IELTS Listening

The IELTS Listening test is the same in both the Academic and General Training tests.

The Listening test consists of four parts designed to assess how well you can:

  • understand the main ideas and detailed information of a set of recordings
  • recognise the opinions and attitudes of the speaker
  • follow the development of an idea or argument.

Below you’ll find more information about the test format and scoring, as well as top tips, free videos and blog articles, and other resources to help you understand the Listening test and achieve a high score.

If there’s anything else you would like to see, tell us on our social channels.

The Listening test lasts for 30 minutes with an extra 10 minutes to write your answers onto a separate answer sheet.

There are four parts with ten questions each (so 40 in total). The questions are designed so that the answers appear in the order they are heard in the audio.

Each part is a little more difficult than the one before and each has a different focus.

The first two parts deal with situations set in everyday social contexts, so:

  • in Part 1 you will hear a conversation between two people
  • in Part 2 you will hear a monologue on a general topic.

The final two parts deal with situations set in educational and training contexts, so:

  • in Part 3 you will hear a conversation between two or three people
  • in Part 4 you will hear a monologue on an academic subject.

You will hear the recordings only once. The Listening test includes a range of accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand, American and Canadian.

One mark is awarded for each correct answer in the 40-item test.

A band score conversion table will then translate the scores out of 40 into the IELTS 9-band scale.

Take care when writing your answers onto the answer sheet as you can lose marks for poor spelling and grammar.

1. Get to know the test so there are no surprises on the day. Use our preparation materials to understand the Listening test and example topics that might come up.

2. Listen to accents from a variety of English-speaking countries. Search online for radio stations in these countries and listen every day.

3. Practise multitasking. During the test you need to read the questions, listen for the answer and write down the words all at the same time!

4. During the test you have time at the beginning of each part to look at the task. Use this time to read the questions carefully and think about the topics.

5. The questions always follow the order of the recording. Don’t panic if you miss a question – look ahead and think about the next one.

How to improve your IELTS Listening test score

Looking for simple ways to improve your listening skills? 

Find out what you can do to improve your skills to help you achieve the IELTS Listening band score you need.

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10 tips for answering map or plan questions in IELTS Listening

When was the last time you asked a person (not your phone or computer) for directions? If, like me, it was a long time ago, you may need help following the directions or description you hear when answering map or plan questions in Part 2 of the IELTS Listening test. The good news is that we have 10 tips on how to answer these types of questions and some IELTS Listening practice too. IELTS Listening map and plan questions Let’s start by looking at exactly what IELTS Listening map and plan questions are so you know what to expect in your IELTS test. There are in fact two different ways that map and plan questions are presented. The first way is numbered questions on a map or plan and a list of possible answers (A, B, C, etc.) above or to the side. (Click image to enlarge) The second way is the possible answers (A, B, C, etc.) on the map or plan and the numbered questions below that. (Click image to enlarge) This is important to know because, as you’ll see below, the way the questions are presented gives you a clue about how the information in the recording is organised. Tips for before you listen You only have limited time to look at the questions before the recording starts so here are some tips for making the best use of this time. Read the instructions and the title of the map or plan if there is one, check if the numbered questions are on the map/plan or below it, and most importantly, identify if there’s a likely starting place, e.g. an arrow and/or an entrance to a building or park like the main gate in the plan above. Circle or underline labels on the map/plan and check if there’s a compass as these will probably be included in the recording as part of the directions/description (e.g. It’s just south of the Adventure Playground). If the numbered questions are on the map/plan, check if the questions go in order from bottom to top, left to right, etc. as this tells you how the information in the recording will be organised and may indicate where the recording will start from (e.g. Questions 11-17 in the plan above go in order from the bottom left to the top and then to the bottom right). If the possible answers are on the map/plan, remember that these do not tell you how information in the recording will be organised (e.g. Location C may or may not be mentioned before Location D in the map above). Look at the list of places you need to identify but don’t try to remember them all as you can look at the list while listening or after listening if you take notes during the recording. Tips for while you’re listening If you follow the tips below, you’ll be less likely to get lost while listening, and, if you do get lost, you’ll be more able to quickly find your place again. Draw your place on the map/plan as you listen as this will keep you focused on following the directions/description and, if you do get lost, listen for a mention of one of the labels on the map/plan so that you know where you are again (e.g. the information point in the plan above). Listen for words/phrases that tell you the direction to move in or where something is (e.g. walk straight ahead, opposite, on the left) as these will help you follow the directions/description and identify answers. Listen for the locations given in the numbered questions or possible answers as the recording will use these names not synonyms, e.g. the recording for the map above will include ‘outdoor gym’ not ‘exercise equipment’. Avoid distractors as alternative but incorrect answers will be mentioned in the recording. Remember, you are allowed to draw on the Listening question paper in the paper-based test. Tip for after you’ve listened Here’s one last tip in case you miss any of the answers while listening. Guess any answers you don’t know as you won’t lose marks for wrong answers and you could guess right! IELTS Listening practice So now you’ve read the 10 tips for answering map or plan questions in the IELTS Listening test, it’s time to put them into practice and answer the IELTS Listening questions for the maps and plans above. Listen to the audio below (first map audio 00:00 to 02:43; second map audio 02:44 to 05:32):     Once you’ve answered the questions, check the answers and transcripts here, and then think about why you got any answers wrong and how you can do better next time. If you’re in an English-speaking country, the next time you’re about to go to your phone or computer for directions, why not ask a person instead? It might be less convenient but it could help you improve your listening for IELTS! Pete

