Complete Guide to IELTS Listening Test

IELTS Listening Module

IELTS listening is one among the four modules in the International English Language Testing System to test the applicant’s ability to assess their proficiency in:

  • Understanding central ideas
  • Following logical arguments
  • Recognizing attitudes and opinions
  • Finding specific information (such as numbers, addresses, etc)

Let’s have a quick look at the aspects discussed in this article:

Table Of Contents

The IELTS Listening part is common for both the Academic and General Training students, and the scores are calculated the same way for both.

The IELTS Listening Test has total of 40 Questions and this is divided in 4 Sections.

Important Note

Acknowledge the following updates made to Paper-based listening test from 4 Jan 2020.

Here on ‘sections’ in listening module will be denoted as ‘Parts’ and the paper-based test is partitioned into part 1,2,3,4.

The example in part 1 will be eliminated along with page number references.

Read more info here

You should have a solid understanding of the aspects of listening to acquire a good IELTS band score of 8 and 8+.

Understanding the IELTS listening test format and its questions helps you a lot in achieving the desired score even though if you studied fewer hours.

Furthermore, maintaining proper time management also helps you succeed in this test with a good band score.

What are the 4 Sections in IELTS Listening Test?

The IELTS Listening module is divided into 4 sections to complete in 30 minutes. In addition, 10 extra minutes were given to transfer your answers. 

The section and time division of IELTS Listening:

  • The first Section 1 (social) – two speakers
  • Section 2(social) – one speaker
  • The next Section 3(academic) – three/four speakers and 
  • Finally, the Section 4(academic) – one speaker

IELTS Listening Test: Section 1

Section 1 is often a Telephonic conversation between two people, the most common questions in this part of listening is Inquiring about a place, or a college admission or Renting and so on. We need to focus on specific information following some proven IELTS listening section 1 tips and tricks in order to get fullest score. For instance: Listening to names, places, time and numbers.

IELTS Listening Test: Section 2

In Section 2, you’ll hear an Individual speaker giving information, for example: information could be about a tour guide leading a group of visitors, explaining or reporting about the events around.

IELTS Listening Test: Section 3

Section 3 is often three or four speakers; it is mostly about an academic discussion, about a presentation or planning and organizing stuff.

IELTS Listening Test: Section 4

Section 4 is an Academic lecture, this part particularly is a little confusing or difficult because students will be listening to a lot of information.

However the challenge in this module is the accent, and changes in the information or dual information and more than one response for one answer, but the trick is to understand the linking words or connecting words which follow) the test takers have to familiarize themselves with American and British Accents as well as spellings, and one needs to develop the skills of reading, listening and writing down the words at the same time. So practice listening to different kinds of recording to get accustomed to multi tasking.

The IELTS listening parts consists of a wide range of questions to gauge your ability to understand the essential facts and central ideas from real-life conversations.

You should be aware of these question types to get a high score in this part of IELTS examination.

IELTS Listening Question Types

You have to listen to four recordings during the listening test. These recordings can range in nature from a social casual conversation to an academic lecture that is delivered by a professor.

The total number of questions in the IELTS listening part is 40, which falls under six categories. You have to answer 10 questions for each recording. 

6 Categories of IELTS Listening Question Types

  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • Matching
  • Map/Plan/Diagram Labelling
  • Table/Note/Form/ /Flow-Chart
  • Sentence Completion
  • Short Answer Question

The number of questions in each question type varies but distributed evenly between the six categories.

Multiple Choice Questions in IELTS Listening

You will be given a question with several choices as responses. You have to select the right answer for the given question. Sometimes, these IELTS listening multiple choice questions contains more than one response are correct, you should select all the correct responses.


You will have a set of choices to connect between distinct pieces of information.  However, a set with many choices to map them with the set of items in the opposite list.

Map/Plan/Diagram Labelling

This type involves questions in the form of geographical representations of the topics being discussed in the recordings. In several instances, you will be given a list of responsible and asked to select the appropriate one for each blank. The questions related to graphical representations of the topics discussed in the recordings. You will be shown an image, a city map or a machinery diagram. Off the graphic, certain elements will be left and candidates must fill them in.


This is the final part of the IELTS listening test. You’ve should finish the outlines which are incomplete related to the recordings.


One will represent the key data of a recording in an organized way based on some well-defined categories like time, price, place, etc.


This representations appears in distinct variety of layouts and requires an understanding of how various recording parts are linked. However, a brief outline to summarize an art centres history, event schedule, and amenities and asked to complete fill in the blanks.

Flow Charts:

The diagrams used to represent the order in which a process moves from one stage to the next one.


A form containing all the details about the recording. For instance, the quotation form of the shipping agency and asked you fill in the package dimensions and destination among other information.

The answers to the blanks are monitored strictly.  Of course, the test paper will provide clear directions on how responses should be filled out, including information on word limits. Remember, if your response exceeds the word limit, you will be penalized.

Sentence Completion in IELTS Listening

Read the list of sentences summarizing the central idea of the listening test. Then listen to the recording and fill the gaps. Remember that the word limit is no more than one world or a number. You should be aware of the main ideas of the text listened, also grasp the content through the association among the sentences and sections in the recording.

Short Answer Questions in IELTS Listening Test

The last question type in the IELTS Listening part is the Short Answer Question. You have to answer the questions using the information you heard in the recording. The word limit in this type is no more than two words and/or a number. Experts’ advice is to carefully read the instructions 

How to Overcome the Barriers in IELTS Listening Test?

