Category Archives: IELTS Listening (lessons)

Table completion questions in IELTS listening


Table completion questions in IELTS listening

Often in the IELTS listening test, you are required to complete missing information given in a table. One of the most useful skills  with this type of question is to look at the information already given and predict some of the answer types you will be listening for.

Table completion questions in IELTS listeningFor example, what type of answer would you expect for the table-completion question below?

Complete the table below with NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS OR A NUMBER.


Travel Abroad Ltd – summer trips to Europe departing from the UK

 Destination Paris  Berlin  (1)_______
 Mode of transport  (2)_________  Coach  Train
 Date of departure   12 May  17 May  (3)_______
 Cost of trip   £712   (4)__________   £245
 Travel time  Less than one hour  18 hours  2 days

This is a relatively simple example (although this is something you could be required to complete for Section 1), but it shows the basic skills that you should use. With table-completion questions, look at the other data in the
table. Often you will see patterns which will indicate the type of information you should be listening for. If one column has nouns, then it is reasonable to expect you are looking for a noun. Also, be logical – use the information you have to roughly predict the information you will be listening for. For example, it is logical that a coach trip will be cheaper than a train trip.

Here’s some of the information you could have predicted about each answer:

Answer 1: logically, this would be a place, and likely a city (possibly even a capital city as Paris and Berlin are both capitals). If your geography of Europe and surrounding areas is good, you should also have predicted it is likely to be some distance from Paris, Berlin or London as the trip is by train and will take 2 days. However, it is still in Europe as stated in the title of the table (‘trips to Europe’).


Answer 2: you should have predicted that this is a more expensive but faster trip to the destination, so likely to be by aeroplane.

Answer 3: Clearly this a date, but you should also be able to estimate that it is likely to be close to May as this is the date for the other two trips, and also that the date must be in summer (the title of the table is ‘Summer trips’)

Answer 4: obviously a price in pounds sterling (UK currency). This is probably going to be the cheapest of all three because it is travelling by coach, which is generally cheaper than a train, and takes 18 hours.

Now try with an audio recording.

Before listening to the recording, look at the table and predict the type of missing information. Use the table headings at the top and on the left hand side to help you. Then play the recording and complete the table.

NOTE: This is a practice exercise – there are no word limits for these answers.

Sam John Mary
Attitude to recycling Doesn’t have time (1) (2)
Availability (3) No local recycling areas (4)
Ideas for the future (5) A reward scheme for
people who recycle



Click here to check your answers

This is a practice exercise with no word limit, so you do not have to have the EXACT wording below.

  1. Thinks it can be difficult
  2. Always recycles
  3. Limited local facilities
  4. Very limited facilities
  5. Fine offenders


IELTS listening strategies for section 4

IELTS listening strategies for section 4

IELTS listening strategies for section 4

IELTS listening strategies for section 4 Over the 4 sections of the IELTS listening test, the recordings and questions become more challenging, so by the time you reach Section 4, you should expect it to be the most difficult. In order to get a good result, here are some useful tips and suggestions. Thanks to Khaled Manasrah for questions that led to creating this post!

Tip 1 – be prepared!

Knowing what to expect when the Section 4 recording begins is a great advantage, so here’s what you can expect. Unlike Sections 1, 2 and 3, Section 4 does not pause midway through the recording for you to read the next set of questions. However, you have more time before the recording begins to read through the questions (40 seconds instead of the normal 20 seconds).

Tip 2 – use the time given in Section 3

At the end of Section 3, the recording will say ‘You now have 30 seconds to check your answers’. However, we strongly recommend you use this time to only briefly check your answers to Section 3 – it is more important to quickly move on to Section 4 and start looking through the questions there.

Tip 3 – underline, circle and highlight important words in the questions

As you look through the questions in your preparation time, make sure that you are identifying key words and qualifying words in the question. Don’t just read them – circle them, underline, highlight them – anything that will make it easier to focus on the key points.

