Listening

Listening is one of the four areas where a candidate is tested in IELTS. This tests the listening and understanding capabilities of the student. The student is made to listen to a recording of a conversation,  a monologue, a lecture, instructions etc and has to answer the questions pertaining to it.

The recording is continuous for about half an hour and has four sections. The student will listen to the first section and write down the answers on the question paper itself. There will be small gaps between each section where the student gets time to read the questions of the next part. Once the student has completed all the four sections, they can transfer the answer from the question paper where they have written it to the special answer sheets. They will get ten minutes to transfer the answers to the answer sheet. The answer sheet has to be marked in pencil only.

Some important point to keep in mind

  • Listen to each part carefully.
  • Answer all the questions.
  • While listening write the answers on the question paper.
  • You get ten minutes at the end of the test to transfer the answers to the answer paper.
  • There are four parts to the test.
  • You will hear each part only once.
  • There are 40 questions in all to be answered.
  • Each question carries one mark

IELTS Listening Test Details

Paper format:  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), and in Section 2, there is a monologue in (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), and 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.

Timing: Approximately 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes transfer time).
No. of questions: 40
Task types: A variety of question types are used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labelling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion.
Answering: Test takers write their answers on the question paper as they listen and at the end of the test are given 10 minutes to transfer their answers to an answer sheet. Care should be taken when writing answers on the answer sheet as poor spelling and grammar are penalised.
Marks: Each question is worth 1 mark.

IELTS Listening Types of questions

A detailed look at the paper with links to related resources.

Task type 1 – Multiple choice
Task type and format: In multiple choice tasks, there is a question followed by three possible answers or the beginning of a sentence followed by three possible ways to complete the sentence. Test takers are required to choose the one correct answer – A, B or C.

Sometimes, test takers are given a longer list of possible answers and told that they have to choose more than one. In this case, they should read the question carefully to check how many answers are required.

Task focus: Multiple choice questions are used to test a wide range of skills. The test taker may be required to have a detailed understanding of specific points or an overall understanding of the main points of the listening text.
No. of questions: Variable

Task type 2 – Matching
Task type and format: Test takers are 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.
Task focus: Matching assesses the skill of listening for detail and whether a test taker can understand the 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 test takers’ ability to recognise relationships and connections between facts in the listening text.
No. of questions: Variable

Task type 3 – Plan, map, diagram labelling
Task type and format: Test takers are required to complete labels on a plan (eg of a building), map (eg 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.
Task focus: This type of task 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).
No. of questions: Variable

Task type 4 – Form, note, table, flow-chart, summary completion
Task type and format: Test takers are 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.

Test takers may have to select their 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.

Test takers should read the instructions very carefully as the number of words or numbers they should use to fill the gaps will vary. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’. Test takers are penalised for writing more than the stated number of words, and test takers should check this word limit carefully for each task. Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words.

Task focus: This focuses on the main points which a listener would naturally record in this type of situation.
No. of questions: Variable

Task type 5 – Sentence completion
Task type and format: Test takers are 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’.

Test takers are penalised for writing more than the stated number of words. (Test takers should check this word limit carefully for each task: the limit is either ONE, TWO or THREE words). Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words.

Task focus: 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.
No. of questions: Variable

Task type 6 – Short-answer questions
Task type and format: Test takers are required to read a question and then write a short answer using information from the listening text. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’. Test takers are penalised for writing more than the stated number of words. (Test takers should check this word limit carefully for each task.) Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words. Sometimes test takers are given a question which asks them to list two or three points.
Task focus: Sentence completion focuses on the ability to listen for concrete facts, such as places, prices or times, within the listening text.
No. of questions: Variable

IELTS Listening – how it’s marked
The Listening test is marked by certificated markers, who are regularly monitored to ensure their reliability. All answer sheets, after being marked, are further analysed by Cambridge Assessment English.

Band score conversion

A Band Score conversion table is produced for each version of the Listening test which translates scores out of 40 into the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole bands and half bands.

One mark is awarded for each correct answer in the 40-item test. Care should be taken when writing answers on the answer sheet as poor spelling and grammar are penalised.

Tips on Listening Test