Accent, pronunciation, and intonation are the three barriers you as an IELTS test-taker to consider focusing on. Listen distinct voice types and speech pitches to score high in the IELTS listening test. However, let’s jump on the effective IELTS listening tips to improve your band score.

IELTS Listening Tip #1: Switch to English

This is one of the first and foremost tips to follow if you are planning to take the IELTS test. Eventually, It just requires switching to English from your native languages. Start following the below activities to switch to English.

  • English news and dailies
  • Literature or books in English
  • English series and movies

IELTS Listening Tip #2: Lipsing

Paying attention to the speaker’s lips sing helps you understand what is spoken. However, watching movies or series also helps to easily understand the pronunciation. Finally, listen to short stories and kids movies and switch on to documentaries.

IELTS Listening Tip #3: Make use of Subtitles

Subtitles help you understand the speech in English. However, the text written at the bottom helps you understand the words spoken by a native English speaker. Finally, over the period, you will get to recognize the accent of any speech.

IELTS Listening Tip #4: Make use of Technology

There are several digital modes such as YouTube channels will help you learn English.  However, several applications available on the Google Play Store and iTunes also assist to learn English. Furthermore, you can search for IELTS English listening to Google and learn from the best websites.

However, the above tips will help you master the concepts of IELTS Listening module. Additionally, you may follow some best online portals such as and IELTS tutors to provide some material to improve your language skills.

[ Also read: How to improve IELTS listening score ]

How to Test and Review your Listening Skills?

In addition to preparation and practice, proper assessment is also essential.  Remember to make it a note to review your listening skills and take practice tests. 

Follow the tips mentioned below while preparing for your IELTS listening test

  • Review practice tests
  • Follow the IELTS official examination conditions while performing practice tests
  • Consequently, identify if there are any problems with any kind of question types
  • Analyze your mistakes and think about those mistakes. Analyze yourself about the problem areas (such as strategy, timing, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and listening skills).
  • Additionally, keep the focus on improving your weak areas.

Calculating your Band Score from your Marks

Your IELTS listening score can be calculated by counting up your marks out of 40. Here is the comparison between IELTS listening scores:

IELTS Listening BandMarks
Band 5.518-22
Band 6.023-25
Band 6.526-29
Band 7.030-31
Band 7.532-34
Band 8.035-36
Band 8.537-38
Band 9.039-40

IELTS Listening Test Day Advice

Up to now, you’ve learned about what IELTS listening test is and tips to follow for preparing for the test.

Now, let’s look into major IELTS Listening test-day tips:

  • Attempt all questions in the IELTS listening test. Furthermore, there are no penalties for wrong answers.
  • Check for plurals in the answers. If any question requires a plural answer, don’t waste time with singular answers.
  • Remember that the audio will be heard only once.
  • Practice in your answer paper.
  • While answering pay attention to your answers word limits.
  • In the case of multiple-choice questions, only answer using alphabets (a, b, c, d) but not their corresponding answer. 

Follow this process until you feel you’re consistent and perfect in all the concepts.

General Instructions to Follow while Attempting the IELTS Listening Test

Every Question type is different, so stick to the Rules. Check for the number of words you have been instructed to write a particular response.

So the instructions are clearly mentioned at the beginning of each section.”No more than Two Words/ No more than three words”. Or sometimes the answer can just be one word.

Writing letters or words, especially when you are dealing with the multiple choice questions, the instructions are there for a reason, so ensure you write the word where there is a need for a word. Or a number or a letter.  (Write the correct letter ABCD or E/ write the word in the blank) so always read the instructions carefully.

While practicing it’s always better to write on the question booklet using a pencil instead of a pen, to avoid any overwriting.  And this applies to both the Listening and Reading sections. Practice writing answers in Capitals.

Frequently Asked Questions about IELTS Listening Test

Is there any difference between IELTS Academic and general training listening test?

There is no difference between the IELTS academic and general training tests.

How long is the IELTS Listening test?

The IELTS listening test lasts for 30 minutes.

What are the different accents in IELTS listening test?

American, British, Canadian, Australian and Kiwi are the distinct aspects that you can expect in the IELTS listening test.

Are IELTS listening questions repeated?

The questions in the IELTS listening section don’t repeat as they were written. However, you can read a question more than once. The IELTS audio tracks don’t repeat at all.

Can we see the questions while listening in IELTS test?

Of course, you can look at the questions in the IELTS listening test. You can even answer them while reading.

Can I take notes while listening during the test?

The answer is  yes. You can take notes while listening. However, some students face trouble as it requires doing two tasks (listening and writing) at a time.

Does spelling matter in IELTS listening test?

A big yes. Spelling is crucial in IELTS listening to acquire a good score. For each right answer, you can get a point. However, you won’t lose points for incorrect ones.

Can I use short form for answers?

You cannot use short answer forms in the IELTS listening test. If you follow short forms, you may lose marks.

How many sections are there in IELTS listening?

There are four sections in the IELTS listening test but you can hear only one section at a time.

Do I lose any points if my answer is wrong?

There is no negative marking for wrong answers. However, you should write correct spelling to avoid wrong answers. IELTS accepts both british and american english spelling.

How many times I can listen to the recording in IELTS listening test?

You can hear each recording only once in the IELTS listening test.

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