Tip 4 – use the questions to help you understand the recording

As Section 3 ends and you start looking through the questions for Section 4, you should be building a mental picture of what the Section 4 topic relates to. Are they talking about people, places, animals etc? As Section 4 begins (but before your 40 seconds preparation time), the announcer in the recording will give a brief description as well (e.g. ‘You will hear a lecturer talking about the subject of deforestation’) – this should add to your understanding of the recording and make following the context easier.

Tip 5 – use the questions to show you where the recording may change direction

Keeping track of where you are in the recording in relation to the questions is very important, so before the recording begins, try to identify where the focus of the questions changes. For example, if the first three questions are talking about one particular place, then the fourth question refers to a person, this should indicate a change in direction for the speaker and will let you know where you are in the recording.

Tip 6 – always read one question ahead

This is not specifically a tip for section 4 only – it is a good idea to know not just the next question, but the next two questions so if you miss one answer you are prepared for the next. It is particularly useful in Section 4 because if you lose your place in the first few questions, there is no midway pause for you to catch up!

Tip 7 – be realistic about getting ALL the answers

During the test you may find that you are waiting for an answer that you don’t hear, but you do hear the answer to the subsequent question. Because the questions in the listening test are all answered in order, this tells you that you have missed an answer. The main point here is not to panic or become stressed about that missed answer – simply move on with the recording. Remember that at the end of the test, you have 10 minutes to check your answers, so will have time then to make an educated guess for any missing answers.

We hope these tips have helped, but if you have a tip or suggestion that you think could help others, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.


How to stay focused during the IELTS listening test

You should also look at this page for other tips and hints for IELTS listening

Unfortunately, losing focus during the IELTS listening test is very common, even for very high level candidates. Many people find that after the listening test has started, they realise that although they have been ‘listening’ to the recording and waiting for an answer, they haven’t actually heard what is happening and can no longer follow what the speaker or speakers are saying.

So what’s the problem? Why won’t my brain stay focused?

The main problem relates to ‘question paralysis’, where you are so focused on listening for an answer to a specific question that your normal listening skills are lost. The best technique here is to keep in mind that you need to follow the recording, regardless of the questions. Of course you need the answers, but most of your focus should be on listening to the flow of the conversation or monologue, considering what the speakers are saying.

This can often be achieved best by not constantly staring at the questions – read them in the time given before the recording begins, and causally glance at them, but for the most part, you should find that your eyes are unfocused and slightly glassy and that you are staring at a point on the wall or on the desk in front of you. You should return to the question paper (or screen) only when you need to double check a question or to write an answer/glance at the next question.

Active listening

You should also be using a technique referred to as ‘active listening’. As the name suggests, this mean that you are not casually sitting back and not paying attention – you are focused and listening carefully. Here are two tips to help improve your active listening:

  1. Mentally repeat the main points of what the speakers are saying. Of course, this must be done in your head and not out loud!
  2. Stay in the moment. Don’t play with your hair, pick at your fingernails, make doodles on your question paper. React in the same way that you would react if the speaker was right in front of you – nod, smile, shake your head (but don’t say anything out loud!)

So how can I practice?

One of the most effective (although boring!) ways of practising your active listening is to listen to a short recording and then transcribing (writing down) what you hear. To begin with, focus only on the main idea, but as you being to improve you will find that you will be able to listen to a longer piece of audio and transcribe almost everything you hear. You can practice this using the listening practice tests, then compare the notes you have transcribed with the transcript given.

Click here to go to the IELTS listening practice tests.

Listening for details in IELTS

Listening for details in IELTS

NOTE: This post includes 3 audio recordings, so make sure you have your speakers on or headphones attached.

In the IELTS listening test, you are often tested not just on your ability to listen for general information or to follow the approximate flow of the recording, but also to listen for very specific information.

