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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Our most popular resources on Listening

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Listening
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!  

We Love IELTS

17 December, 2020

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Listening
Understanding the IELTS Listening test

My students spend a lot of time worrying about IELTS Speaking and Writing and forget that they need to prepare for the IELTS Listening and Reading tests too! In fact, I am often surprised by how little people know about the IELTS Listening test. So today I am going to share with you the basics of the IELTS Listening Test. Hopefully this blog post will give you the facts you need, some tips for how to use sample questions and practise tests to prepare. Let’s get started … Did you know that the IELTS Listening test is the same in both the Academic and General Training tests? It 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. The IELTS Listening test lasts for 30 minutes with an extra 10 minutes at the end so that you can write your answers onto the answer sheet. If you take the Computer-Delivered IELTS Test you will not get the 10 minutes at the end because you do not need to transfer your answers.   There are four parts to the test with ten questions each (so 40 in total) each question is worth 1 mark. The questions are designed so that the answers appear in the order they are heard in the audio, if you miss one just keep going, the answer to the next question will be along very soon. Each part is a little more difficult than the one before and each has a different focus.   It is an intense half hour and, whilst it may not sound like a long time, sustaining that level of concentration for 30 minutes is challenging. Before your IELTS test make sure you do some timed practise tests without stopping for a break. You need to build your stamina! The Listening test includes a range of accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand, American and Canadian, make sure you have listened to all these accents in your preparation.   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. Always scan the question paper quickly before you listen, to: understand what type of answer you have to give; understand what the context is and who is talking; notice places on a map (if there is one), including drawings; underline important words that might be paraphrased in questions and in the sentences around gap fills. There are different question types that appear in the IELTS Listening Test. Make sure that you have practised all of them before test day so that you know what approach to use. There are some excellent blog posts by different members of the We Love IELTS team on some of the question types, you should spend some time reading them. Doing sample questions and full practice tests is essential to familiarise yourself with the structure of the test and the way instructions are given.   It always surprises my students to find out that they can get answers wrong and still get their target band score. It is really helpful to read extended feedback on the answers to see where you went wrong and understand what you needed to be listening out for. Another valuable resource is the tape script, read through it and find where you made mistakes. Notice that distractors are often included in the conversations and monologues to test your comprehension. Good luck everyone! Emma

Emma Cosgrave

17 December, 2020

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Listening
Avoiding distractors in the IELTS Listening test

Why might you get an answer wrong in the IELTS Listening test? You may not understand a speaker’s accent or the vocabulary they use, you may not be able to keep up with the recording or lose concentration, or you may make a spelling mistake or write too many words for a particular answer. There’s also another common reason IELTS test takers get answers wrong in the Listening test: Distractors! Distractors in the IELTS Listening test A distractor is when an alternative but incorrect answer is included in the recording. For example, in the IELTS Listening Part 1 dialogue below from The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, there are several dates given but only one is the correct answer to the question ‘What date will they leave?’. A: Right, so, you need to book some flights, is that right? B: Yes, for me and my family. We’re going to Scotland for my sister’s wedding. A: Oh, lovely! When’s the wedding? B: It’s on 21st July. A: That should be wonderful, but I assume you’ll want to fly in earlier? What about the 20th or even the 19th? B: It will have to be the 18th. I’ve actually got to attend a special dinner on the 19th. The answer is, of course, the 18th of July but, if you listened to this under test conditions, you may well write down the first date you hear (21st July) and then start listening for the answer to the next question. All of the alternative dates are distractors and are designed to test that you really understand the details of what you hear rather than only a word, two or three words and/or a number. So, now that you know what a distractor is, how can you avoid choosing them and getting answers wrong that you could get right. How to avoid distractors There are three main ways to avoid distractors: Before you listen, predict when a question may include a distractor. While you listen, write down all possible answers to each question (if you have time) and cross out the distractors. After you listen, recognise when and why you chose a distractor so you’re less likely to make the same mistake again. Predicting when a question may include a distractor (or more than one) involves knowing the different types of distractor used in the IELTS Listening test. A distractor can be… a suggestion by someone that isn’t taken (like in the example above) a mistake by someone that they or someone else then corrects the opposite to what the question asks a particular word in the question (or in a multiple-choice answer) that’s used in the recording as part of an incorrect answer Look at the four questions below (from Parts 1 to 4 of an IELTS Listening test) and predict what type of distractor could be used for each. For example, in the recording for question 2, the speaker could make a mistake with the day and then correct themselves or say that the day of the visit was Monday last week but will be Tuesday this week. (Click to enlarge) Now listen to the recording, write down each possible answer, cross out the incorrect ones (the distractors) and select the correct ones. (This is something that’s very useful to do when practising parts of a Listening test but that you may not have time to do in your real test).     When you check the answers below, it’s important to recognise whether you chose a distractor and why you chose it as this may prevent you from making the same kind of mistake again. If you chose ‘Tuesday’ for question 2, for example, was it because you heard the word ‘farm’ when the speaker said: “You’ll love the market with all the local farm produce on sale”? Download the transcript and check against the answers below to see if you got these correct and avoided the distractors: (Click to enlarge) Practise these ways to avoid distractors the next time you do a practice Listening test and see your score improve! Pete  

Pete Jones

24 September, 2020

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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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