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How to get a high IELTS listening score

IELTS Listening Practice Test: Take a Free IELTS Listening Test with Answers & Learn 7 Critical Tips for a High IELTS Listening Score

In this guide you can take a free IELTS listening test with answers, learn 7 critical IELTS listening tips, and IELTS listening general exam information to help you prepare successfully for your IELTS listening test. This page contains everything you need to know and the essential skills for a high listening score.

IELTS listening practice test questions

listening Mock Test 1 - 12
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Table Of Contents

IELTS Listening Exam Info

The IELTS Listening Test is divided into 4 sections. In each section, you will listen to one or more native English speakers then answer around 10 questions related to what you just heard. The entire IELTS listening section contains 40 questions in total. In general, the listening recordings start off easier and get harder as you progress through the exam. Each recording is heard only once and includes a range of accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand, American, and Canadian.

  • Section 1 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context. For example, you might hear a conversation about confirming details for a reservation, or placing an order over the phone.
  • Section 2 - a monologue set in an everyday social context. For example, you might hear a speech about local facilities, or someone providing directions, or presenting basic information about an event.
  • Section 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context. For example, you might hear a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment, or a couple of students discussing something from class.
  • Section 4 - a monologue on an academic subject. For example, you will hear a university lecture from a professor. This is the toughest recording on the Listening exam for most students.

The IELTS Listening Test takes around 40 minutes. You will spend 30 minutes on listening to recordings and answering questions. You will be given a Question Booklet and an Answer Sheet. The Question Booklet is where you will see all the questions you need to answer. The Answer Sheet is where you will write your final answers for grading.

You can check out the IELTS official listening answer sheet pdf here or just look at the image below :)

At the end of the listening section, you are given 10 minutes to transfer answers from your Question Booklet to your Answer Sheet.

IMPORTANT!
Misspellings and incorrect grammar are marked INCORRECT, so use the 10 minutes to double check your spelling and Grammar.

IELTS listening answer sheet

IELTS Listening Test Scoring

On the Listening section, each question is worth 1 point, so you can achieve a "raw" score of up to 40 points. Then, your raw score will be converted into your band score. Remember! You do not lose points for incorrect answers. The table below can give you a general idea about how raw scores are converted to band scores.

Raw scores Band scores
39-40 9
37-38 8.5
35-36 8
32-34 7.5
30-31 7
26-29 6.5
23-25 6
18-22 5.5
18-22 5.5
16-17 5
13-15 4.5
11-12 4

Because each version of the IELTS is slightly different, the raw score required to achieve a certain band score differs depending on how everyone who took the test performed that day. Thus, the number of correct answers needed to get a band score will vary slightly from test to test, but in general you should be aiming to get around 30 out of 40 if you want to get a band score of 7.

As noted above, the sections get tougher and tougher as you progress through the IELTS listening test. However, every question is worth the same number of points. Therefore, make sure you're not losing out on easier points because you get stuck on hard questions.

Free IELTS listening Sample PDF Download with Answers

Here are some free IELTS listening samples in PDF format with answers from the British Council (the makers of the IELTS exam). Try to answer the questions and see how you do!

IELTS Listening Practice Test
Section 1

This is the first section of your IELTS Listening test. Listen to the audio and answer questions 1-10. You can download the audio transcripts from IELTS Listening Practice Test 1 - questions (PDF)



IELTS listening practice test bus

Questions 1-5

Complete the notes below.

Write no more than two words and/or a number for each answer.
Questions: transport from Bayswater
Express train leaves at (1)
Nearest station is (2)
Number 706 bus goes to (3)
Number (4) bus goes to station
Earlier bus leaves at (5)
Questions 6-10

Complete the notes below.

Write no more than two words and/or a number for each answer.
Transport Cash fare Card fare
Bus (6) $ $1.50
Train (peak) $10 $10
Train (off-peak)
– before 5pm or after (7) pm)
$10 (8) $
(9) ferry $4.50 $3.55
Tourist ferry ((10)) $35
Tourist ferry (whole day) $65
  • spellcheck Answers
    1. 9.30 (am)
    2. Helendale
    3. Central Street/St
    4. (number/no./#) 792
    5. 8.55 (am)
    6. 1.80
    7. 7.30
    8. 7.15
    9. commuter
    10. afternoon
Section 2

This is the second section of your Listening test. Listen to the audio and answer questions 11-20. You can download the audio transcripts from IELTS Listening Practice Test 1- questions (PDF)



IELTS listening practice seminar

Questions 11-14

Which counsellor should you see?

A Louise Bagshaw
B Tony Denby
C Naomi Flynn


Write the correct letter, A, B or C, next to questions 11–14.

11 if it is your first time seeing a counsellor
12 if you are unable to see a counsellor during normal office hours
13 if you do not have an appointment
14 if your concerns are related to anxiety


Questions 15–20

Complete the table below.

Write no more than two words for each answer.
Workshop Contact Target group
Adjusting  what you need to succeed academically (15) students
Getting Organised

use time effectively, find 

(16)  between study and leisure

all students
Communicating  talking with staff, communicating across cultures

all students, especially 

(17)

Anxiety (18) , breathing techniques, meditation, etc. students about to sit exams
(19) staying on track for long periods (20)  students only
  • spellcheck Answers
    11. C
    12. C
    13. A
    14. B
    15. first/1st year
    16. (right) balance
    17. international/foreign (students)
    18. relaxation
    19. motivation
    20. research/advanced
Section 3

This is the third section of your Listening test. Listen to the audio and answer questions 21-30. You can download the audio transcripts from IELTS Listening Practice Test 1- questions (PDF)



IELTS listening practice seminar

Questions 21-30

Complete the notes below.

Write no more than three words for each answer.
Questions
Novel:  (21)
Protagonists:  Mary Lennox; Colin Craven
Time period:  Early in (22)
Mary moves to UK – meets Colin who thinks he'll never be able to 

(23) . They become friends.

Point of view:  “Omniscient�? – narrator knows all about characters' feelings, opinions and (24)
Audience:  Good for children – story simple to follow
Symbols (physical items that represent (25) ):
  • the robin redbreast
  • (26)
  • the portrait of Mistress Craven
Motifs (patterns in the story):
  • the Garden of Eden
  • secrecy – metaphorical and literal transition from 27
Themes:  Connections between
  • (28) and outlook
  • (29) and well-being
  • individuals and the need for (30)
  • spellcheck Answers
    21. The Secret Garden
    22. (the) 20th/twentieth century
    23. walk
    24. motivations/motivation
    25. abstract ideas
    26. roses
    27. dark(ness) to light(ness)
    28. health
    29. environment
    30. human companionship
Section 4

This is the fourth section of your Listening test. Listen to the audio and answer questions 31-40. You can download the audio transcripts from IELTS Listening Practice Test 1- questions (PDF)



IELTS listening practice seminar

Questions 31-35

Complete the table below.

Write one word only for each answer.
Time Perspectives
Time Zone Outlook Features & Consequences
Past Positive Remember good times, e.g. birthdays.
Keep family records, photo albums, etc.
(31) Focus on disappointments, failures, bad decisions.
Present Hedonistic Live for (32) ; seek sensation; avoid pain.
Fatalistic Life is governed by (33) , religious beliefs, social conditions. Life's path can't be changed.
Future (34) Prefer work to play. Don't give in to temptation.
Fatalistic Have a strong belief in life after death and importance of (35) in life.
Questions 36-40

Choose the correct letter, A, B or C.

