On this page are tips for listening in the IELTS test. If you have a question or a tip that you think would benefit others, let us know using the message form at the bottom of the page.
*Note that the listening test is the same for the General Training and Academic Module test
Speaker giving the wrong answer first
One of the common traps in the IELTS listening test is when a speaker makes a statement which is then changed. For example: ‘My phone number is 833 6634 – oh no, sorry, that’s my old number – my new number is 356 8232′. It is important to keep listening to the following sentence or two to confirm that the answer has not changed in any way.
Keeping focused on the listening
A common issue with the IELTS listening test is not staying focused on the recording so that you catch the answer when it comes. It is surprising how often, even though you are serious about passing the IELTS test, your mind can start to wander when listening to a recorded conversation, and you can easily miss an answer. One technique to help is to imagine that you are actually part of the conversation, even though you are not actually saying anything. Think about where they are, how old you think the speaker or speakers are, what they are wearing etc. By putting yourself ‘in the picture’, it is often easier to keep focused.
Always be two questions ahead
Having only the next question in your mind as you are listening means that you can lose points quickly – if you miss the answer, you may find yourself waiting and waiting, only to find that the answer has gone as well as the next two or three answers. Get into the habit of planning the next questions ahead. For example, if you are waiting for the answer to Question 3, also make sure you know what is required for Question 4 – if you hear the answer to Question 4 first, then you have already missed Question 3 (the answers come in order). You may have lost a point, but at least you are back on track.
Pre-read the questions
In between Sections 1, 2 and 3, there is a short break for you to read the questions, but at the end of each of these sections, you are also given half a minute to check your answers. Although it is worth having a quick check to make sure you have an answer for each question, this time should be spent pre-reading the next set of questions, not reading old answers. The more prepared you are for the next set of questions, the better your results. Remember that you are given time at the end of the recording to transfer your answers to the answer paper, so don’t worry about writing neatly on your question paper.
Highlighting key words
In the time you have to pre-read the questions, make sure you are highlighting key vocabulary or points that you think will help you identify the correct answers. You are given a question paper and a separate answer sheet, so you can write on, underline, circle or otherwise mark your question paper as you see fit. Underlining or circling key words will help you stay focus and be clear about what you are listening for.
ALWAYS write an answer
You are not penalised in the IELTS test for an incorrect answer in the listening or reading sections, so even if you are not sure or don’t know, always write something, even if it’s just a guess. You might get lucky, and it certainly won’t harm!
In the first section of the IELTS listening test, it is common to have to take a note of some personal information from one of the speakers. This can be there name, their address, a telephone number or other similar details.
In this section of the test, it is also common for the speaker to spell a word (for example, that speaker may say ‘I live in Arlene Road, that’s A – R – L – E – N – E Road’.).
Here are just some of the points you may need to listen out for when listening for personal information:
Surname / Family name
Other names (this could include nicknames of abbreviations)
Marital status (e.g. single, divorced, married, separated)
D.O.B (date of birth)
These questions can often be the easiest way to pick up points in the IELTS listening test, but points can also be lost for not spelling the answer correctly. Practice by listening to the recording below and putting the word you hear in the boxes below. To simulate the real IELTS test, don’t pause the recording – see if you can keep up with the spelling.
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Listen to the recording and type the names you hear in the boxes below.
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NOTE: we recommend you take a look at the post on linking words before beginning this page.
In the listening test, the type of linking words you hear can help you predict the general direction of what you hear. You can tell if points are connected as:
• cause and effect constructions.
These are called ‘signpost words’ (also ‘discourse markers’), as they are a signpost to tell you what is happening next. Understanding and following signpost words can be a very helpful way to improve your IELTS result as it will help you better follow the conversation.
Listen to the recording. You will hear the first part of a sentence. What point do you think it will be followed by? Write the linking word that helped you decide. The first one has been done for you.
Sentence 1 (example): The next point is likely to be an opposite because of the word although.
Sentence 2: The next point is likely to be because of the word Show answer SEQUENCE because of the words ‘NEXT STEP’
Sentence 3: The next point is likely to bebecause of the word Show answer ADDITION because of the words ‘NO ONLY…BUT ALSO’
Sentence 4: The next point is likely to bebecause of the word Show answer CONCESSION because of the word ‘ADMITTEDLY’
Sentence 5: The next point is likely to bebecause of the word Show answer CAUSE/EFFECT because of the words ‘AS A RESULT’
Sentence 6: The next point is likely to bebecause of the word Show answer COMPARISON because of the words ‘IN THE SAME WAY’
Linking words in listening are only one example of discourse markers – the words and expressions used to show how speech is constructed. They are particularly useful for you in Sections 2 and 4 of the listening test as they indicate changes in the direction of a thought, idea or opinion. That means if you have a question asking about reading ability and the next question is asking about new additions to the school building, then you can expect to hear a discourse marker announcing the change of topic.
