IELTS Listening Actions & Breakdown

The IELTS Listening Test

In this section, we will outline general strategies and practice tips for the Listening section of the IELTS Exam.  Before we discuss the specific strategies for each of the 5 question types, you first need to understand what is expected of you in the overall test.


  • Understand main ideas and specific details
  • Recognize the attitudes, opinions and purpose of people speaking
  • Follow the development of a conversation, process or argument
  • Recognize paraphrased information
  • Understand a range of different accents and pronunciation features
  • Multi-task


  • It is the same test for Academic and General exam takers.
  • The test is 30 minutes.
  • You will be given 10 minutes at the end of the test to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet.
  • There are 40 questions and 5 general question types.
  • Question Types:
    • Completion (notes, form, summary, table, chart)
    • Diagram/Map Labelling
    • Matching
    • Multiple Choice
    • Short Answer
  • You will have one minute to look at your questions before each recording begins.
  • There are 4 sections and 4 recordings. Each recording will only be played once .
  • You will hear 4 different recordings, each of them being a different situation:
    • Recording 1: a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
    • Recording 2: a monologue set in an everyday social context (e.x., a speech about local facilities)
    • Recording 3: a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context (ex., a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment)
    • Recording 4: a monologue on an academic subject (ex., university lecture)
  • You will hear a range of accents although the speakers are native.
  • You will lose points for spelling a word incorrectly.
  • You may hear US or UK spelling. Write what you hear if they spell it out for you.
  • For short answers, you may use either spelling in your answers, though you must be consistent (choose either US or UK, not both).


If you miss an answer, do not go back to it! You do not want to lose your connection to the audio otherwise you will miss all the answers that follow.
If you find that you have missed information, when you transfer your answers to the answer sheet, take a guess.  If you leave an answer blank, you are guaranteed to get 0 points.  If you guess, you at least have a chance to get even a partial answer.
If you don’t know an answer, do not leave a blank space on your answer sheet.  Not only are you guaranteed zero points for a blank answer, but you put the rest of your answers at risk, too.  If you leave a blank space on the answer sheet, in your rush to transfer your answers, you are very likely to accidentally write the answer to a different question in that blank space.  This would make all the answers that come afterwards, incorrect.  It seems like a silly mistake to make, but it is very common.  The stress of the time limit and the intense focus on the answers and spelling, can lead to making simple mistakes which will adversely affect your band score.