IELTS Listening Test

The IELTS listening test lasts about 30 minutes, including the instructions, your reading and listening time, and the time allowed for transferring your answers from the questions paper to an answer sheet. There are four sections in the IELTS listening test. Each section has 10 questions, making a total of 40 questions. The sections become progressively harder. The answers to the questions come in the same order as the information on the recording.

Section 1

This is a conversation between two speakers on an everyday, social topic. This means that you listen to two people talking to each other about arranging a trip, organising an event, etc. The focus is on listening for specific factual information.

Section 2

This is a talk by one speaker on a general topic. This means that you listen to one person giving information about a public event, a service provided, etc. The focus is on listening for specific factual information.

Section 3

This is a discussion between two to four speakers on a topic related to ‘academic needs’. This means that you listen to up to four people talking to each other about an assignment for a course, an academic subject in a seminar, etc. The focus is on listening for specific factual information, attitudes and speakers’ opinions.

Section 4

This is a lecture or talk by one speaker on an academic or study-related topic. This means that you listen to a person giving a lecture, a talk, etc. The focus is on listening for main ideas, specific factual information, attitude and speakers’ opinions.

Listening Tips for the Listening Section of the IELTS Examination

Understand the context
Before each section you will be given information about the speaker and what they will be talking about. You won’t be tested on this, but it will help you answer the questions that follow by understanding the context.

Be careful with your spelling. Lots of easy marks are thrown away because of poor spelling. As IELTS is a Cambridge test, I strongly suggest you use UK spelling.
Predict the answers You will be given a short break (normally around 30-40 seconds) before each section and in the middle of sections 1, 2 and 3. You should look at the questions in the next section and try to predict the answers coming next. When you predict try to think about the context of the question. Can you guess the answer? For example, if there is a ‘$’ in front of the answer, you will probably be listening for an amount of money. Also, predict what type of word the answer might be (adjective, noun, or verb).

Capital letter
If your word is someone’s name or a place, then it must start with a capital letter to be correct.
Word limit. 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. If your answer is four words for this answer, it will be incorrect.

Common trap
Make sure you don’t get tricked. IELTS listening tests will often try to fool you by giving you something that seems like the correct answer first and then changing this to something else later in the recording. For example, your questions might be ‘The man would like a ______ car.’ At the start of the recording the person might say they want a ‘big family car’, but then change their minds and say they want a ‘small sports car’. If you wrote down the first option, you would be wrong.

Short hand
Short hand is when you write a shortened version of a word. For example, you might write aprox. for approximately or Eng. for English. This will help you save time in the exam. Often two answers will come in a very short space of time, if you are busy writing a long word instead of listening, you might miss it. Shorthand is a very personal thing, so do whatever suits you.

Don’t leave any blank spaces
You are not penalized for wrong answers so you should always have a guess. You might get lucky!

Check and re-check
At the end, you will be given 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Check your grammar and spelling as you do so.

Concentration is the key in IELTS Listening. Most people find it difficult to concentrate for the complete 30 minutes. To improve your concentration you need to practice active listening. Active listening involves setting yourself small tasks when you are listening, so basically learn to multitask, just like you will be in the IELTS Listening test.
IELTS Listening is not just a listening test; it’s an understanding, reading, writing, vocabulary and spelling test. Practicing all of these skills will help you to achieve your desired score.

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