Thirteen IELTS Listening Exam Tips

 These IELTS Listening Exam Tips will help you to get the Band that you want:

 1. Get to Know the Exam

The exam is exactly the same for the General and the Academic exams and uses the same marking criteria. 

There are four parts to the exam, comprising a total of forty questions, for a length of forty minutes, and a point for each correct answer.  You will be allowed thirty minutes for the audio and ten minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

Each part tests different skills and becomes progressively more difficult :

Part 1: A Short Conversation – Social

Part one is the easiest so that the questions are relatively simple.

The conversation is comprised of two speakers who might be talking face to face or over the phone.  It could involve a tour operator, holiday planner or a hotel receptionist.

The questions and answers are about both of the speakers and the format is usually a “fill in the blank” type. 

Part 2: A Monologue – Social

Part Two involves finding matching information or filling in the blanks using a specific word count.  It could involve someone in authority, such as a teacher or a tour guide, dictating instructions to a student, employee or tourists.

Part 3:  A Long Discussion – Academic

Part Three is usually about a discussion of an academic topic by three to four speakers.  You will need to identify the speakers and who is saying what. The questions test your comprehension level and are becoming more complicated. 

Part 4: A Lecture – Academic

Part Four is the most difficult.  It tests your ability to understand complex phrases and vocabulary.  Generally it’s a lecture by a professor about an academic topic, which could be about a study of a scientific discovery or a current issue.

You will be tested on your ability to understand the main idea and answer questions about it. 

  1. Read the question carefully

Read the question carefully and follow the instructions.  For example, you may be asked to answer a question using no more than three words, in which case ensure that do answer in one to three words.  If you were to use four words or more then you would be marked wrong, even if your your answer is correct.

  1. Practise

In the exam the recording will be played once only. Therefore, practise by doing tests and listen once only in order to get used to it.

  1. Underline the Keywords

You will be given 30 seconds before the audio starts to analyse  the instructions.  Make good use of this time by underlining the keywords.

  1. Use a Pencil

Use a pencil, not a pen, to write your answers on the question paper.

  1. Guess if Unsure

If you’re not sure of an answer then guess it. You will not be marked wrong if you give an incorrect answer but you have a chance of gaining a point if you guess the correct answer.

  1. Beware of Traps

Sometimes the answer is given but then changed.  For example, “Let’s meet at 7 pm.  No, let’s make it 8 pm.”  Therefore, listen carefully and beware of traps.

  1. Listen Out for Plurals

Listen carefully to see whether the answer has an “s” on the end and check – is the answer singular or plural.

  1. Transfer your answers.

Once you have written your answers on the question paper transfer them to the answer sheet, clearly so that they can be easily read.  Practise doing this at home. Allocate thirty minutes to answering the questions and ten minutes to transferring them to the answer sheet.

  1. Answer in Capitals or Lower Case

You can answer your questions in capitals or lower case but be consistent.  If you start in capitals then continue answering in capitals and if you start in small letters then continue answering in small letters.

  1. Check your Spelling

Check that your spelling is correct. A good time for this is when you transfer your answers from the question paper to the answer sheet.

  1. Practise Multitasking

During the exam you will need to read the questions, listen for an answer and write down the answer, all at the same time,  so practise.

  1. Learn the Different Types of Questions

There are different types of questions that you might meet in the exam.  Get to know them, practise answering them and develop a strategy for answering each type.  They are:-

    • Short answer
    • Multiple choice
    • Sentence completion
    • Map completion
    • Form or note completion
    • Matching information
    • Table, diagram, flowchart completion


Before taking the IELTS Listening Exam it is important to understand it and do some practice tests. These IELTS Listening Exam Tips will help you and you can also get some on-to-one coaching lessons.  Visit our wesite for more details.



Paul Andreas

Paul Andreas is a Certified Speaking Coach and qualified TEFL Teacher Online English Lessons delivered by Skype for IELTS exam preparation and conversational English. Get a free trial lesson.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Lauren P.

    Excellent tips! I would suggest listening to different audiobooks. I read an article before saying that audiobook will increase reading accuracy by 52% and test scores; it will also improve your vocabulary and comprehension. It helped my English massively listening to books read to you by narrators is more worthwhile.

  2. LEO N.

    I visited your website and wanted to try some mock exams. I think it is going to be beneficial for me, and I loved that you do provide detailed reports. I think the key to passing the IELTS speaking test is to be confident about yourself and trust your potentials. Thanks so much for this! I feel much more confident about taking my exam now.

  3. JAMES M.

    I appreciate your efforts to help IELTS students. It is necessary to start improving your listening skills. I advise watching the news more often. At first, it was challenging; I struggled with understanding some words and phrases because they tend to use a lot of expressions and media vocabulary, but in the end, it helped my English in a short period.

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