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This guide offers support for preparing for the IELTS exam.


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How long is the Listening paper?

Academic and General Training candidates take the same Listening test. It lasts approximately 30 minutes and you are given an extra 10 minutes to trasnfer your answers onto a separate answer sheet.

What type of information will I hear?

The listening paper consists of four separate sections and a total of 40 questions (10 questions for each section). Each section is a little more difficult than the previous. They feature speakers from a variety of English-speaking countries. Each section has a different focus. Sections 1 and 2 are set in a social context and Sections 3 and 4 are set in an academic context. In the IELTS Listening, you will hear the text once only. Each test is divided up as follows.

Section What will I need to talk about?
1 A conversation between two people about a generic topic with a transactional purpose (e.g. finding out information about travel).
2 A monologue on a general topic with a transactional purpose (e.g. giving information about events in the community).
3 A conversation between two or three people in an academic context (e.g. a student and a tutor discussing an academic problem).
4 A monologue in an academic context (e.g. a lecture)
What types of questions will I need to answer?

There are 10 questions in each of the four sections, and there is a variety of question types. You may have between one and three different tasks per section. For some, you need to write words or numbers that you hear, and for other tasks, you need to choose an option from a list and write a letter on your answer sheet.

Task type What do I have to do?
notes/summary/table/flow-chart completion

Complete notes/a summary/table/flow-chart with a suitable word or words within the word limit given.

multiple choice

Choose one answer from alternatives A-C.

Choose two answers from alternatives A-E.

short-answer questions

Answer questions in the word limit given.

sentence completion

Complete a sentence with a suitable word or words within the given word limit.

labelling a diagram, plan or map Label a diagram/plan or map with a suitable word (or words) or by choosing from a box of possible answers. 
classification Classify the information given int he question according to three different criteria (A, B or C). These may be dates, names, types, etc.
matching Match a list of statements to a list of possible answers in a box (e.g. people, theories or dates).
How do I answer the questions?

The instructions and the questions will tell you what type of information you need to listen for, and the type of answer you need to give. Listen carefully to any instructions you hear on the recording. Follow the instructions on the question paper carefully. 

How is the Listening paper assessed?

You will be asked a total of 40 questions (10 in each of the four sections). Each question is worth one mark. In order to assess how much of the recording you understand, the questions will usually paraphrase (use different words with a similar meaning) the information given in the text.

Note: You do not lose marks for incorrect answers.

[The above information is taken from The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS Student's Books by Jakeman, V., Cullen, P. and French, A.]

Listening Band Scores

IELTS Listening Scores
Correct Answers 40 38-39 35-37 33-34 30-32 27-29 23-26 20-22 16-19 14-15 12-13
Band Scores 9 8.5 8 7.5 7 6.5 6 5.5 5 4.5 4

Key Resources

Useful Videos

The Listening Test

Watch this simple lesson to learn what happens in the listening section of the IELTS.

Top 14 Tips

Improve your IELTS score with these quick tips.

Additional Resource

Related Guide

Online Graphic Dictionary

Recommended Apps

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