36. We are all present hedonists
  • A. at school
  • B. at birth
  • C. while eating and drinking
37. American boys drop out of school at a higher rate than girls because
  • A. they need to be in control of the way they learn
  • B. they play video games instead of doing school work
  • C. they are not as intelligent as girls
38 Present-orientated children
  • A. do not realise present actions can have negative future effects
  • B. are unable to learn lessons from past mistakes
  • C. know what could happen if they do something bad, but do it anyway
39 If Americans had an extra day per week, they would spend it
  • A. working harder
  • B. building relationships
  • C. sharing family meals
40. Understanding how people think about time can help us
  • A become more virtuous
  • B work together better
  • C identify careless or ambitious people

  • spellcheck Answers
    31. negative
    32. pleasure
    33. poverty
    34. active
    35. success
    36. B
    37. A
    38. C
    39. A
    40. B

How did you do answering the IELTS listening sample questions above? Did you find any of the questions difficult? If you did, it could benefit you to take a closer look at all 6 IELTS listening task types. The better you understand a task type, the less effort you'll need figuring out what you need to do and the more time you'll have to figure out the answer.

The 6 IELTS Listening Task Types

There are 6 different types of questions on the IELTS listening test. It is important you practice each task type to learn the best way to tackle each one for a high IELTS listening score. In the following sections, you'll learn about all 6 IELTS listening task types and try a sample question for each one.

Before we talk about each task type in detail, let's look at a 2017 trend for IELTS listening question types. The pie charts below illustrate the proportion of each listening task type that appeared in official IELTS listening tests in 2017.

IELTS Listening Task Types - Sections 1 & 2

Overall, the "Form/Note/Table/Flow-Chart/Summary Completion" type of question remain the most popular question type in section 1, whereas 4 question types ("Matching", "Multiple choice", "Plan/Map/Diagram labelling", and "Form/Note/Table/Flow-Chart/Summary Completion") appeared relatively equally in section 2.

IELTS Listening Section 1 Task Types in 2017
Question (Task) Type Percentage
Form/Note/Summary/Sentence Completion 86
Multiple Choice 8
Matching 6
IELTS Listening Section 2 Task Types in 2017
Question (Task) Type Percentage
Form/Note/Summary/Sentence Completion 29
Multiple Choice 36
Matching 20
Plan/Map/Diagram labelling 15
IELTS Listening Task Types - Sections 3 & 4

In section 3, "Multiple Choice" question type was the most common at 36%, with "Form/Note/Summary/Sentence Completion" question type a close second with 34%. Finally, "Matching" question type accounted for 22% and other question types accounted for 8%.

In section 4, "Form/Note/Summary/Sentence Completion" question type predominates with 66%, and other question types combined for 34% in total.

IELTS Listening Section 3 Task Types in 2017
Question (Task) Type Percentage
Form/Note/Summary/Sentence Completion 34
Multiple Choice 36
Matching 22
Others 6
IELTS Listening Section 4 Task Types in 2017
Question (Task) Type Percentage
Form/Note/Summary/Sentence Completion 66
Multiple Choice 12
Short Answer 8
Matching 5
Plan/Map/Diagram labelling 4
Flow Chart Completion 5

Although each listening question type looks different, the basic approach to each one is the same. Later on in this post, we'll show you the basic strategy to tackle all 6 question types. Now let's look at each task type in detail.

Task Type 1 – Sentence Completion

This task type requires you to complete a sentence with a short answer. The sentence will almost always be a paraphrase of something you'll hear in the passage. In other words, don't expect to hear a speaker say the exact sentence as it's written in the question.

You must read the instructions very carefully. For example, if the instruction says NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS, you will be penalised for writing more than TWO words. The answer can be one word, but will never be more than two.

Sentence Completion Question

IELTS listening practice test campus conversation

Questions 27 – 30

Complete the sentences below.

Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS for each answer.

Studying with the Open University demanded a great deal of   27   _________

Studying and working at the same time improved Rachel's   28   _________ skills.

It was helpful that the course was structured in 29   _________

She enjoyed meeting other students at 30   _________


Answer sheet
27
28
29
30

  • spellcheck Answers
    27 motivation
    28 time(-)management
    29 modules
    30 summer school(s)
Audio script
Two friends, Rachel and Paul:, are discussing studying with the Open University. Rachel has already done a course at the university, but Paul: has not. The extract relating to these questions comes from the last part of the recording.