Listening for details in IELTSSometimes specific information questions will also be spelled, but this is not guaranteed, so you need to develop the skills of listening for a specific piece of information, while at the same time continuing to listen to the general direction of the dialogue or monologue.

There are a number of different types of specific information you may need to listen to, including:

Practice #1

Listen to the recording and see if you can identify what the following numbers refer to. Click ‘Show answer’ when you’ve finished.

A. 1946 Show answer

This was the year that UNESCO was formed

B. 180 Show answer

This is the number of nations in UNESCO

C. 60 Show answer

This is the number of worldwide offices UNESCO has

D. 2001 Show answer

This is the year of the General Conference

Now practice by listening for specific dates. Listen to the recording below and note the following dates for these events:

1. Bastille Day

2. Elvis’ death

3. Burns’ Night

4. Martin Luther King Day

5. ANZAC day

Show the answers

Bastille Day – 14th July

Elvis’ death – 16th August

Burns’ Night – 25th January

Martin Luther King Day – 4th April

ANZAC day – 25th April


Now a third practice recording. Listen to the audio and identify the specific information needed to answer these questions:

Listening for specific information


Now take a look at these tips and hints for improving your listening skills for Section 4 – the most difficult section of the IELTS listening test!

Predicting and anticipating in the IELTS listening test

Predicting and anticipating in the IELTS listening test

Predicting and anticipating in the IELTS listening testAs the listening begins, you hear a voice on the recording telling you what section you are about to complete, as well as the question numbers. Then you are given a short amount of time to read the questions (more about timing here).

During this preparation time, it is important that you read the questions, thinking about some of the language you might hear so that you can predict the approximate type of answer.

Here is a typical set of questions for a Section 1  recording:


NAME: Mary ________(1)
ADDRESS: _______(2), Lansdale Street, Meldon, Warwickshire
TELEPHONE NUMBER: ______________(3)
REQUIRED MEMBERSHIP TIME: ___________________(4)
HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT US? ____________________(6)

Using the time you are given before the speakers begin, you should be able to logically predict or anticipate the following information:

General: the title of the questions says application form, so this is someone who is joining or enrolling in something. Question 5 refers to a gym so logically it is a gym enrolment form. It is likely to be for new members, not a renewal of membership because it is asking for basic personal questions.

Question 1: The answer here is likely to be a family name. Listening for ‘Mary’ will also be a useful indicator, as generally people in English speaking countries state their first name followed by their last name (in some cultures, it is common to use the family name first).

Question 2: This is likely to be a number (e.g. 14) or a number and a letter (e.g. 14 A), because the street address is given afterwards, followed by the suburb and the county.

Question 3: This is highly likely to be a string of numbers, possibly including an area code.

Question 4: The answers here are given – it will be FULL, GYM AND SWIMMING or GYM ONLY

Question 5: Looking at this logically, the answer is likely to be something like ‘From a newspaper’, ‘On the internet’, ‘From a friend’ or something similar.

Important note: KEEP AN OPEN MIND!

Although it is essential to use the time you are given to predict or anticipate some of the answers, it is very important that you listen closely for the unexpected. For example, it is possible that for TELEPHONE NUMBER, the person may not have a telephone, meaning that the answer could be ‘NONE’.

Test yourself

Look at the following form and predict as much as you can. Remember that you will have a limit on the number of words, so think of possible answers that do not go beyond the limit.
Complete the following using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS OR A NUMBER.
Evening Classes for Adults

a Courses will run for _____ .
b Maximum of _____ students per class.
c Cost will depend on _____
d Those interested should contact _____ Edwards on 263-8147.
e Evening courses will be held at the _____ .

Now listen to the recording and fill in the missing information USING NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND / OR A NUMBER

Predicting and anticipating

Predicting and anticipating for pictures / diagrams

Predicting and anticipating in the listening is also useful when you have to select a picture or diagram in a multiple-choice question. Look at the pictures below – they have the same context but there are obvious differences, and spending a few seconds thinking of those differences can help you identify the correct answer.