Here are some of the more common signpost words and phrases, with their meanings.
First = This it the beginning of a list of points.
Like = An example is going to be given.
Anyway = This could mean a change of subject or nearing the end of the talk.
I mean = The speaker is about to rephrase or give an example.
So = An effect or a result of a previous point is about to be stated.
Moving on = Another point is going to be introduced.
As I said = The speaker is going to recap an earlier point.
To make myself clear = The speaker is going to rephrase a point.
Right = This could mean the speaker is about to begin,change the subject or is nearing the end of the talk.
To put it another way = The speaker is about to rephrase a point.
This isn’t always so = The speaker is about to give exceptions to or contrasts to a previous comment
Now = The speaker is about to begin a new subject.
Talking about that = The speaker is going to expand on a point.
Test your skills! You can either try completing the text below using the list of signpost words presented above then listen, or you could just listen and complete the answers!
(1) I’d like to thank you all again for coming to this meeting, and to say that I have received apologies from Mrs Brownlow, who won’t be able to attend today. (2), I’d like to talk to you about our English language department. (3) in the last meeting, we are looking for some of you to act as mentors for our international students arriving over the coming weeks. Although our college prides itself on having a welcoming environment in which international students can feel at home from the very first day, we know (4). Feelings of homesickness, isolation and loneliness are somewhat unavoidable, but I would like, as much as possible, to reduce these factors by teaming new students with existing students who have been here some time. (5), I am looking for volunteers to show the new students around, introduce them to people and generally ease them into their studies, so if any of you are willing to help, then please come to my office anytime during the week and let me know. (6), I’d also like to talk to you about a temporary teacher who will be joining us for the next week or so. He will be teaching history and sociology, and substituting for Miss Kinsale until her recovery. (7), if anyone
wants to send her a card then just let me know by the end of the day as I will be going to the hospital this evening to visit her. (8), unless there is anything else you want to add, we’ll close the meeting. I hope to see some of you during the week.
Show answer 1. First
3. As I said
4. This isn’t always so
5. To put it another way
6. Moving on
7. Talking about that
Show All correct answers
In addition to discourse markers, the intonation pattern of the speaker’s voice can also indicate a change of topic. The tone of voice generally falls at the end of one topic, followed by a pause then starts on the next topic in a higher tone.
Here are 2 examples. In the first part, the speaker has clearly indicated that they have finished by having a falling intonation. The second speaker has a rising intonation, indicating more is to come.
For this listening exercise, we’ve used ALL the different question types you will find in the IELTS listening test.
The listening is about a candidate’s experience on test day – this is not a topic you would normally have in the IELTS test (and it is easier than normal IELTS recordings), but is an opportunity for you to get some idea of what other people feel on test day!
7. Show answer TASK 1/ONE
8. Show answer PASSAGE 2/TWO
9. Show answer MULTIPLE CHOICE
Choose the correct letter A–D (this is a labelling a diagram question)
10. What does Eileen recommend just before going in to the test? Show answer C
Show All correct answers
Click here to read the transcript of the recordingTeacher: So Eileen, tell me how you felt just before your test.
Well, it was the first time I had taken a test for such a long time that l was very nervous. Actually, didn’t sleep very well for nearly a week before the test. I felt a little under pressure because a friend of mine had got results a week before, and just his he’d done very well. Anyway, rang my parents the night before, and my mother reminded me that there was no point in worrying, and that made me feel a little calmer.
Teacher: So tell me how things went on the day. What about the listening test?
Eileen (student): Surprisingly, the listening test wasn’t as difficult as I’d thought. The hardest part was spelling, but didn’t feel that the sections got much more difficult as the test went on. By the end I felt quite confident in my answers.
Teacher: Tell me about the speaking. What was that like?