Paul: The other thing I wanted to ask you was, did you find it hard, studying with the Open University?

Rachel: You mean, because you're studying on your own, most of the time?

Paul: Mm.

Rachel: Well it took me a while to get used to it. I found I needed to maintain a high level of motivation, because it's so different from school. There's no-one saying, ‘Why haven't you written your assignment yet?' and that sort of thing.

Paul: Oh dear.

Rachel: You'll learn it, Paul. Another thing was that I got very good at time- management because I had to fit time for studying round a full-time job.

Paul: Well I'm hoping to change to working part-time, so that'll help.

Rachel: What makes it easier is that the degree is made up of modules, so you can take time off between them if you need to. It isn't like a traditional three-or four-year course, where you've got to do the whole thing of it in one go.

Paul: That's good, because I'd like to spend six months travelling next year.

Rachel: Huh, it's all right for some. Then even though you're mostly studying at home, remember you've got tutors to help you, and from time to time there are summer schools. They usually last a week. They're great, because you meet all the other people struggling with the same things as you. I've made some really good friends that way.

Paul: Sounds good. So how do I apply?

Task Type 2 – Matching

In a matching task, you are required to match a numbered list of items from the listening text to a set of options on the question paper. This task requires you to listen for detailed information and recognise relationships and connections between facts in the listening text. For example, you need to identify the different types of hotels or guest house accommodations. It is important to analyze these questions before listening to the passage so that you understand the category of the lettered answer choices.

Matching Question

IELTS listening practice test campus

Questions 21 - 25

What does Jack: tell his tutor about each of the following course options?

A. He'll definitely do it.
B. He may or may not do it.
C. He won't do it.


Write the correct letter, A, B or C next to questions 21- 25. You may choose any letter more than once.

21. Media Studies
22. Women and Power
23. Culture and Society
24. Identity and Popular Culture
25. Introduction to Cultural Theory

Answer sheet
21
22
23
24
25

  • spellcheck Answers
    21. C
    22. A
    23. B
    24. B
    25. C
Audio Script
(A customer has been arranging with a shipping agent to send a large box overseas. This is the last part of the conversation.)

You will hear a Communication Studies student talking to his tutor about optional courses for the next semester.

Dr Ray: Come in. Oh hello Jack. Have a seat. Right ... you said you wanted to see me to talk about your options next semester?

Jack: That's right. We have to decide by the end of next week. Really, I'd like to do all five options but we have to choose two, don't we.

Dr Ray: Yes, but the choice depends on your major to some extent. You're majoring in Communication Studies, aren't you?

Jack: That's right.

Dr Ray: So for example the Media Studies Option will cover quite a lot of the same area you did in the core module on mass communications this semester - the development of the media through the last two series, in relation to political and social issues.
Jack: Mmm. Well that was interesting, but I've decided I'd rather do something completely new. There's a Women's Studies option, isn't there?

Dr Ray: Yes, 'Women and Power' – again it has a historical focus, it aims to contextualise women's studies by looking at the legal and social situation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries …

Jack: So it would be useful if I intended to specialise in women's studies ... but I'm not sure I do actually.
Dr Ray: Well, it might still be useful to give you an idea of the issues involved. It's taught by Dr Steed.

Jack: Oh, really? I'll sign up for that, then. What about the option on Culture and Society?

Dr Ray: That addresses the historical debate on the place of culture since the Industrial Revolution in Britain.

Jack: So a historical focus again ...

Dr Ray: Do I get the message you're not so keen on history?

Jack: Well, it's just we seem to have done quite a lot this semester … Listening sample task – Matching (example 1) anyway I'll think about that one.

Dr Ray: If you're interested in a course focusing on current issues there's the option on Identity and Popular Culture – that approaches the subject through things like contemporary film, adverts, soap operas and so on.

Jack: Oh? That sounds interesting. Can you tell me who runs it?

