Listening 101

Have you read the news about some of Max-E mates’ bands taking IELTS? If you are wondering how you must start preparing yourself to take IELTS certification, here is the guide to help you.

What should you know about the IELTS Listening Test?

  • Time allotted for the IELTS Listening section: The duration of the IELTS Listening test is 30 minutes. For a paper-based test, you will be given an extra 10 minutes to transfer your answers to an answer sheet. For a computer-delivered test, you will be given 2 minutes to recheck your answers.
  • There are 4 sections in the IELTS Listening test and the difficulty level of the test increases for each section. Each section has 10 questions, and so there are 40 questions in total. Each question carries 1 mark.
  • The examiner gives you time to look into the questions before you start listening to the recording that is played and in the end, you will have time to review the answers that you have written.
  • The listening tests will be of the same type for both academic as well as general training categories.
  • To answer these questions, you might need to understand the monologues and conversations to interpret them and write the answers, as the words in the audio and questions might not be the same.
  • Be cautious about the word count limit and instructions. As some of these instructions would specify whether your answer should be a word, two words, a number, or numbers.

Parts of Listening Test

There are altogether 4 parts in the listening test and the difficulty level increases in the different parts.

Part 1Conversation between 2 people in an everyday social context. (e.g. a conversation to book a room in a hotel)
Part 2A monologue set in an everyday social context. (e.g. a talk on using time effectively)
Part 3Conversation among 3 or 4 people set in an educational or training context. (e.g. students discussing an assignment)
Part 4Monologue related to academics. (e.g. a university lecture)

IELTS Listening Practice Test Tips

How do I score a high band in the listening section?

The Listening section is one of the easiest sections to boost your band score. All you have to do is follow these IELTS Listening tips:

  • The recording will be played only once during your IELTS test. You will not hear it twice thus you must practice answering the questions by completing a full listening test.
  • You will be given a minute before each section to read your questions before the examiner plays the recording. Make sure you read the questions and are aware of the detail you need to listen to in order to write the answer.
  • Read the instructions carefully – Read the instructions given about the questions, to know what to fill in the blank spaces provided. If the instruction says ‘a number’, your answer would be a number.
    • A date/number is considered one word.
    • A hyphenated word would be one word
    • A compound noun that isn’t hyphenated is considered to be two words.
  • SPELLINGS! – Spellings are as important as the correct answers. It might be hard to focus on both – getting the answers right and the spelling. So, focus on the spellings only when you transfer the answers to the listening answer sheet.
  • Be prepared for long gaps between answers or 3 to 4 answers to come one after the other.
  • Exam takers often miss out on the plural words which will lead to wrong answers. Please be attentive and recognize the plural words.
  • There are high chances of twists and turns in the audio (i.e.) there might be a change in the information you’re looking for as the recording goes on, listen keenly to spot the right answer.
  • Do not lose FOCUS! Listening to audios keenly for 30 minutes might be tedious but do not lose focus as you might miss out on the most important information.

Types of questions/tasks in IELTS Listening:

There are certain bits and pieces that you’ve got to know about the IELTS Listening test if you want to ace it. Let’s look at them:

Multiple Choice questions:

While listening to the audio recording there will be a section for listening to multiple-choice questions. The multiple-choice questions are of two types:

  • Multiple choice questions with one answer.
  • Multiple choice question with two or more answers

There are questions that have one or more answers, for those types of questions, you would have to listen keenly to identify all the answers from the options given.

There are a few things you would have to keep in mind while you’re answering multiple-choice questions:

  • You will hear all the options that are given to you in the question. You would have to listen to the audio and interpret the answer from what is asked in the question.
  • Sometimes, the answer options might be of the same kind to confuse you. For instance, it might all be in the form of dates ( 15 November, 17 November or 18 November). You would have to read the question and choose the correct answer.
  • The words used in the question might not be the exact words that you hear in the audio recording. So, you’d have to pay attention to synonyms and how the words are paraphrased.
  • The information provided in the audio recording might not be in the same order as the questions asked, so in order to answer the questions correctly, you should have read the questions beforehand to be aware of what is being asked.
  • There would be a lot of distractors in the audio recording. There would be a lot of similar kind of information. Sometimes, the speaker might give us any information and then change it which might be the correct answer. So, do not rush and write down the answer as soon as you hear it.

