IELTS Listening

The IELTS Listening Test is the same for the Academic and General Training modules. You listen to language spoken in a social or academic context and answer a series of questions. The tape is played only once so you have to practice sufficiently beforehand to pick up what’s being said the first time around.

The listening test is divided into four sections with 10 questions in each part (a total of 40 questions). This module lasts about 30 minutes. You get an extra 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

The listening test measures how well you can listen for main ideas, specific information, supporting information, facts and opinions. You will find a variety of question types:

  • multiple choice
  • short answer
  • sentence completion
  • notes/diagram/flow chart completion
  • matching
  • classification

The variety of question types means that you sometimes need to write in the answer in your own writing, versus simply choosing the right answer. This is important because in such cases, you also need to spell correctly or the answer will be marked wrong. Even a small error can cause you to lose marks. For example, if the answer is "hat"; and you write "hats", it may be marked wrong.

You also have to make sure you include the correct information. If the answer is "Green hats" and you write only "hats", you may also lose points.

You will get a better sense of how precise you need to be by doing as many practice listening exams as possible before your actual test. Believe it or not, you will improve with practice, though it might seem impossible at first. Your ear and your concentration can be trained. Over time, you will improve – but only if you remain patient and move steadily towards your goal of the highest score possible.

Each of the four sections of the IELTS Listening Test focuses on a different type of speech, as shown below:

  • Section 1 – A social or transactional dialogue – 2 speakers
  • Section 2 – A topic or short speech on a general topic – 1 speaker
  • Section 3 – A conversation in an academic context – 2-4 speakers
  • Section 4 – An academic lecture – 1 speaker

"But I'm Just Not Improving!!!"

You've done several listening tests, you've been listening to the BBC, you've tried to study the British idioms but your score just isn't improving! What do you do now? Is there any hope?

The good news is - yes, there's always a way to break through a plateau or learning obstacle. At this point, you need to forget about the test for short while. Go to the library and borrow some general ESL / EFL materials designed to build your listening comprehension. Start at an elementary level and work yourself up slowly to more advanced materials. Try and implement the simple strategies they are teaching you along the way. This way you have a chance to relearn, to build up your confidence again and to make the breakthrough you need for success in your exam. You can do it.

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