Pete Jones

15 September, 2021

Improve your listening skills with IELTSi

IELTS Listening has many different question types. Each question type tests a different skill, these are known as subskills. Learning about these subskills will help you get a better understanding of the test and help you answer the questions correctly. In this blog post, I will explain how using these subskills will help you take control of your own learning and we will look at how IELTS Intelligence (IELTSi) Listening can help you with your goals.   It has been created through lots of research with self-study learners just like you. In IELTSi Listening, you can listen to recordings that are based on sections 1 to 4 of the Listening test and assess yourself on the different task types including Classification, Matching, Multiple Choice and Completion style tasks. As well as being able to practise these different task types, you’ll also get a personalised feedback report that is created just for you. The report will show you why your answer was right or wrong, look at which skill was being practised, give you some tips to help you improve and help you focus your study. There are a number of things that students find challenging with IELTS Listening. The fact that you only hear the recording once means that you need to be aware of the format that is used and the strategies you then need to employ in this part of the test. You also need to focus on grammar and spelling; read the questions carefully and develop your skills of prediction. IELTSi can help as it breaks down the listening sections into chunks and explains and practises the different skills that you need to use. You will be able to understand what is needed for each different question type and develop skills for approaching the different listening sections in the test. The subskills we test in IELTSi Listening are important because they will also develop your skills for listening and understanding in everyday English as well as in academic settings where English is used. Let’s look at the subskills in more detail: Understanding the main idea means being able to separate the most important information from the less important. It is important for all parts of IELTS Listening and is a skill that is developed in Multiple Choice Questions, Matching and Note Completion tasks. It is also important for everyday life and academic settings such as seminars. Understanding details. When you need to find a piece of information, you need to be able to decide what sort of information you are listening for, predict the answer and be able to decide which detail is the correct detail. This skill is important for all parts of the test and appears in a wide variety of task types. You will need to develop this skill for all Completion tasks and Multiple Choice Questions. In everyday life this skill is necessary for understanding conversations and asking for, and listening to, information. In academic life you will need this skill in a wide variety of situations, such as listening to lectures and presentations. Recognising opinion, attitude and purpose means being able to listen for facts and ideas and being aware of what the speaker is saying or why they are speaking about them. You will also need to be able to understand what the speakers think about the ideas being mentioned. For example; you may be asked why two speakers agree or disagree about a certain topic. This skill is most often found in the academic conversation in Part 3 of the Listening test. You will need this skill both in daily and academic life in order to take part in different types of discussions. IELTS learners often find it difficult to prepare for the test because they don’t know how they can improve their score. Practice tests are helpful but sometimes you might feel like you need extra help and guidance. IELTS intelligence can give you the extra help and advice that you are looking for.  So why not check your Listening skills with IELTS intelligence and find out your strengths and weaknesses and how to improve in your personalised feedback report. It takes about 45 minutes to check your skills and read all your feedback, but you can stop and start again to suit you. Find out more by watching the video below:   We’re constantly developing IELTS intelligence based on our research with learners, so we’ll let you know when new skills and features are available. As always we would love to hear from you, feel free to ask us any questions you have on our social channels. Neil

Neil Holloway

21 May, 2021

A year of We Love IELTS – your top picks for IELTS Listening

We know 2020 has been a strange year for most of us! Let's talk about the positives, with We Love IELTS launching in February, we hope we have been a great support to you when preparing for your IELTS Test. We have spoken to thousands of you and over a million of you have joined us on this new platform. We are grateful to our growing community and know many of your will be new here. We thought what better time to share your top blogs for IELTS Listening: 1. How to Speak Australian English The most popular blog post on IELTS Listening in 2020 is IELTS expert Pete’s post on Australian English. IELTS is an international test, so you might hear a range of different accents, including Australian, British, New Zealand and North American, so we’re not surprised this post was so popular. Additionally, we know a lot of students plan to head ‘down under’ (to Australia), making this post where Pete shares some essential Australian English words and phrases even more important. READ MORE  2. What is American English Following on from Pete’s blog on Australian English, our second most popular Listening post of the year is on American English. In this post Pete shares some features of American English vocabulary and spelling that will be especially useful if you're taking IELTS to study, work or live in the USA. Don’t forget that in IELTS you can use either British or American spelling – just be consistent. READ MORE  3. Using Audio Scripts to Improve your IELTS Listening In our third most popular blog post of 2020, IELTS expert Sophie shares her top tips on how to use audio scripts to help increase your band score in the IELTS Listening test. Many students use transcripts/audio scripts to check their answers and see where they went wrong. This is a great way to identify your weaknesses and to discover certain patterns in the Listening test, but there is a lot more you can do. Read the blog post to find out more. READ MORE  4. 5 ways to improve your IELTS Listening Skills every day Did you know that the best way to improve your listening skills is not by doing lots of Listening tests. The very best way to make your listening better is to make listening in English a part of your everyday life. In this popular blog post IELTS expert Liz shares five ways to improve your listening skills every single day. Take a look and start improving your listening skills today! READ MORE  Happy reading!  


17 December, 2020

How to improve your Listening for IELTS

In this video, IELTS expert, Pete Jones shares four tried-and-tested ways to improve your Listening for IELTS. You may just be starting to prepare for IELTS or you’ve taken the test already, perhaps more than once, and not got the Listening band score you need. This video can help you.

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Episode 9: How to manage IELTS test anxiety

In this first episode of our second series, IELTS expert Pete Jones shares some tips on how to reduce any anxiety you might have regarding the IELTS test to help you make the most of your preparation time and perform better in the test.

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Episode 7: Top tips for IELTS Listening

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz give some top tips on the IELTS Listening Test.

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