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IELTS Listening Section

Everything you need to know about IELTS Listening

Candidates often get stuck in the IELTS Listening section. Why? It primarily happens because of a lack of information and awareness about the exam. If you are one such candidate, this guide will help you learn everything you ever need to know about IELTS Listening.

What is IELTS Listening?

IELTS listening is an integral part of the IELTS exam. The IELTS exam in itself consists of 4 different sections. Thus, testing the candidate's multiple abilities such as English speaking, writing, reading and listening.

The IELTS Listening focuses on analysing the candidate's English listening ability. Additionally, it also analyses the candidates accent recognition ability. Furthermore, the IELTS Listening test goes on for a maximum time duration of 40 minutes.

Generally, the recordings are for 30 minutes, whereas candidates get extra 10 minutes to transfer answers into the official answer sheet.

Moving forward, IELTS offers IELTS Listening in two different formats.

1. Pen and Paper-based tests

For this type of test, candidates must listen and simultaneously write answers on their question papers. Once the recording ends, they have to transfer solutions into the original answer sheet within 10 minutes. Thus, the exam goes on for a total of 40 minutes.

2. Computer-based test

For this test, the candidate has to type the answers directly. Therefore, candidates do not get the separate 10 minutes for this type of exam. Instead, the candidates get 2 minutes of review time to review their answers and rectify mistakes. Thus, making the exam last for 32 minutes.

The IELTS Listening test 2021 – A complete exam guide

IELTS Listening Basic Information


Total number of questions

40 questions

Total number of sections


Total score

40 marks (9 band scale)

Time duration

40 minutes

IELTS Listening Score division

Raw score (out of 40)

Overall band score










In terms of the IELTS listening exam, there is no difference in the format type of both the IELTS Academic and the General Training exam. That said, both have the same format, syllabus and time duration.

Ideally, the IELTS Listening exam expects the candidate to go through four different recordings. These recordings are primarily of two types, i.e., conversations and monologues. After listening to the tapes, candidates have to answer a few questions based on what they have heard and retained in their memory.

Moreover, one thing to remember here is that the recordings are of native English language speakers. Therefore, candidates will find different accents in the recordings.

Lastly, the candidates must keep in mind that they can listen to recordings only once.

Recording no. 1

The first recording will be a dialogue between people. Furthermore, the discussion will be placed in the context of daily life conversations.

Recording no. 2

The second recording will be a monologue about the social context of everyday life—for example, a conversation about the need for children's parks in a locality etc.

Recording no. 3

The third recording will be a conversation between two people. The recording will be in an educational or training context. Thus, increasing the conversation's intellectual level. For instance, the recording can be a conversation between, say, a professor and his student.

Recording no. 4

The fourth recording will be an academic monologue. Furthermore, it can be of any intellectual disciple—for example, a class or college lecture, educational lectures etc.

Types of Questions

1. Multiple-choice questions

To begin with, multiple-choice questions or MCQs help in analysing the candidate's considerable skills. Moving forward, MCQs have multiple optional answers to a question. The candidate has to choose one or more solutions to the question. Hence, candidates should carefully read and analyse the question before answering it.

In such types of questions, candidates get to choose answers between 3 options. Alternatively, for some questions, candidates are given the beginning part of a sentence. Then, using the given sentence, the candidate has to complete it.

Additionally, for questions with multiple answers, the number of answer choices will also increase. Thus, you will get a longer list of all possible answers for such types of questions.

For some questions, specific knowledge or understanding of the subject matter is helpful for the candidates. Hence, the candidate must maintain focus while listening to the recordings.

2. Form, note, flow-chart, table, summary completion

Another type of question the candidates will encounter during the IELTS listening test is to fill the gaps in the given outline. In such questions, candidates get a sheet of paper with mission information. Then, they have to listen to the audio and fill in the required information.

The given outline may be of various types such as,

  • Form – In such questions, the candidate must fill in information such as names, date of birth, address, mobile numbers etc.
  • Notes – Candidates get notes or a set of notes. Using them, candidates have to show the relationship between different topics.
  • Tables – They contain summarised information about separate categories.

The answers to such questions must be according to the answer options given in the question sheet. In addition, candidates should also listen to the recording before selecting an answer.

For such types of questions, it is imperative that the candidates carefully read the instructions. Furthermore, the word limits should be strictly adhered to, and candidates should use the exact words mentioned in the recording.

Lastly, answers that exceed the given word limit are marked incorrect. Therefore, carefully check the word limit before submitting the response.

3. Matching

In Matching questions, the candidates have to listen to the recording and match the questions with their answers.

Matching exercises enable the exam's committee to gauge the candidate's eye for detail. It also allows them to understand whether the candidate can understand and pick information from everyday conversations.

Furthermore, it also tests your ability to follow instructions and connect facts in the English language.

4. Map, Plan, and Diagram labelling

In this form of questions, candidates have to fill the labels by listening to the recordings. Furthermore, labelling is primarily for building plans, maps, and diagrams. These questions also offer a list of answers to choose from.

The task analyses the candidate's ability to understand directions, place descriptions, etc.

5. Sentence completion

For such questions, the candidate has to summarise the complete information by listening to the data.

After going through the information, they have to complete the sentence by filling in the correct information. Sentence completion questions also have word limits. Therefore, keep your answers within the given limit.