Eileen (student): I didn’t make a very good start. From the waiting area, l was supposed to go up to in end of the corridor and turn right. My interview room was on the right, but I the the room on the left and when showed the interviewer my ID he told me I was in wrong room! Anyway, he took me where I was supposed to go so it wasn’t too bad. Anyway, my real interviewer was great She made me feel so relaxed. Before the interview began, she asked me if taken the test before, and when told her was my first time, she just smiled and said “relax. I did find myself getting a nervous, but have little just took a breath and relaxed. As for the actual interview, I felt that I could done a little better but then I suppose most people feel that. Once or twice l realised I’d made a mistake so just corrected myself and went on
Teacher: Okay. What about the writing test?
Eileen (student): Well, I spent a few minutes too long on Task One l had to write about a table, a they’re easier to write about. Actually, I think tables was hoping for a graph because because the title was are the most difficult Task wasn’t too bad though to something I had studied in my class. I wrote a plan, so I just followed what I had written. Near the end I changed a few parts the plan a of didn’t follow my original idea but I still felt that Id done a good job
Teacher: And finally, then, the reading?
Eileen (student): Well, when the examiner handed out the test, l thought the size of the booklet was a little intimidating. To calm me down, I had a quick look through the three passage before began, and didn’t have much problem with the first and the third, but though Reading Passage 2 was quite difficult. There were some multiple-choice questions and I’ve always found them a little difficult. But just left them and moved on, an found I had a few minutes a the end to go back and answer them
Teacher: Good. Well, just before we finish, do you have any advice you would give to someone just about to take their test?
Eileen (student): Yes, a couple of things actually. A few days before the test, look through the work yo have done, but the night before the test, don’t do anything. Relax and go to bed ear In the morning, have a good breakfast. But the most important advice l would give to avoid speaking or listening to anything but English on the day. Listen to the radio when you get up, and take a portable cassette player to listen to when you’re waiting to go into the test room. Don’t speak your native language even if there are people that you know at the test centre.
Teacher: Well, thanks very much, Eileen. When do you get your results?
In the IELTS listening test, it is very common to have to listen for numbers to get a correct answer. In this exercise, you can practice your listening by listening to the recording and entering the numbers and dates into this news report.
There are three different ways you can try this exercise!
1. Look at the numbers below, read the text carefully and logically there is only one place each number can go.
2. Listen to the recording and enter the numbers as you hear them.
3. Look at the numbers first, then listen to the recording and enter the numbers as you hear them (the easiest option!)
You can choose to make this exercise a little easier by showing you all the numbers, or you can listen to the recording without looking at the numbers!
Show all of the numbers (don't click this if you want more of a challenge!)
7 00 000
4 000 000
Good evening and welcome to the Show answer 6 o’clock news. Tonight’s top story: a second earthquake in months has struck Japan. Preliminary reports claim that up to Show answer 1100 people are missing and the damage is estimated to be over $Show answer 700,000 . In other news, unemployment statistics released today show a slight decrease at Show answer 5.6 %, a Show answer 0.3 % drop over last year’s figure of 5.3%. This has come as welcome news to the government, especially with the upcoming general election.
Plans to make Auckland city the new capital of New Zealand have been scrapped. Despite home to over Show answer 1/4 of the population, there has been overwhelming popular support to maintain Wellington’s status as the nation’s capital.
In entertainment news, Tom Cruise has denied that he will be returning to New Zealand to start filming The Last SamuraiShow answer II . In the first movie, The Last Samurai, Cruise was reported to have earned $US Show answer 24,000,000 , and stated that he was looking for another eight-figure deal before signing the contract to do the sequel.
Now to sport, where the All Blacks have come home victorious once again, beating Wales by only one point in a thrilling ending. Wales had kept the lead with 16 points up to half time, but were unable to score again as the All Blacks dominated the second half to finish on Show answer 17 points.
Finally, the weather. It looks like summer has finally arrived with the temperatures on the east coast reaching a high of Show answer 30 degrees tomorrow.
Predicting and anticipating in the IELTS listening test – exercise
In a previous post we looked at the importance of predicting and anticipating in the IELTS listening test. Practice your skills with these 10 questions by predicting as much as you can.
NOTE: there is no audio for this exercise – this is to improve your predicting skills.
Questions 1 to 5. Complete the missing information. Use NO MORE THAN TWO WORDSOR A NUMBER for each answer.
Rugby International – receipt
Name of ticket holder: Carl Hawkins
Payment method: (1)_____________
Show answer Looking for a method of payment. Likely to be either cash or credit card but could also be telephone, Internet or in person.
