IELTS Listening Introduction for Beginners

1.Introduction to the Listening test

The Listening test is the first part of the IELTS exam. It is the same test for both Academic and General Training candidates. (eg) Test centres worldwide have different rules about pens or pencils – check what you can bring, or what’s provided. Candidates can’t use dictionaries in the test, nor ask anyone for help. Candidates who copy from others are warned to stop, and if they don’t, are asked to leave the exam.

Each candidate is given a question booklet and an answer sheet, which are collected at the end of the test. The booklet contains the instructions and questions, and candidates can write on it. The answer sheet is for the final answers, which must be written neatly. Any answer that can’t be read easily is marked wrong. Candidates are not penalised for writing in capitals, and punctuation is not counted.

A woman, on a recording, introduces the Listening test. She says something like: ‘The Listening test takes around 40 minutes. There are four different recordings. You answer questions about what you hear. You have time to read the instructions and questions before each recording, and time to check your   answers afterwards. Listen carefully as the recordings are only played once. You write your answers on the Listening test booklet while you listen. After the last recording, there are ten minutes to transfer your answers to your answer sheet. Now, open your booklet to Section 1.’

The woman does not tell candidates that each recording, or section, lasts between five to six minutes. (Pretty short, huh?) The rest of the time is for   reading questions or checking answers. The sections are divided into two parts as well.

There are usually two question types per section. Sometimes there are three; occasionally, there is one. Question types are:

  • gapfill – Fill in a gap with the missing word(s). In forms and tables, this is in note form. In sentences and summaries, this is in grammatically correct English. (This is also called form filling, note completion, table completion, sentence completion, and summary completion in some IELTS books.)
  • short-answer – Provide answers, usually to ‘Wh-‘ questions.
  • multi-choice (MCQ s) – Choose answers from A, B, or C. These could be single-word answers, whole-sentence answers, or choosing the correct graphic. (There are seldom more than ten MCQs in a test.)
  • multiple matching – Choose two or more answers from a list that relates to a single question. There are never more than seven items in a list (A, B, C, D, E, F, or G). If the instructions say so, candidates may use any letter more than once. In a Listening test, there is only likely to be one multiple matching question. (This is also called matching lists or classification.)
  • labelling of maps, plans, diagrams, or flowcharts.

No answer in the IELTS Listening test is more than three words. Sixty percent of the answers are just one word. There are usually only three or four three-word answers in any test. (Look at the proportion of answer types in the Practice  Tests.) Occasionally, two letters are needed for one answer.

Listening questions are all in order. That is, the answer to question 1 comes on the recording before the answer to question 2. Often answers are repeated.

Questions become more difficult as the test progresses.

2.What are the four different sections of the Listening test?


  1. Section 1 is an informal dialogue (two speakers) about a social or semi- official situation. This could be someone buying tickets, or asking for information, or reporting lost property. It might be people talking about a house to rent or a holiday to go on.
  2. Section 2 is an informal monologue (one speaker), like a guided tour, or a person giving a short talk on a topic of general interest. It could be part of a radio programme, where the interviewer doesn’t speak much. The language and the question types are slightly more difficult than in Section 1.
  3. Section 3 is a more formal discussion in a(n) academic setting: perhaps a group of students discussing their assignment, or a student and lecturer resolving a problem. There may be up to four speakers.
  4. Section 4 is a mini-lecture. In this section, not only are the language of the speaker and the question types more challenging, but there’s also a need to understand more than just the words. What is the speaker inferring? What does his or her intonation suggest? Whose ideas does the lecturer support or refute ?


3.What is tested in the Listening test?


700 attitude global not spelling


The Listening test wants candidates to: identify speakers; assume what is happening; find global information; find specific information; understand negative language; or, a speaker’s attitude; It also tests their reading ability since each test has around 700 words. Vocabulary, grammar, and spelling are important as well. All answers must be spelt correctly.