Sentence completion questions focus on the candidate's ability to understand and identify preliminary information by listening to recordings.

6. Short answer type questions

For such types of questions, candidates are presented with a set of questions. They have to answer the questions using the information they listened to during the video. For some questions, candidates also have to list two or three points to support their answers.

The questions help understand the candidate's ability to listen and pick out important information such as time, place, prices, etc.

IELTS Listening Tips

A. Understanding the test

Just like any other exam, learning about the test is the first step towards acing the exam. Therefore, just after deciding to appear for the exam, you should improve your exam knowledge.

For instance, you can ask the following questions from yourself,

  • What is the exam's primary motive?
  • What is the general type of questions?
  • What is the exams format?
  • What is the exams duration?
  • What kind of accents will be used?
  • Will you get extra time for transferring your answers?

The best method to do this is to go through the exams syllabus and format.

B. Read and follow instructions carefully

Following and understanding instructions become relevant in terms of competitive exams such as IELTS. That said, there are multiple IELTS listening exam questions that require the candidate to follow specific instructions.

For example, in the short answer type questions, candidates should answer questions within the given word limit. Exceeding the word limit will result in the incorrect marking of the question. Thus, signifying the importance of reading instructions carefully.

Similarly, in questions that require one to fill in the blanks, the final sentence must be grammatically accurate. In addition, as it is an English language test, avoid making capitalisation, punctuation and spelling mistakes.

C. Understanding keywords

Make it clear that you will be allowed to hear a recording only once. Before listening to the recording, you will get some time to read the instructions and questions. Therefore, carefully read the instructions and underline the keywords.

Going through the questions give you a glimpse of the recording. Try to understand and predict the recordings gist.

Understanding keywords will allow you to pinpoint the answer from the recording. Another important thing is that the exact keyword doesn't need to be present in the recording. Therefore, always try to recall the keywords synonyms and connect them with the recording words.

D. Distractions

While going through the recording, don't panic and mark the answer as soon as you hear a possible solution. At times, speakers say something but then reverse their responses.

That said, the best way to avoid such situations is to listen to the recording carefully. Furthermore, try to understand the tones and different meanings of the speakers words.

Beware of distractors that confuse the listener and pay attention to the details.

E. Concentrate and carefully listen to recordings

At times, candidates listen to the entire recording to find the answer to anyone question. However, they fail to do so until the very end. Well, in such cases, the chances are that you have already missed the answer.

Unlike other exams, IELTS asks questions according to the recording's order. Thus, saving the candidates the hassle of going back and forth with the recording.

Therefore, relax and listen to the recording carefully and answer the questions.

F. Carefully write answers

After the pen and paper test, candidates get an extra 10 minutes to write their answers on the official answer sheet. While writing the answers, you should make sure that,

All the spellings and capitalisations are correct. In addition, you can also write answers in capital letters.
After writing your answers, make sure that everything is grammatically correct.
Please make sure that you have followed all the instructions.

G. Practice

Lastly, the best method of improving your English listening skills is by becoming an active listener. Candidates can do this by listening to various forms of audio and audio-visionary devices. Furthermore, you can also watch popular films, TV shows or web series in English. You can also listen to other language resources, such as Ted talks, news reports, podcasts, etc.

All these resources will enable you to learn and recognise various accents and thus, enhance your vocabulary.

Another method of practising is to make active listening an integral part of your daily life. That said, a quick internet search will help you find hundreds of audios and videos in English. So now, you can start listening to the topics that interest you. Then, after a day or two, try to shift your focus to academic materials.

Getting used to multiple accents will help boost your confidence for the IELTS Listening test. Thus, decreasing stress and increasing your chances of scoring a good band score.


Candidates often ignore the IELTS Listening section, assuming that they will clear it in one go. After all, all they have to do is to listen to the recording and write answers. Easy, right?

Well, clearing IELTS Listening in one go is not as easy as it sounds. In addition, candidates must learn to recognise words said in different accents, which is not as easy as it sounds.

That said, the only way to clear this exam is to prepare yourself by practising and becoming a better listener. Therefore, during the exam, the candidate must keep their entire focus on listening to the given recording. In addition, the one point in favour of the candidate is that they have to read questions in advance. Thus, giving them an edge over the exam.

Know Your Author
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Abhyank Srinet
Study Abroad Expert
Abhyank Srinet, the founder of, is a globally recognized expert in study abroad and admission consulting.His passion lies in helping students navigate the complex world of admissions and achieve their academic dreams. Having earned a Master's degree in Management from ESCP Europe, Abhyank's expertise in data-driven marketing strategies has driven growth for some of the most competitive industries. As the founder of, he has helped thousands of students get into top business schools with a strong emphasis on research, shortlisting, and applying to schools from a single platform. His dedication to education has also led him to create MentR-Me, a free-to-use social platform that simplifies the study abroad process for students, while providing universities with a powerful recruitment tool. As a leader in the field of admission consulting, he is constantly researching and implementing the latest strategies to ensure that his clients receive the best possible guidance. He leads the Business Development and Digital Marketing side of both companies, and has grown both ventures to 7 figure revenue.His unique insights, experience, and dedication to his clients make him a valuable resource for anyone seeking to advance their education or career.
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