ielts guide

How to Answer IELTS Listening Short Answer Questions

Ron Ross October 12th, 2021

In your IELTS preparation, you'll need to practice a total of 6 IELTS listening question types. In this post, we'll look at the Short Answer IELTS listening question type in detail and provide you with 7 IELTS listening Short Answer practice questions.

First, join IELTS Instructor Tina below to learn how to approach an IELTS listening Short Answer question.

Table Of Contents

IELTS Listening Short Answer Question Introduction

Short answer questions require you to read a question and then write a short answer using information from the listening text. This question type will test your ability to answer a question within a certain word limit, which will be designated in the directions. In this type of question, distractors are commonly used. A distractor is when you are given information that is wrong. The distractors will try to trick you into selecting the wrong answer, so you must listen carefully for specific information and ignore the wrong information.

Below is a sample practice. Give it a try!

Now that you're familiar with the Short Answer question type, it's time to teach you some IELTS Listening tips & strategies for successfully answering a Short Answer question.

How to Answer Short Answer Questions

Step 1: Read the Questions

Before we even listen to the prompt, take time to quickly read the questions and all of the answer options in order to understand the topic and keywords. You will not have much to underline for the Short Answer questions, since you must only read the questions and pay attention to the question words. Use this to your advantage and start working on the next two steps! Of course, if you’d like, you can combine this step with Steps 2 & 3. You have 20 seconds to do these three steps.

Step 2: Underline Key Words

After you have quickly read (or while you are reading), underline the keywords. What are the keywords? They are important words that will call out your attention while you listen to the prompt. Generally, you will want to avoid underlining adverbs, pronouns, or basic adjectives. For the Short Answer section, this step will be minimal, since the answers will already be keywords, subjects, or names. Additionally, this step will most likely be combined with Step 3.

Step 3: Pay Attention to Question Words

In addition to keywords in the questions, you will need to pay attention to question words, which will help you answer the questions. You should pay attention to these words, which will help you write the correct type of answer. For example, if you see the question word “Why”, you should know that you will have to write out a reason rather than a place, for example. If you’d like and you have time, you can even write out the type of word you will need to listen out for right beside the question. This is not mandatory, but it helps some people who have problems understanding and remembering basic question words.

Step 4: Take Notes on Key Information

Now it is time to start listening! As you listen, write our your outline in your test booklet or directly next to this outline question format. Remember: you will only hear each listening prompt once, so it’s important to remember key information.

When pairing the Short Answer questions with Section 2 of the listening exam, it is even more important to take quick, useful notes. Why? Remember: you will be given the number of words that you need to write, so it is imperative that you are listening for the keywords and correct amount of words as well. Referencing a quick outline will help you achieve this goal.

For Section 2, we suggest taking notes in the following way: write down keywords with a clear path (similar to an outline). You should not be writing full sentences. In order to maximize the time you spend writing notes, make abbreviations (even if they are not spelled correctly), and use things like → (arrows), - (dashes/hyphens) / (slashes) and … (ellipses) to connect your various points. Why? The less time you spend writing out words, the better, and these symbols will help connect your points if you need to reference them later. Above all, it’s important to practice writing as quickly as you can, in order to keep up with the speaker’s pace.

When you are given an outline format for your questions, as is in this case, we suggest that you write your notes next to the spaces in the given outline, following along with the notes already given to you. We will also include an outline that can be used for this listening, had the questions not been given in an outline format. Note, however, that there are three main headings just as the example question format.

Step 5: Answer the Questions and be Accurate

Last of all, be sure to be accurate. While this may seem like common sense, many candidates make silly errors that cost them valuable points in the scoring process. It is extremely important to be accurate when writing out your answers, and especially when transferring them to the answer sheet (for paper-based candidates). Remember that someone else will be reading (and judging) your written answers. For this reason, it is best to write in all CAPITAL LETTERS in order to ensure neatness and legibility. In this Short Answer section, you will need to pay extra attention to this factor. Remember: if you write more words than necessary, you will not receive the point for that answer!


Here are some brief tips to remember when approaching this question type:


  1. Utilize the 20 seconds you will have prior to hearing the listening prompt and read the information first, underline your keywords, and actively listen for those keywords during the prompt. 
  2. Remember that the answers will come in order during the Short Answer Listening prompt. This means that you should keep an outline and listen as actively as you can! Doing so will help you pick up where you left off if you miss something, and it will help you understand the speaker’s thoughts.
  3. Find an outlining technique that works for you. Feel free to experiment during your practice sessions and try writing in the margins or close to your answer options. Make it easy to reference afterwards if necessary.
  4. Study up on your question words along with their meanings. You do not want to lose points for writing down the incorrect answer based on an incorrect understanding of the question words.


  1. Waste your time before and after the listening prompt is played. Think of these 30 minutes of the listening exam as ‘game time’, and actively listen or read the questions as much as you can! Focus on only one aspect of the process. In other words, don’t just listen, don’t just read, and don’t just answer. You will need to combine these three tasks in order to have enough time in this section. In other words: make sure to multitask.
  2. Write more than is necessary--this will result in a lack of points. Additionally, do not get confused over indefinite articles and words that are optional to write down.
    Get confused over common speaking tricks, such as “not only” to introduce two examples instead of a negative idea. Also brush up on phrases such as “either/or”, which are clues that two reasons will be used.
  3. Leave anything blank! Even if the exam is difficult, choose your best guess in order to maximize your chances of scoring high. 
  4. Write in a messy or illegible way! If the examiner cannot understand your writing, it may result in a lack of points.

IELTS Listening Short Answer Practice List

Now it is time to practice! Check out the following Short Answer practice questions.

IELTS Listening - Short Answer Questions Practice List

7 IELTS Listening short answer Questions
Section 1
IELTS Listening Practice 5
Campsite park
(multiple choice/form completion/short answer)
IELTS Listening Practice 9
Application for joining the library
(form completion/multiple selection/short answer)
IELTS Listening Practice 21
Registration for art classes
(multiple choice/note completion/short answer)
IELTS Listening Practice 25
Leisure centre
(form completion/multiple selection/short answer)
IELTS Listening Practice 89
Application for a travel card
(form completion/multiple selection/short answer)
Section 2
IELTS Listening Practice 50
Happy Holiday Apartments
(short answer/multiple choice/matching)
Section 3
IELTS Listening Practice 11
New semester
(table completion/short answer)

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