A quick look at IELTS Listening

Duration: 30 minutes 

The Listening test is the same for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. You will need to answer 40 questions in response to four recordings. 

You will listen to four recordings which are a mix of monologues and conversations from a range of native speakers and you will only hear each recording once. There are 10 questions for each part of the Listening test.  

These questions test your ability to understand: 

  • Main ideas and detailed factual information 

  • The opinions and attitudes of speakers 

  • The purpose of an utterance 

  • The ability to follow the development of ideas. 

Listening part details: 

Recording 1   A conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.  

Recording 2   A monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.  

Recording 3   A conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.  

Recording 4   A monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture. 

Multiple choice

Multiple-choice questions can be answered with one correct answer, or more than one correct answer. Read the question very carefully to check how many answers are required.  

In a multiple-choice question, where you are required to choose one correct answer (A, B or C), you will be given: 

  • a question followed by three possible answers 

  • the beginning of a sentence followed by three possible ways to complete the sentence. 

In a multiple-choice question, where you are required to choose more than one correct answer you will be given a longer list of possible answers and told that you have to choose more than one answer.  

Multiple-choice questions are used to test a wide range of skills. You may be required to have a detailed understanding of specific points or an overall understanding of the main points of the listening text.

Sample question: Multiple choice

Matching

You are required to match a numbered list of items from what you hear in the listening audio to a set of options on the question paper. The set of options may be criteria of some kind. 

Matching assesses the skill of listening for detail and whether you can understand information given in a conversation on an everyday topic, such as identifying different types of hotel or guest house accommodation. It also assesses your ability to follow a conversation between two people. It may also be used to assess your ability to recognise relationships and connections between facts in the listening text. 

Sample questions: Matching

Plan, map, diagram labelling

You will need to complete labels on a plan (e.g. of a building), map (e.g. of part of a town) or diagram (e.g. of a piece of equipment). You can usually select your answers from a list on the question paper. 

This matching task assesses your 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 directions (e.g. straight on/turn left/opposite). 

Sample questions: Plan, map, diagram, labelling

Form, note, table, flow-chart, summary completion

In this completion task, you 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: used to record factual details such as names, addresses, telephone numbers 

  2. A set of notes: used to summarise information using the layout to show how different items relate to one another 

  3. A table: used to summarise 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. 

You will select the missing words in either way: 

  • From a list presented in the question paper 

  • From the recording 

You must keep to the word limit stated in the instructions and use the exact words you hear from the recording. 

You should read the instructions very carefully as the number of words or numbers you should use will vary. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’. If you use more than the word limit, your answer will be marked as incorrect so check the word limit carefully for each question. Contracted words will not be tested, e.g. ‘don’t’. Hyphenated words count as single words, e.g. ‘police-man’. 

This gap completion task focuses on the main points which a listener would naturally record in this type of situation. 

Sample question: Form completion

Sample question: Note completion

Sentence completion

In this sentence completion task, you are required to read a set of sentences summarising key information from either: 

  • all the listening text

  • from one part of it.  

You will 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’. 

You should read the instructions very carefully as the number of words or numbers you should use will vary. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’. If you use more than the word limit, your answer will be marked as incorrect so check the word limit carefully for each question. Contracted words will not be tested, e.g. ‘don’t’. Hyphenated words count as single words, e.g. ‘police-man’. 

Sentence completion focuses on your ability to identify the key information in a listening text. You must understand functional relationships such as cause and effect. 

Sample question: Sentence completion

Short answer questions

In the short-answer question type, you are required to read a question and then write a short answer using information from the listening text. Sometimes test takers are given a question which asks them to list two or three points. 

A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’. If you use more than the word limit, your answer will be marked as incorrect so check the word limit carefully for each question. Contracted words will not be tested, e.g. ‘don’t’. Hyphenated words count as single words, e.g. ‘police-man’. 

Sentence completion focuses on the ability to listen for concrete facts, such as places, prices or times, within the listening text. 

Sample qustion: Short answer questions