New Zealand All Blacks v (2)____________ Show answer Given that the receipt is for an international game, you should predict it’s a country, possibly also the nickname of the team (e.g. South Africa or Springboks)
Starts at: (3) _____________ Show answer Very likely that this is a clock time, likely to be in the afternoon. Slim possibility that the date will also be required.
Number of people (4)______________ Show answer You should be able to work out that because it is a receipt, it is asking not for the number of people attending the whole match, but how many people are included in this transaction. Judging by questions 6 – 9 it is likely to be only 2. Question 10, with its future grammar referring to the brother, suggests he is not there at the time. Also question 5 only has space for two seat numbers.
Seat number(s) K112 and (5)_____________ Show answer Logically from question 4, you should be looking for one seat number. As they were booked together this is more than likely to be sequential (K111 or K113) but you should keep an open mind as it could also be J112 or L112.
Questions 6 – 10.
Answer the following questions using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS.
6. Why didn’t Carl Hawkins go to the match? Show answer The question word is obviously looking for a reason.
7. Where had they planned to meet? Show answer This is likely to be a location in reference to a stadium. This could include door number, stand number, seat number, etc. You should also be listening for a preposition of place (i.e. inside, outside, beside, in front) given that the word limit is three words.
8. Why was Jane angry? Show answer We know from question 6 that Carl couldn’t go to the match but it was his name on the receipt. This leaves it probable that Jane was either left waiting or couldn’t go herself.
9. What are they doing next Saturday? Show answer You should be able to predict a change in tone of the conversation, referring away from past events and using future grammar. You could also anticipate hearing the word ‘Saturday’ or similar (weekend, first day off work, etc). and also listening for an action verb, possibly connected with Jane’s brother arriving (cleaning the house, meeting him at the airport, etc).
10. When is Jane’s brother arriving? Show answer This could be a day of the week, a date or a clock time.
Matching and classifying questions test your ability to understand a rephrased sentence and identify key points in the recording, as well as understand relationships between ideas.
You can think of matching questions as trying to find a pair of socks – one sock will match another. Classifying questions are a little different in that you have a category that the sub-sections fit in. Here’s a VERY SIMPLE example: you could have categories like FOOD, CLOTHING and WEATHER. The question would then ask you to ‘categorise’ items like trousers, apples and sunshine.
Matching questions in IELTS
Here’s an example of a matching question (there is no recording for this exercise – it is just an example. See below for a full exercise with audio):
Match the following dates to the statements that follow. Write A, B or C in your answer sheet.
A. 2011 B. 2013 C. 2015
1. The first scientific discovery was made. 2. Dr Ignatius published a landmark research paper 3. The experiment was abandoned.
With this type of question, you are simply matching a number and a letter. Classifying questions are very similar, but commonly use the same letter more than once.
Classifying questions in IELTS
Here’s an example of a classifying question:
Which person states the following:
A. Dr Jameson B. Dr Walker C. Dr Bell
1. Further research is essential 2. More finances will be required 3. Government support is not welcome 4. The conclusions drawn in 2013 were incomplete 3. The process of extraction is too expensive
This is a Section 3 example – Questions 28-30 are classifying questions.
Section 3 Questions 21-30
Answer the questions below
Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS OR A NUMBER for each answer
21. What was the student’s assignment marked out of?
22. For which area of the assignment did the student get the best marks?
23. In addition to the internet, what was the only other reference source used by the student?
(The) course textbook
24. Which orientation did the student not attend at the beginning of the course?
(The) library orientation
25. What should the student have included into their question about food and drink bought in cafes?
(An) additional category
Questions 26 and 27
Complete the sentences below
Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer
26. When designing a questionnaire the writer should not assume a …. or point of view exists without sufficient evidence.
27. The student’s questionnaire would have required too much ………….to be effective for business use.
time (and/&) labour
What does the lecturer tell the student about each book?
Choose your answers from the list and write the correct letter A-F next to questions 28-30
One of the question types that you may face in the IELTS listening test is when you are required to label a diagram, map or plan. Typically you will be given an illustration with some labels already in place, but others you need to add as you listen to the recording.
One useful hint is that the answers in the listening test always come in order, so in the example below, the first answer you can expect to hear is the answer to question 1, then question 2, then question 3 etc.
It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the other labels already given, and to think about how the other parts of the diagram, map or plan which you are required to label may be described.
Practice by taking this short example below (this is an extract from a Section 2 IELTS speaking test). Start the recording, then type your answers into the boxes below. Click ‘Check your answers’ to see if you are correct.