Dr Ray: Well, it's normally Dr Stevens but he's on sabbatical next semester, so I'm not sure who'll be running it. It should be decided by next week though.

Jack: Right, well I might wait until then to decide ... And the last option is Introduction to Cultural Theory, isn't it. I'm quite interested in that too – I was talking to one of the second year students, and she said it was really useful, it made a lot of things fall into place.

Dr Ray: Yes, but in fact in your major, you'll have covered a lot of that already in Communications 102, so that might be less useful than some of the others.

Jack: Oh, I'll forget about that one, then.

Dr Ray: Now while you're here, we could also discuss how you're getting on with your Core Module assignment ...

Task Type 3 – Plan, Map, Diagram Labelling

In this task type, you are required to complete labels on a plan (eg of a building), map (eg of part of a town) or diagram (e.g. of a piece of equipment). The answers are usually selected from a list on the question paper.

This task type appears in all sections, but mostly in section 2. In section 2, you will listen to one speaker talking about common daily situation. For example, You might have to listen to the speaker giving a tour or describing a proposed site to investors.

Map Question



Question 11 - 15

Label the plan below.

Choose FIVE answers from the box and write the correct letters A-I next to questions 11-15.

IELTS listening practice test plan map sample


Answer sheet
11
12
13
14
15

  • spellcheck Answers
    11. H
    12. G
    13. D
    14. B
    15. F
Audio script
You will hear the librarian of a new town library talking to a group of people who are visiting the library.

OK everyone. So here we are at the entrance to the town library. My name is Ann, and I'm the chief librarian here, and you'll usually find me at the desk just by the main entrance here. So I'd like to tell you a bit about the way the library is organised, and what you'll find where … and you should all have a plan in front of you. Well, as you see my desk is just on your right as you go in, and opposite this the first room on your left has an excellent collection of reference books and is also a place where people can read or study peacefully. Just beyond the librarian's desk on the right is a room where we have up to date periodicals such as newspapers and magazines and this room also has a photocopier in case you want to copy any of the articles. If you carry straight on you'll come into a large room and this is the main library area. There is fiction in the shelves on the left, and non-fiction materials on your right, and on the shelves on the far wall there is an excellent collection of books relating to local history. We're hoping to add a section on local tourist attractions too, later in the year. Through the far door in the library just past the fiction shelves is a seminar room, and that can be booked for meetings or talks, and next door to that is the children's library, which has a good collection of stories and picture books for the under elevens. Then there's a large room to the right of the library area – that's the multimedia collection, where you can borrow videos and DVDs and so on, and we also have CD-Roms you can borrow to use on your computer at home. It was originally the art collection but that's been moved to another building. And that's about it – oh, there's also the Library Office, on the left of the librarian's desk. OK, now does anyone have any questions?

Task Type 4 – Form, Note, aTble, Flow-chart, Summary Completion

In this task type, you will be given a form, a set of notes, a table, a summary, or a flow-chart and you will need to fill in the missing information based on the listening passage. You may have to select their answers from a list on the question paper or identify the missing words from the recording, making sure to keep to the word limit stated in the instructions.

  1. a form:
    a form question is a common task type for section 1. You will fill out a form like an application, booking, or an order form. Often it will be a phone conversation between two people. One person will either be, ordering, booking or requesting information about something, while the other person is helping them.
  2. a set of notes:
    A Note question is a common task type for section 4. You will hear a university lecture and then be given incomplete lecture notes. You'll need to fill in the missing points based on the lecture.
  3. a table:
    A Table question is often used to categorize many things such as place, time, and price. You will need to fill in the missing information from the table.
  4. a flow-chart:
    A flow chart can show a process, plan or sequence of past events. You will need to complete the chart with either, words from the recording, or by choosing one of the options from a lettered list.
  5. a summary:
    In a summary question, you will be presented with a paragraph, which summarizes the listening passage, and you'll need to fill in the words to complete the summary based on what you hear.