Click here to see some of the points you could have noted.

Legs – straight in picture A, left leg bent in pictures B and C

Head – faces straight down in picture A, to the side in pictures B and C and forward in picture D

Golf club – vertical to the floor in picture A and C, horizontal above the head in picture B and behind the back in picture D.



IELTS listening multiple choice questions

IELTS listening multiple choice questions

In both the reading and the listening test, one question type you may be required to answer is multiple choice, where you have to choose the correct answer from three or four given options.

There are two basic styles of multiple choice question:

1. Answering a short question

Example: What did the student say about the lecture?
A. It was boring.
B. He couldn’t understand.
C. He had heard it before.
D. He disagreed with the lecturer.

2. Completing a sentence

Example: One of the most notable changes in our leisure time is that
A. we have longer holidays
B. we get paid more for our holidays
C. people are increasingly going abroad.

Tip 1: Highlight the differences

Multiple choice in the IELTS test can be difficult because very often there is no grammatical or logical reason to reject any of the answers. When the answers have similarities and differences, the first thing you can do is highlight the differences between the options. Also remember that in most questions, parallel expressions may be used to express the same information

For example, in the question below, listening only for the word flower is obviously not good enough, as all the options include that word. Instead, concentrate on the differences between them – in this case, it is the colours.

The pohutukawa tree has…

A. yellow flowers
B. dark orange flowers
C. red flowers.


Tip 2: think of parallel expressions

In some multiple-choice questions, however, there are no real similarities. In this case, the second thing you can do is think of other ways the information may be expressed. Look at the example below.

Question: What does Professor Roberts say about sports injuries?

A. Apply an ice pack to the injured area
B. Bandage the area firmly and rest
C. Call for medical help only in serious cases

  • Option A could be rephrased as: Put/press / something cold/frozen / painful/hurt
  • Option B could be rephrased as: Wrap/bind tightly/hard / relax/sit down
  • Option C could be rephrased as: Contact the doctor/ an ambulance / not trivial/light


Tip 3: All options may be mentioned

It is common in the IELTS listening test to hear a reference to some or all of the options in the multiple choice question, but only one answer will be correct. Be careful to think about what is being said, what is being contradicted (directly or indirectly) and what is not exactly being said.

Here’s an example:


The doctor says the patient…

  1. should take regular exercise
  2. should not spend any time standing
  3. should stay in bed as much as possible
  4. should not go back to work yet


“Well, you are certainly looking better than the last time I saw you. For the next few weeks, I recommend that you do some gentle exercise but only when you feel you have the energy. Try to spend some time on your feet rather than keeping immobile for too long. At this point, I would suggest arranging for another week away from work.”

1. should take regular exercise

This is not exactly what is being said. The speaker says ‘only when you have the energy’, so therefore not ‘regularly’

2. should not spend any time standing

This is directly contradicted. The speaker says ‘try to spend some time on your feet’.

3. should stay in bed as much as possible

This is indirectly contradicted. The speaker says ‘rather than keeping immobile for too long’, which is an indirect way of saying not staying still, in bed.

4. should not go back to work yet

This is correct. The speaker says ‘I would suggest arranging for another week away from work’


Tip 4: Be sure to match the whole meaning of the option

In the IELTS test (both listening and reading), it is important to match the whole meaning of the option. To illustrate, look at the question below and the notes the candidate  has made. What’s wrong with the notes?

Sports psychologist Dr Johnson argues that today’s top athletes

A. win because of a positive mental attitude         CANDIDATES NOTES: They feel positive.
B. occasionally use performance-enhancing drugs       CANDIDATES NOTES: They take drugs.
C. are under considerable pressure from the media.       CANDIDATES NOTES: They talk to people from newspapers, etc.

What's wrong with the notes?
  • A. The candidate’s notes do not refer to ‘win‘ which is an essential part of the option
  • B. ‘occasionally’ has been ignored
  • C. they don’t talk to, they are under considerable pressure from


Now practice with this short test. Use the 4 tips above to answer this question. Listen to the recording and put a letter (A–D) in each of the columns below.

