IELTS listening test

How to score well in the IELTS listening test

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After reading this article, you will learn more about how to prepare for your IELTS listening test using our useful tips, tutorials and podcasts for IELTS.

Important things to remember about the IELTS listening test

All IELTS test candidates, whether they are taking IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training, will do the same IELTS listening test. Therefore any IELTS listening practice test will be fine for you to use.

The IELTS listening test takes about 30 minutes to complete and you will receive an additional 10 minutes to transfer your answers to an answer sheet.

When you transfer your answers, they must be spelt correctly and have capital letters in the right places. For example, if the answer is 'London', you will score zero for writing 'LONDON', 'london' or 'lonndon'.

You will only hear the audio ONCE for each part. A variety of voices and native-speaker accents are used. You should do as many IELTS listening practice questions as you can so that you can feel confident listening to Australian, American and regional English accents.

The following types of questions are used in the listening test:

  • Multiple choice
  • Matching questions
  • Form completion
  • Note completion (this could also be a diagram or a flow chart)
  • Sentence completion
  • Short-answer questions
  • Summary completion

There are four parts to the listening test:

Part 1: Two people talking (a typical everyday conversation, e.g., two friends arranging to meet).

Part 2: One person talking (a talk or speech in a social situation, e.g., explaining membership at a local gym).

Part 3: Multiple people talking (minimum 2, maximum 4) in a training or educational situation (e.g., a training workshop/seminar).

Part 4: One person giving a talk/presentation in an academic setting (e.g., a university professor).

Each part has 10 questions so there are 40 questions in total. You will get time to work through the answers and also some time to check your answers.

How to handle the listening test:

Do not open the listening test question paper until you are told to do so.

Write your name and candidate number in the spaces at the top of the listening test answer page.

Write your answers on the question paper as you listen, not the answer paper.

Remember you will only hear the audio once. So make sure that you read, write and listen all at the same time. Your answers do not have to be perfect, however - remember that you have 10 minutes at the end of the IELTS listening section to transfer them onto the IELTS listening answer sheet so it's fine to have some answers changed or crossed out.

Read the instructions and questions carefully before you listen.

As you transfer answers, make sure you write something for every single question. Many candidates leave multiple choice answers blank - that's crazy!! Just guess 'B'.

For more effective pre-test preparation:

As you do practice tests, make a note of the question types you find most challenging - for example, are multiple-choice questions difficult for you? Do you score lower on sentence completion? Make sure you practice MORE of these question types until you feel really confident.

Improve your IELTS listening skills by trying this useful trick - get the test script (these are available at the back of many IELTS preparation books) and read the script BEFORE you start listening, memorising any new phrases and vocabulary. Do this for two or three different IELTS listening tests. Many IELTS tests use very similar language and instructions, and you will get a better sense of the exam this way.


Take a look at some of our tutorials to help you improve your listening score and prepare for your IELTS listening test: