of people who want to work where English is used as a language of communication. The exam assesses a person’s English reading, listening, writing and speaking capabilities.

There are two types of IELTS test: IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic.

IELTS General Training: This measures English Language proficiency in a practical, everyday context. This is suitable for people applying for secondary education, training programmes and work experience in an English-speaking environment. 

IELTS Academic: This test measures whether a person’s language proficiency is suitable for an academic environment. This is for people applying for higher education or professional registration.

International doctors wanting to register for a licence to practice with the GMC must sit the IELTS Academic version of the test. 

IELTS exam structure

The IELTS exam assesses all four language skills:

  • Listening (40 minutes)
  • Reading (60 minutes)
  • Writing (60 minutes)
  • Speaking (11-14 minutes)

IELTS listening

The IELTS listening test has 40 questions, 4 recordings will be played and you will be required to write your answers. 

The recordings will cover conversations in an everyday social context, educational or training context and an academic subject. A variety of question types will be used during the Listening section. These include: matching, multiple choice, plan/map/diagram labelling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion and sentence completion.

The IELTS listening test will take approximately 30 minutes., and you will be allowed an additional 10 minutes to use for transferring your answers from the question booklet to the answer sheet. 

IELTS reading

During the IELTS reading test, you’ll be asked to read three different passages and respond to the questions asked relating to these texts. 

For the Academic test, the three long texts will be taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. The texts will range from factual and descriptive, to the discursive and analytical.

The test will last for 60 minutes (including transfer time) and there will be 40 questions. Each correct answer will be worth one mark.

IELTS writing

The writing test involves two tasks and lasts for 60 minutes.

In Task 1, you will be presented with a graph, table, chart, or diagram, and will be asked to describe, summarise, or explain the information in your own words (minimum 150 words). For example you may be asked to describe data or describe the stages of a process.

In Task 2, you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. This will be minimum of 250 words. 

IELTS speaking

The Speaking test takes approximately 11-14 minutes and is delivered in three parts:

Part 1: The examiner will introduce themselves and ask you to confirm your identity. You’ll then be asked general questions on topics such as home, family and work. 

Part 2: You’ll be given a task card asking you to talk about a specific topic and the points which should be included in your talk. The talk will be for 1-2 minutes and you’ll have a minute to prepare. 

Part 3: You’ll be asked further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2. The questions are designed to give you further opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas. 


The IELTS test report will show a score for each of the four tests. The tests are scored from 0 (lowest) to 9 (highest). You can score whole band scores (i.e. 7.0) or half band scores (i.e. 7.5). 

For the GMC to accept your IELTS certificate, you’ll need to score 7.5 across all four areas with a score of no less than 7.0 in each individual test.


The IELTS Academic and General Training test costs between £170-£195 depending on location.

Exam dates

The IELTS test can be taken at a computer or on paper – The content for each test remains the same and the speaking section for both is carried out face to face. 

Click here for further information about exam dates and locations that you can sit your IELTS exams.

IELTS practice materials

Click here for IELTS sample tests.

If you’re interested in working in the UK and would like to discuss the positions available in your specialty, and how we can assist you, please contact our team.