According to the speaker, why do more people rent rather than buy their houses?
A Most people do not have the money to put down as a deposit.
B There are fewer worries about maintenance and repairs.
C Job mobility means people do not want to make long-term commitments.
D There is a risk of buying a house and losing money.

The correct answer
Show answerC – ‘fluidity in the job market’

Directly contradicted
Show answer D – ‘house prices are stable’, a direct contradiction to losing money.

Indirectly contradicted
Show answer A –  ‘This is not a reflection of financial pressures’ which indirectly means ‘do not have the money’ is not correct.

Not exact
Show answer B – ‘there is no need to worry’ is not an exact match for ‘fewer worries’


Show the transcriptGiven the general standard of living in New Zealand, many people are surprised by the decline in the level of home ownership over the last 15 years the number of homeowners has fallen by over 7%, yet this is not a reflection of financial pressures. House prices in New Zealand are relatively stable, so there is no need to worry about a house losing value, and few people are dissuaded by the cost of maintenance on the building itself. The reason for the increasing popularity of renting is in fact the result of fluidity in the job market, and the fact that obligations involved in a house often tie people to specific locations which do not support this lifestyle.

Now test your skills with this complete practice exercise


IELTS short answer questions

IELTS short answer questions in the listening test

IELTS short answer questions in the listening test

IELTS short answer questionsIn the listening test, one of the common types of questions are short answer questions, where you have to write one, two or three words or a number as an answer.

As with all question types, make sure you read the question instructions carefully before you answer. Do not write more than the number of words / numbers the question asks for. Generally the instructions and limits on word numbers are written in CAPITAL LETTERS, with bold and italic script.

For example: Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS

If you write three words for the answer here, your answer will be marked as wrong even if you have included the two words that are correct. However, it is OK to use only one word.

Here are some common instructions for this type of question:

Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS

This means the answers will be either one or two words.

Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS OR A NUMBER

This means that at least one of the answers will be just a number – a useful tip!

Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND / OR A NUMBER

This means that at least one of the answers will include a number and probably another word as well

Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN ONE WORD

This means that all of the answers are single words only

Practice with this short answer style sample

Listen to the recording and answer the three questions below:

Short answer questions in the listening test

Free IELTS listening practice

Tips and hints for IELTS short answer questions in the listening test

One of the most useful techniques with this type of question is to look at the question word being used. In the three questions above, the questions words are ‘What (festival)’, ‘when’ and ‘how many’. This should tell you that you are looking for the name of the something for the first answer, a date or time for the second answer and a number for the third answer.

Here are some common question words and the type of information they are most likely looking for.

Who – A name, a person, a company, a group or community, an institution, a job title

When – A date, a time, a part of the day (morning, evening etc)

Where – A place, a location

Why – A reason, an explanation

What – A thing, a name

Which – One of a given or limited choice

How – A description

How many – A number of times

How often – A frequency (monthly, daily, every hour etc)

Now practice a more difficult example by answering the 5 questions below.

Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND / OR A NUMBER

Short answer questions in the listening test #2

Free IELTS listening practice test

Listening – writing numbers as answers

IELTS listening – writing numbers as answers

numbersIn the listening test, some answers may be in number form. Often, the instructions will indicate whether a number is required if it states NO MORE THAN (ONE/TWO/THREE) WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER. When transferring your answer, make sure you write it correctly as often an easy point is lost for making a simple mistake.

  • One thousand = 1000
  • Half a million = 500 000
  • One million = 1 000 000
  • One billion = 1 000 000 000*
  • One trillion = 1 000 000 000 000*

*British English and American used to have different numbers for billion and trillion. However, they have been standardised since 1975. Thanks go to Asha for this update!

Practice by converting the words below into numbers  (NOTE: these are slightly harder than anything you will need to do for the IELTS test).

