IELTS Listening Test Guide

IELTS Listening Test: An Introduction

What you need to be aware of for the test.

This lesson will help you to be better prepared for the Listening Test. The idea here is to make sure that you know what to expect from the test, and what actions to take during the 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


  • You can expect a variety of 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 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, at least you 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.

IELTS listening test

NEXT: Begin learning about the different question types in the test

Matching Type Questions

Matching Type Questions

In this lesson we look at questions that require you to make connections between different pieces of information.
Matching tasks: Don’t cross out the options you’ve already used. This may seem like a fast way of doing the task but it can lead to mistakes. Instead, reconsider all the options for each question. This way you’ll have the opportunity to correct your own mistakes by seeing if each word option is a better fit for another question.

IELTS Reading Test Guide

IELTS Reading Test: An Introduction

What you need to be aware of for the test.

This lesson will help you to be better prepared for the Reading Test. The idea here is to make sure that you know what to expect from the test, and what actions to take during the test.


  • The questions get progressively harder as you advance through the test: so aim to spend less time on the first two sections so that you have more time for the hardest section at the end.
  • The Reading test isn’t just about reading – it’s about vocabulary too. Most of the answers will be paraphrases of the questions or synonyms of the words you encounter: you need to be constantly increasing your vocabulary range while preparing for the IELTS test. (Here are two useful strategies to improving your vocabulary: article 1, article 2)
  • But also don’t stress about the vocabulary: you don’t need to understand every word in the sentence to understand the meaning of the sentence.
  • Pay attention to any glossaries at the end of the passage: sometimes there will be important words in a passage that are considered specific knowledge of a certain subject, so a glossary is included to help you. 
  • Don’t read the text first: start by reading the questions – this will save you time and also help you locate possible answers as you’re reading.
  • After you’ve read the questions, skim the text of the passage: you’re just looking for answers – you don’t need to read every word of the passage.
  • Underline important phrases or sentences while you’re reading: this will help you save time locating answers later.
  • Typically the answers follow in the order of the text: so when you find the answer to, for example, question 3 – you know that the answer for question 4 will come next in the passage.
  • Spelling counts! Make sure that you don’t make any spelling mistakes when writing your answers. Use the text to guide you where you can.
  • Try answer every question: there are two reasons for this – firstly, you aren’t penalized for incorrect answers so choose the most likely answer. Secondly, if you leave an answer empty you may fill in the rest of the answers in the wrong places!
  • When you can, cross out the obviously wrong answers: this can prevent you getting confused and save you time.
  • Don’t spend too much time on a challenging question: if you’re struggling to answer a question, move on and come back to it later. Because you only have 60 minutes you don’t want to spend too much time on one question and then not have enough time for the rest.
  • If you come across a subject in the test that you know well, ignore your knowledge of the topic: the test is checking your knowledge of the text, not the subject matter. Don’t let something you already know influence your answers.
  • Make use of the many IELTS practice tests available to you: like anything in life, you need to practice in order to get better. Use our list of good practice tests to improve your IELTS skills and get used to working in exam conditions.
  • Use practice tests both ways: firstly, do a practice test under exam conditions (give yourself 60 minutes to complete it). This will show you your score and any improvements you’ve made. Secondly, do practice tests without a timer so you can focus on improving your skills.

NEXT: Begin learning about the different question types in the test