You must read the instructions very carefully. For example, if the instruction says ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS', you will be penalised for writing more than two words.

Table Question

IELTS listening practice test office

Question 1 - 8

Complete the form below

Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER for each answer

IELTS listening practice test completion sample


Answer sheet
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8

  • spellcheck Answers
    1. Mkere
    2. Westall
    3. BS8 9PU
    4. 0.75 m/metre(s)/meter(s) (wide) / three(-)quarter(s) (of) (a) metre/meter (wide) / ¾ m (wide) / 75 cm(s) (wide)
    5. 0.5 m/metre(s)/meter(s) (high/deep) / (a) half (a) metre/meter (high/deep) / ½ m (high/deep) / 50 cm(s) (high/deep)
    6. & 7 in either order
    (some) books (some) toys
    8. 1,700
Audio script
A: Good morning Packham's Shipping Agents. Can I help you?

B Oh yes, I'm ringing to make enquiries about sending a large box, a container, back home to Kenya from the UK.

A: Yes, of course. Would you like me to try and find some quotations for you?

B: Yes, that'd be great. Thank you.

A: Well first of all, I need a few details from you.

B: Fine.

A: Can I take your name?

B: It's Jacob Mkere.

A: Can you spell your surname, please?

B: Yes, it's M-K-E-R-E.

A: Is that ‘M' for mother?

B: Yes.

A: Thank you, and you say that you will be sending the box to Kenya?

B: That's right.

A: And where would you like the box picked up from?

B: From college, if possible.

A: Yes, of course. I'll take down the address now.

B: It's Westall College.

A: Is that W-E-S-T-A-L-L?

B: Yes, ... college.

A: Westall College. And where's that? Listening sample task – Form completion (to be used with IELTS Listening Recording 1)

B: It's Downlands Road, in Bristol.

A: Oh yes, I know it. And the postcode?

B: It's BS8 9PU.

A: Right ... and I need to know the size.

B: Yes, I've measured it carefully and it's 1.5m long ...

A: Right.

B: 0.75m wide ...

A: OK.

B: And it's 0.5m high or deep.

A: Great. So I'll calculate the volume in a moment and get some quotes for that. But first can you tell me, you know, very generally, what will be in the box?

B: Yes there's mostly clothes.

A: OK. [writing down]

B: And there's some books.

A: OK. Good. Um ... Anything else?

B: Yes, there's also some toys.

A: OK and what is the total value, do you think, of the contents?

B: Well the main costs are the clothes and the books – they'll be about £1500 but then the toys are about another two hundred – so I'd put down £1700.

Task Type 5 – Multiple choice

In a multiple choice task, there is a question followed by three possible answers, or the beginning of a sentence followed by three possible ways to complete the sentence. You must answer with LETTERS (A, B, or C) on your Answer Sheet. Don't write the answer choice word(s!

Sometimes you are given a longer list of possible answers and told to choose more than one. In this case, you should read the question carefully and check how many answers are required.

Multiple Choice Question

IELTS listening practice test telephone

Questions 9 – 10

Choose the correct letter, A, B or C.

9. Type of insurance chosen
  1. Economy
  2. Standard
  3. Premium
10. Customer wants goods delivered to
  1. port
  2. home
  3. depot

Answer sheet
9
10

  • spellcheck Answers
    9. C
    10. A
Audio Script
(A customer has been arranging with a shipping agent to send a large box overseas. This is the last part of the conversation.)

A: OK right. Now obviously insurance is an important thing to consider and our companies are able to offer very good rates in a number of different all-inclusive packages.

B: Sorry, could you explain a bit more?

A: Yes, sorry, um. There's really three rates according to quality of insurance cover – there's the highest comprehensive cover which is Premium rate, then there's standard rate and then there's economy rate. That one will only cover the cost of the contents second hand.

B: Oh I've been stung before with economy insurance so I'll go for the highest.

A: Mh'hm and can I just check would you want home delivery or to a local depot or would you want to pick it up at the nearest port?