Example: Four thousand six hundred and eighty two = 4682

  1. Twelve thousand six hundred and eighteen Show answer
  2. Seventeen thousand and two Show answer
  3. Seventy four thousand two hundred and seventy two Show answer
  4. Eight million four hundred thousand Show answer
  5. One million, four hundred and twenty-two thousand six hundred and nineteen Show answer
  6. Eight hundred and eighteen million six hundred and fourteen thousand Show answer

About the IELTS listening test

The IELTS Listening test

*Note that the listening test is the same for the General Training and Academic Module test

Timing and requirements

About the IELTS listening testThere are four sections in the IELTS listening test, with each section having one recording. The recordings are approximately 6 minutes long, and you need to answer 10 questions in each section. At the end of all four sections, you are given 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. This is important, as it means you shouldn’t waste time during the recordings writing answers neatly on the answer sheet; instead, use this time to pre-read the questions for the next recording.

IMPORTANT TIP: there is a short break in the middle of the recording for Sections 1, 2 and 3. However, there is NO break in Section 4 – this will play through from the beginning to the end. The sections become progressively more difficult, with Section 1 being approximately pre-intermediate level and Section 4 being an advanced level.

Specific timings for the IELTS listening test

  1. Introduction and one example: around 45 seconds
  2. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the first set of questions for Section 1
  3. First part of Section 1: around 3 minutes
  4. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the second set of questions for Section 1
  5. Second part of Section 1: around 3 minutes
  6. Break: 30 seconds to check your answers for Section 1
  7. Section 2 is announced: about 5 seconds
  8. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the first set of questions for Section 2
  9. First part of Section 2: around 3 minutes
  10. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the second set of questions for Section 2
  11. Second part of Section 2: around 3 minutes
  12. Break: 30 seconds to check your answers for Section 2
  13. Section 3 is announced: about 5 seconds
  14. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the first set of questions for Section 3
  15. First part of Section 3: around 3 minutes
  16. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the second set of questions for Section 3
  17. Second part of Section 3: around 3 minutes
  18. Break: 30 seconds to check your answers for Section 3
  19. Section 4 is announced: about 5 seconds
  20. Break: 40 seconds to pre read ALL questions for Section 4
  21. Section 4 played without a break: around 7  minutes
  22. Break: 10 minutes to transfer your answer to the answer sheet

The difference between the sections in the IELTS listening test

Section 1 is a conversation between two people on a non-academic subject. For example, it could be two people talking about membership to a library or a shop assistant talking to a csutomer about a product. Section 2 is a single speaker talking about a non-academic subject, such as buying your own home or a presentation about a holiday destination. Section3 is a conversation between two or more people about an academic subject, such as completing an assignment or working together on a project. Section 4 is a single speaker discussing an academic subject, such as academic regulations at a university.

Recordings are played once only

You only hear each recording once, with the exception of the first example in section 1. All sections of the test have approximately 30 seconds reading time before the recording begins and 30 seconds after the recording ends to pre-read the questions or check your answers. In sections 1 to 3, there is a pause midway through the recording for you to pre-read the remaining questions in the section. In section 4, there is no break in the recording.

IELTS listening test question types

  1. Short answer questions
  2. Sentence completion questions
  3. Form/summary/table/flowchart/notes completion questions
  4. Labelling a diagram
  5. Matching and classifying
  6. Multiple choice

What accents do they use for IELTS listening?

The IELTS test is not a purely British English test. You can expect to hear a range of a accents – British, American, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and even non-native English speaking English. It is important to use a range of different sources in your IELTS preparation so that you can become familiar with them. However, you will NOT be required to distinguish between accents.

IELTS listening improving your result

IELTS listening improving your result

So you’ve practiced, you’ve listened to the radio, taken practice tests, you’ve even taken the IELTS test – often a number of times – and you’re still not getting the result you’re looking for in the IELTS listening test. What’s going wrong?

