The IELTS Reading Academic and General Tests are the same in that they have 40 questions each and last one hour.
However, the content and vocabulary of the General Test is easier. The General Test includes topics and vocabulary from social, work and academic subjects whereas the Academic Test focuses on topics that are commonly found in undergraduate university courses.
The General Test consists of four to five short passages and one long passage, in contrast to the three long passages of the Academic Test.
The General Test is generally taken by people who want to use their Band Score to prove their English proficiency for work reasons. For example, some employees in job sectors such as banking may get a raise or promotion upon achieving a certain score on the IELTS.