IELTS computer based listening test

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In this tutorial, you will find out:

  • Exactly what to expect when you take the IELTS listening test 
  • How the scoring converts to IELTS band scores
  • How the computer-based and paper-based tests compare
  • If it is a good idea to take your IELTS test on a computer?

The listening test is the same for both IELTS academic and IELTS teneral training. It lasts approximately thirty minutes and it is divided into four sections, with each section gradually becoming more difficult. 

In each section you will hear a recording of native English speakers and you will need to answer a series of ten questions. The questions are in the ‘right’ order - you will hear the answers in the same order on the recording.

It’s important to be aware that although all the recordings are of native English speakers, they will have a variety of different accents, including American, Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand, so you need to be ready for this. This comedy show has a lot of different accents.

Listening to country-specific radio stations or other online resources such as movies or documentaries can be a great way to improve your ability to cope with less familiar accents. For example, David Attenburough has an accent that for me, makes anything he says captivating. He’s like the grandad I never had. 

It’s also important to be aware that you will only hear each recording ONCE.

Types of recordings

The first two recordings involve people talking in everyday social contexts. In the first section, you will hear a conversation between two people, perhaps a customer and a shop assistant or a person asking for help at a tourist information centre, for example. 

The second section will involve just one person speaking, so a monologue rather than a dialogue. You might hear part of a radio broadcast or someone explaining the details of a public event.

Sections three and four are set in academic contexts. The third section will involve a conversation between two or more people, such as a university student discussing a course with his or her tutor, or three students discussing an assignment. In the final section of the test you will hear a monologue, such as a university lecture.

Types of questions

The listening test includes a wide variety of different types of questions. You will probably be very familiar with some of these, such as multiple-choice questions, but perhaps less accustomed to tasks which involve matching, labelling diagrams or completing summaries. Question types vary in different sections and some sections of the test will contain more than one type of question, so it’s vital to spend some time getting used to all the possible variations you might encounter. 

Follow instructions

As well as making sure that you are familiar with the different types of questions, it’s also essential that you follow the instructions. Although this might sound obvious, far too many IELTS candidates lose marks simply because they don’t do what they are asked to do.

For example, some types of questions specify the number of words you should write. If the question states ‘Write no more than two words for each answer’, you will need to write either one word or two words for each answer. If you write three words or more, your answer will be marked incorrect. It’s as simple as that. As we say in the UK, it’s cut and dried.

Not only will you be penalised for not following the instructions. Answers which are misspelled will also be marked as incorrect so as you expand your IELTS vocabulary, be sure to pay attention to spelling. Grammatical errors will also be marked as incorrect. You have been warned! 

Signing up for our online course at IELTS podcast can be an excellent way to help ensure that you are getting accurate essay correction feedback on your performance both in the speaking and the writing. 

Each question is worth one point so the maximum score in the listening exam is 40. Each candidate’s score is then converted into an IELTS Band Score. The exact conversion depends on the test, but on average you will need a score of about 23/40 to achieve a band 6, 30/40 for a band 7 or 35/40 if you are aiming for a band 8.

23 - 40 scoreBand 6
30 - 40 scoreBand 7
35 - 40 scoreBand 8

In many parts of the world it is now possible to take the listening, reading and writing sections of the IELTS test using a computer. One of the key advantages for test-takers is that you will receive your results more quickly. 

But are there any differences between the paper-based and the computer-based test? 

If you take the paper-based listening test, you will write your answers on the test paper while you are listening. Then you will be given ten minutes at the end of the test to transfer your answers to an answer sheet. If you take the test on a computer, this step becomes redundant so you will only be given two minutes at the end of the test to check your answers. The test stops automatically at the end of this time period.

If you struggle in the listening section, it might be worth finding a test centre that conducts the test with headphones rather than speakers. The headphones will help block unwanted sounds such as coughs and sneezes.  

Apart from that, the tests are identical. 

So, is it a good idea to take your IELTS test on a computer? 

It really comes down to personal choice. If you are used to handwritten tests, you might feel more comfortable taking the paper-based version of the test. If you can type more quickly that you can write, you might prefer to take the computer-based test. Just bear in mind that even if you are a computer whizz, it’s still worth taking the time to familiarise yourself with the computer-based test by practising with some sample questions.

Audio tutorial

You can download or listen to the audio version here:

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If you need more help with your IELTS preparation, take a look at our online course here to make that you succeed! :

Here are some tutorials to help you with your IELTS Listening preparation