Map Labeling questions

For these types of questions, you would be provided with a map and you would have to label the places on the map.

There are two types of questions:

  1. A list of words might be given to you and you’d have to listen to the recording and choose the correct word that fits the blank on the map.
  2. There won’t be a list, you would just listen to the audio and identify the place on the map.

There are a few things you would have to keep in mind while you’re answering Map Labelling questions:

  • There would be directions to a place or some kind of tour.
  • Read the instructions before you begin, so that you’ll know the word limit of the blanks.
  • Description of the location – listen to words that best describes the location given. For example, below the park, next to the supermarket, etc.
  • Look at the question numbers – Look at the question numbers and identify the flow of the map. That would help you listen to what’s coming next.
  • The audio recording would provide you with an understanding of where you are or where you have to begin. Pay attention to it at the beginning of the recording. Also, listen to nearby places and clues to help find the answers.

Sentence Completion/Note completion/ Table completion/Diagram completion questions

In some of the questions, there will be a gap left in between and the examiner asks you to fill that gap. In order to guess the word correctly, you must have solid grammar skills.

There are a few things you would have to keep in mind while you’re answering IELTS Listening sentence completion questions:

  • Read the question before you start in order to understand what you should be listening for.
  • Try to guess what would come in the blank. It could be a place, a number, year, name or even a specific range of information (such as seasons, climatic conditions)
  • The words in the question need not necessarily be the same words you hear in the audio recordings, learn to tune yourself to synonyms of the words in the question.
  • Though the questions might be phrased differently from the recordings, the answers should be the exact words you hear in the audio.
  • Remember to check the word count, spelling, and grammar before you transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

Match questions

These questions are not as common as the other question types, but they occur in the Listening section. These questions have a list of statements that you’d have to match with the options provided. Mostly it would be names, places, or dates.

There are a few things you would have to keep in mind while you’re answering IELTS Listening Matching questions:

  • Look at the statements and listen keenly to the kind of information that has been provided as options. (i.e.) if the options are dates, listen keenly to all the dates in the audio.
  • By the side, write down all the information linked to that particular option, it would make it easier for you to find the answer.

IELTS Listening – How to write answers:

In a paper-based test,

  • You need to ensure that there are no spelling mistakes.
  • You may choose to write the answer all in CAPS or SMALL. This has no effect on your scores.

Things to know about IELTS Listening:

IELTS Signposting Language

Signposting means using phrases and words to guide the reader through the content of a passage or a recording. In this case, it’s an audio recording. With the help of these phrases and words, the listener can anticipate what’s next and find the answer.

Signposting examples:

PurposeSignposting language
Introduction to the lesson/lectureThe purpose of today’s lecture is…The subject/topic of my talk is …The lecture will outline …The talk will focus on …Today I’ll be talking about / discussing…Today we are going to talk about…The topic of today’s lecture is…
Describing the structure of the lectureI’m going to divide this talk into a few parts. First, we’ll look at….. Then we’ll go on to … And finally, I’ll…
Introducing the topic/ first point / first sectionLet’s start by talking about…To begin,…Firstly,…
Starting an idea or linking to another ideaLet’s move on to…Now, let’s turn to…And I’d now like to talk about…Building on from the idea that …,Another line of thought on … demonstrates that …Having established …,
To reach the end of the talk / Summing upIn conclusion, …From the above, it is clear that …Several conclusions emerge from this analysis …To summarize, …I’d like now to recap…

Make sure you have a practice routine and set the schedule on the calendar, so you will always be on the right track and pace. If you have further questions, feel free to contact Maximum English Tangerang for IELTS Preparation Class program.

Source: “IELTS Listening” IELTS Material, IELTS Material Karnataka India,

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