IELTS Listening: Study Guide, Information & Tips

Let’s face it. The IELTS Listening component is an exam where you will have to answer questions after listening to a native...

Indulekha Prabha Written by Indulekha Prabha · 5 min read >
IELTS listening: Study Guide, Information & Tips

Let’s face it. The IELTS Listening component is an exam where you will have to answer questions after listening to a native speaker, only once. Does it sound daunting? Yes it does. But since you are here, we do have a good news! We know how you can ace the Listening test. So let’s get started.

IELTS Listening Format

Before we move on to the tips and study guide part, let us first understand how IELTS listening works, what skills are judged and how you are marked.

There are four sections with ten questions each. The questions are designed so that the answers appear in the order they are heard in the audio.

The first two sections deal with situations set in everyday social contexts.

  • In Section 1, there is a conversation between two speakers (for example, a conversation about travel arrangements).
  • In Section 2, there is a monologue (for example, a speech about local facilities). 

The final two sections deal with situations set in educational and training contexts. 

  • In Section 3, there is a conversation between two main speakers (for example, two university students in discussion, perhaps guided by a tutor). 
  • In Section 4, there is a monologue on an academic subject.

The recordings are heard only once. They include a range of accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand, American and Canadian.

You have 30 minutes to answer 40 questions and 10 minutes to transfer them on your answer script.

Types of Questions in IELTS Listening:

Preparing for any exam cannot begin unless you understand what type of questions you are expected to answer. The questions are mainly objective and you have to answer in a word or two or a sentence, at the most. Here is what exactly you will get:

  • Question type 1:  You will get multiple choice tasks, where there is a question followed by three possible answers, or the beginning of a sentence followed by three possible ways to complete the sentence. You will be required to choose the one correct answer – A, B or C. Sometimes, candidates are given a longer list of possible answers and told that they have to choose more than one. In this case, you should read the question carefully to check how many answers are required.
  • Question type 2: Here you will be required to match a numbered list of items from the listening text to a set of options on the question paper. The set of options may be criteria of some kind.
  • Question type 3: Test takers are required to complete labels on a plan (e.g. of a building), map (e.g. of part of a town) or diagram (e.g. of a piece of equipment). The answers are usually selected from a list on the question paper.
  • Question type 4: You will be required to fill in the gaps in an outline of part or of all of the listening text. The outline will focus on the main ideas/facts in the text. It may be: 

1. a form: often used to record factual details such as names

 2. a set of notes: used to summarise any type of information using the layout to show how different items relate to one another

 3. a table: used as a way of summarising information which relates to clear categories – e.g. place/time/price, 

 4. a flow-chart: used to summarise a process which has clear stages, with the direction of the process shown by arrows.

You may have to select your answers from a list on the question paper or identify the missing words from the recording, keeping to the word limit stated in the instructions. Test takers do not have to change the words from the recording in any way.

  • Question type 5: You will be required to read a set of sentences summarising key information from all the listening text or from one part of it. They then fill a gap in each sentence using information from the listening text. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN ONE WORD AND/OR A NUMBER’.
  • Question Type 6: you will be required to read a question and then write a short answer using information from the listening text. 

Skills Tested:  

Each type of question discussed above, tests a particular skill or a set of skills. For example:

  • Multiple choice questions are used to test your detailed understanding of specific points or an overall understanding of the main points of the listening text.
  • Matching assesses the skill of listening for detail and whether you can understand information given in a conversation on an everyday topic, such as the different types of hotel or guest house accommodation. It also assesses the ability to follow a conversation between two people. It may also be used to assess your ability to recognise relationships and connections between facts in the listening text.
  • Plan/map/diagram labelling assesses the ability to understand, for example, a description of a place, and to relate this to a visual representation. This may include being able to follow language expressing spatial relationships and directions (e.g. straight on/through the far door).
  • Flow chart or summary completion focuses on the main points which a listener would naturally record in this type of situation.
  • Sentence completion focuses on the ability to identify the key information in a listening text. Test takers have to understand functional relationships such as cause and effect.
  • Short answer type questions focus on the ability to listen for concrete facts, such as places, prices or times, within the listening text.

You can clearly see that IELTS Listening, although doesn’t have detailed rubrics for marking, is quite systematic in terms of assessing skills. Therefore while preparing you must ensure that you address each skill that is mentioned here. Remember IELTS checks your English language skills. It doesn’t check how much English you know.

IELTS Listening Study Guide

Like every exam IELTS Listening also requires dedicated practice. While practicing you must focus on the skills that are tested. Following are some tips for you to imbibe in your daily listening practice:

  • Practice listening to both one person speaking (a monologue) and more than one person speaking at the same time. For the first you may get overwhelmed, while the second can be difficult because there may be different accents or styles of speaking and it is tricky to ‘tune-in’ to what is being said. Listen to different podcasts to overcome the difficulties.
  • Be careful with your spelling. Lots of easy marks are thrown away because of poor spelling.
  • Make sure you follow the instructions carefully especially when it comes to word limit. If the question states ‘No more than three words’ you can’t write any more than this
  • You have to get used to listening to things only once. Make sure to always practice under exam conditions and that means listening just once.
  • Remember, it is not just a listening test; it’s an understanding, reading, writing, vocabulary and spelling test. Make sure you practice all of these skills under exam conditions.

Exam Day IELTS Tips

A good practice doesn’t always assure a great performance. You must go by some rules on the day of the exam too, so that you are adequately relaxed, settled and ready to conquer the exam. Here are certain things you should remember on the day of the exam:

  • Arrive at the test centre early and plan your journey in advance. You need to be settled, organised and ready for what’s coming.
  • Read and listen to the instructions very carefully. Many students throw away easy marks by misreading or not following simple instructions.
  • Write your answers on the test paper. 
  • Carefully transfer your answers to the answer sheet at the end.
  • You can write in all capital letters if you wish.
  • If you have problems hearing the recording, complain at the end.
  • You will be penalised for writing more than the stated number of words, and therefore, should check this word limit carefully for each task.

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IELTS Listening is definitely not the hardest exam you will ever take! So do not waste your time worrying about it. It is a very straightforward exam and if you practice rightly, you will definitely reap the benefits. Hope this helps!

Written by Indulekha Prabha
My name is Indulekha Prabha. I am an English teacher and a content writer by profession. When I'm not working you can find me writing fiction, reading poetry and painting. Profile

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