Your IELTS listening test band score – explained
Whether you take the IELTS Academic or the IELTS General Training test, The listening test is an important component of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and 25% of your overall IELTS band score.
The IELTS Listening Test
Students migrating to English-speaking countries have to achieve a good qualifying band score on the IELTS test. It is a requirement in order to be eligible for higher education, secondary education, work permits, training, or professional registration.
For example, a Canadian visa requires the minimum IELTS band score for Canadian immigration. The IELTS test comprises four sections: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. The listening and speaking sections are the same for the general training and academic exams. Whereas, the reading and writing sections are different.
The thirty-minute-long listening exam is the most challenging part of the IELTS test for many candidates. This is because of the large number of questions that have to be answered in a limited amount of time.
Candidates get another 10 minutes to jot down their answers onto the answer sheet. While the IELTS exam format mostly remains the same, the syllabus is updated frequently.
Please note that the exam format for the IELTS listening test includes fill-in-the-blanks and multiple-choice questions (MCQs). Candidates have to answer 40 of these in 30 minutes.
Sample Listening Question
Complete the notes below. Write no more than two words and/or a number for each answer.
Questions: transport from Bayswater
Express train leaves at (1) …………………….
- Nearest station is (2) …………………….
- Number 706 bus goes to (3) …………………….
- Number (4) ……………………. bus goes to station
- Earlier bus leaves at (5) …………………….
How the IELTS scoring works
The listening section evaluates the comprehension level of candidates. The band score also depends on the understanding of different accents and dialects.
A good IELTS listening band score confirms a candidate’s ability to understand English. It is the primary language in countries like Canada, the USA, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, among others.
The listening test contains 40 questions. One mark is awarded for each correct answer (raw score) for which associated audio is played in the form of multiple audio tracks.
Later, there is an additional 10 minutes for transferring answers onto the answer sheet. The score out of 40 is then converted to the IELTS nine-band scale.
You can’t fail the IELTS exam. Results are graded from 1 – 9, with 1 being the lowest band score you can get and 9 the highest.
However, you need to score at least a 5.0 overall for higher education and so it’s important to know what band score you are aiming for.
Each component of the test – Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening – is given an individual band score, so your overall exam result will be made up of a band score for each component and an overall band score. The overall IELTS score is the average of the four individual band scores.
Understanding how the IELTS Listening test is scored is important for both the Academic and General Training test. The marking pattern of Listening for IELTS-Academic and General Training is exactly the same.
If the average of the four individual scores ends in .25, the overall IELTS band score will be rounded up to the next half band.
If the average of the four individual scores ends in .75, the overall IELTS band score will be rounded up to the next whole band.
For some people, both the individual scores and the overall band score are important. This will depend on the purpose for which you are taking the IELTS exam.
What is a good overall band score for IELTS listening?
Remember that every candidate doing the IELTS test has their own unique situation and will need different band scores. For example, a university will typically require an overall IELTS band score of 6.5 with no component less than 5.5, meaning that the other 3 band scores need to be 5.5 or higher, so 6.5 is a good score for listening.
If you are taking an IELTS test for a university application, be aware that IELTS band score requirements differ between universities and even between different courses at the same university. For example, medicine tends to require a higher score than sociology. Always check what score is required.
The IELTS Band Scores Scale
When you do the IELTS test, your band score is designed to provide an accurate assessment of your level of proficiency in all four aspects of English – Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening.
These band scores can then be used by various institutions to help them decide if you will be able to study, work or live successfully in the country to which you are applying.
This table shows the overall IELTS scores and their descriptors. Each IELTS score represents a different level of ability.
How to Practice for IELTS Listening
You can practice the listening test online, here. The four parts of this practice Listening test are presented over four separate web pages. Make sure you move swiftly from one page to the next so that your practice is as realistic as possible.
Download the question paper and blank answer sheet before you start, and write your answers on the question paper while you are listening. Use a pencil.
Listen to the instructions for each section of the test carefully. Answer all of the questions. Remember, there are 40 questions altogether and each question carries one mark.
For each part of the test, there will be time for you to look through the questions and time for you to check your answers. When you have completed all four parts of the Listening test you will have ten minutes to copy your answers onto a separate answer sheet.
The British Council can make special arrangements for test-takers with disabilities. If you require a modified version of the test, for example, in Braille, contact your test centre three months in advance to discuss your requirements.
Instructions to test takers
In the actual test you will be given the following instructions:
- do not open this question paper until you are told to do so
- write your name and candidate number in the spaces at the top of this page
- listen to the instructions for each part of the paper carefully
- answer all the questions
- while you are listening, write your answers on the question paper
- you will have 10 minutes at the end of the test to copy your answers onto the separate answer sheet; use a pencil
At the end of the test, you will be asked to hand in the question paper.
How can I convert my IELTS listening score to a band score?
Just use a band score calculator, like this.
Example question: What is 30 out of 40 in IELTS listening? That would be a band 7.
Is 6.5 A good score in IELTS listening? Yes, it is, but some universities and courses might require a 7 or above IELTS score, it depends on the specific situation.