Here’s a handy 7 point checklist for IELTS listening to work through when taking practice tests to help you identify your weakness and strengths.

1. Using the available time

Throughout the listening, there are breaks in the recording where the narrator will tell you ‘You have now time to…’. Some of these breaks are to give you time to read the next set of questions, but there are also breaks given so you can check your answers from the previous part. Although checking your answers is important, remember that you have 10 minutes at the end of the test for this too, so spend the majority of the ‘free’ time you are given moving on to the next set of questions. The more prepared you are for what is coming, the better the result will be.

DO: use the time given to check upcoming questions.

DON’T: spend too much reviewing answers you have already written down.

2. Did you answer all of the questions?

Never leave an answer empty! In the 10 minutes given at the end of the listening test, put an answer that (a) seems logical (b) suits the requirements of the question – e.g. if the instructions say NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS, your answer isn’t three words (c) very often is a word or words from the text. Remember that you do not lose points for giving the wrong answer, so there’s no harm in taking an educated guess!

DO: Put an answer for EVERY question

DON’T: leave an answer key blank

3. Is there one particular question type that is causing more difficulty than others?

By looking at your answers, check if there is a particular question type that you seem to make more errors with more often than others. For example, did you know that most multiple choice questions will have at least part of each option mentioned? Knowing some tips and hints for each question type can definitely help.

DO: identify question types that you find difficult, study any tips and hints about those question types, practice them repeatedly

DON’T: keep making the same errors with the same question type!

4. For questions you answer incorrectly, do you understand why the given answers are correct and why your answer was incorrect?

Analysing your own work, focusing on the answers you got wrong, retracing why you put that answer and spending time looking at why the correct answer was correct will help you work a lot faster through the listening test. Taking practice tests is a good plan, but you need to spend at least the same amount of time working through the test after you know the answers. Reading through the transcript where available (let us know in the comments section if we’re missing a transcript!) while listening to the recording again can help you improve your overall listening ability.

DO: spend as much time analysing your incorrect answers as you did taking the test, even if that means playing the recording or reading the transcript repeatedly until you can see the logic of the correct answer.

DON’T: simply move on to a new practice test hoping it will improve – without looking at your own mistakes, your result is likely to stay the same!

5. Maintain your focus by using active listening

This is a tricky skill to master for IELTS as you are not allowed to make any noise, but ‘active listening’ means being a part of the conversation or monologue that you are listening to. Imagine you are there as part of the discussion – what are the speakers wearing? How old are they? Are they smiling or looking stern? By imagining yourself in the recording, it’s a lot easier to keep focused and stay with the flow of the conversation. You can nod your head, smile in agreement or shake your head in disagreement – all of these actions have the ability to fool your brain into thinking that you are there, and natural good manners means you will keep listening rather than drifting of thinking about other things.

DO: Become an active (although silent) part of the conversation

DON’T: think of yourself in a room taking a test

6. Always be one question ahead

So you’re listening carefully for the answer to Question 2, which you’re sure is a person’s name, but you don’t hear it. Then you find that you’ve been waiting for the name for so long that you’ve missed the next two questions! To avoid this, be prepared by knowing what the next question is too. If you hear the answer to Question 3 before you hear the answer to Question 2, then you’ll just have to accept that you missed it and move on – losing one point is better than losing two or more because you lost your place!

DO: know what the next TWO questions are

DON’T: focus only on the next question

7. Make the question paper your own

Once the test is finished, the test invigilator will collect all of the papers on your desk. However, your answer paper is separated from the questions and the markers will not see what you have written on the question paper, so make a mess of it! Underline key words, put large circles around qualifying words – even write synonyms for words you think might be rephrased.

DO: Write on your question paper; underline / circle key words

DON’T: leave your question paper in a neat and tidy state!


We hope the 7 point checklist helps, but we’re always open to new ideas, so if you have a technique you think would benefit other IELTS candidates!