What happens in the IELTS Listening test?

Table of Contents

by Bahareh Bahrami

by Bahareh Bahrami

IELTS Expert & ESL Instructor


The IELTS test includes 4 sections: Speaking, Writing, Reading and ListeningThis blog will help you get familiar with the different parts of the IELTS Listening test. We’ll also go over some valuable tips to do well when you take your test. 

IELTS Listening Test Format

Remember that the Listening section of the IELTS test is the same for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General. This test takes 30 minutes to finish and is divided into four parts, and there are ten questions to answer in each part (i.e. total of 40 questions). You need to listen to audio recordings that will be played only once and then you will have to answer the questions. 

Section 1

The first audio recording in the IELTS Listening Test is a 2-to-3-minute conversation between two people in a social context. In this part, one of the participants in the discussion wants something from the other person. Maybe they’ll wish to join a club, ask about a product or service, or maybe something related to their university studies. 

Section 2

The second audio recording is a 4to5minute speech with just one person in a social context. You may hear a tourist information officer talking about an attraction, a museum guide explaining different museum areas, or a person describing the advantages of joining a club, for example. 

Section 3

In the third part of the IELTS Listening Test, you’ll hear a conversation between two to four people in an educational and training context. You will hear a 3-4-minute discussion on campus. In this section, people talk about their university classes or an important project or task. You might also hear students on the recording asking a lecturer or instructor for help. 

Section 4

The fourth recording involves a speech with just one person on a short academic subject for about five minutes. This is the most difficult part of the test, and there is no break in the middle, unlike the other parts.  

So, the test gets harder as you progress to the next section; starting from easier sections to the more challenging ones.

How Is The Test Assessed?

The 40 answers that you provide during IELTS Listening are designed to be marked as “correct” or “incorrect”. The score you get depends on how many questions you answer correctly. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Spell words correctly. You will lose the mark if you misspell a word even slightly. If it’s a wrong spelling, your answer will be wrong.
  • Using correct punctuation marks. Be careful with commas and periods.
  • Writing English conventions correctly. For example, write “sixth floor” and not “six floor”.

Questions Types

What are the different types of questions that you’ll see in the Listening test?

Multiple Choice Questions

During the test, you’ll see “stems”, which could either be incomplete sentences or a question. There are two types of multiple-choice questions: one with only one answer, and the other one that has two or more answers. 


Which THREE items are you allowed to bring to the spa? 

  1. towel 
  2. ticket 
  3. watch 
  4. money 
  5. slippers 
  6. makeup 
  7. swimming costume
Short Answer Questions

In this type of question, you may need to write more than 1 answer, so always read the instruction carefully.  


Name two things that tourists can bring inside the viewing deck. 

Sentence Completion

In this section, you must complete the statements with no more than three words according to what the instructions ask you.


The _________ is the city’s central park.  

Note, Summary, Form or Table Completion

In this part of the IELTS listening test, You will find an incomplete note, summary, form, or table. You need to complete them using the information from the audio recording.  


Complete the table below. Your answer for each should be no more than three words/numbers.  

Label a Map, Plan, Flowchart, or a Diagram 

In this section, you will see a map, plan, or diagram, and you need to label them. You may have options, or you will have to choose the answers from the audio recording. 


Complete the diagram below. Your answer for each should be no more than three words/numbers.  


Here you will find a list of details from the audio recording, and you need to match them to a set of options that the test will give you.  


Which counsellor should you see? Select the correct answer A, B, C, or D.  

  1. Martha Lee 
  2. Luke Smith 
  3. Amanda Wills  
  4. Rebecca Jones 

In this part, you will find a list of information. You need to classify them according to the given options.  


How should the tourists enter the following attractions? Write the correct answer A, B, or C. 

  1. individually 
  2. in pairs 
  3. in groups 
Blackthorn CastleA
Withney Wetland CentreC
Headley HallB
Lewis HouseC

and so on…

IELTS Listening Test Tips

  1. Capitalize your answers. In the IELTS listening test, some words need to be capitalized. So, if you use lowercase letters for all your answers, you will lose points. That is why it is easier to use all CAPITAL LETTERS to avoid that.
  2. Read the question and try to predict the topic. Always read each section in the time you are given and make sure you have an idea of who is speaking to who and what about. This will help you focus a lot more and make better guesses. 
  3. Do not worry if you miss an answer. If you find out that you have missed an answer, quickly forget about it and focus on the next ones. You will be able to do better in the next section if you do not panic. 
  4. Watch for paraphrasing. Always remember that what you hear will not be the same as the question. The question and the question stems use synonyms so you must listen carefully for words or phrases that are similar, and not the same. 
  5. Do not worry about words you don’t know. If you hear a word that you do not know, try to guess the meaning, or do not worry. It may not be necessary to know it anyway, so just focus on what you understand. 

Get more tips for your IELTS test day!

Use the tips and examples you found here to prepare for your IELTS Listening test. You can also try a few practice Listening computer test questions below. 

However, if you know that you are not that great at Listening skills in general and need some extra help, consider taking an online IELTS preparation class at ILAC and get the help of an expert.

If you are located in Vancouver or Toronto, Canada, contact our program advisors at ILAC to talk about your English goals.

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