B: The port'd be fine – I've got transport that end.

A: Fine and will you be paying by credit card?

B: Can I pay by cheque?

Task Type 6 – Short Answers

Short answer questions require you to read a question and then write a short answer using information from the listening text. You will probably be given a limit, for example, 'No more than two words'. If you write more words than the instructions tell you to, your answer will be marked as incorrect.

Very often, you will have to find detailed information related to some category. For example, you might get a question like this:

What TWO factors can make social contact in a foreign country difficult?

Short-answer Question

IELTS listening practice test london city

Question 11 - 16

Answer the questions below

Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER for each answer

What TWO factors can make social contact in a foreign country difficult?
  • 11 ....................
  • 12 ....................


Which types of community group does the speaker give examples of?
  • theater
  • 13 ....................
  • 14 ....................


In which TWO places can information about community activities be found?
  • 15 ....................
  • 16 ....................

Answer sheet
11
12
13
14
15
16

  • spellcheck Answers
    11 & 12: (in either order) language, customs
    13 & 14: (in either order) music, local history
    15 & 16: (in either order) library/libraries, town hall
Audio Script
You will hear an extract from a talk given to a group who are going to stay in the UK. Good evening, and welcome to the British Council. My name is John Parker and I've been asked to talk to you briefly about certain aspects of life in the UK before you actually go there. So I'm going to talk first about the best ways of making social contacts there. Now you might be wondering why it should be necessary. After all, we meet people all the time. But when you're living in a foreign country it can be more difficult, not just because of the language, but because customs may be different. If you're going to work in the UK you will probably be living in private accommodation, so it won't be quite so easy to meet people. But there are still things that you can do to help yourself. First of all, you can get involved in activities in your local community, join a group of some kind. For example, you'll probably find that there are theatre groups who might be looking for actors, set designers and so on, or if you play an instrument you could join music groups in your area. Or if you like the idea of finding out about local history there'll be a group for that too. These are just examples. And the best places to get information about things like this are either the town hall or the public library. Libraries in the UK perform quite a broad range of functions nowadays – they're not just confined to lending books, although that's their main role of course.

How to Prepare for the IELTS Listening Test

Although each IELTS listening question (task) type is different, the basic approach to each one is the same. You can tackle all task types by using one simple, step-by-step strategy. Here are the three steps that we recommend you use to approach Listening question types:

  1. Examine questions closely to find key information
  2. Predict potential answers before listening
  3. Follow along to match questions with content as they listen
Step 1: Examine Questions

On the IELTS Listening section, you'll be given a brief preparation time (30-40 seconds) before the recording starts. This is your opportunity to take a look at the questions you'll need to answer, which is exactly what the first step in this strategy is all about. Rather than use this time to take a break, or to check your answers, you will focus on learning as much as you possibly can about the questions ahead. Taking this step is important to avoid the mistake of multitasking while listening to the speaker and trying to read the questions for the first time.

When your preparation time begins, first make the best possible use of this time by examining the questions to find out more about them. These are some of the pieces of information you should be looking for when examining each of the IELTS Listening questions:

  • What kind of a question is this?
  • What will the answer look like? (example: a date, a number, a name)
  • What are the most important phrases and words, or keywords, in the questions?

One example could be a Note Completion question type, like this:


Questions 27-28

Complete the notes below.

Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.

Two reasons for the new approach to pricing are changes in (27) and (28) programs.

First, you can underline some of the keywords in the question.

Two reasons for the new approach to pricing are changes in (27) ______ and (28) _________ programs.

In this example, listening for the key phrase "two reasons" that you had already underlined allows you to begin paying close attention at the right moment. Here is the part of the audio script that reveals the answer:

Interviewer: Mark, why do you think revenue management has become so popular?

Mark: Well, there seem to be two basic reasons. Firstly, because the law has changed recently to allow companies to behave like this. In the past, they weren't allowed to change the prices of the tickets. And secondly, we now have computer programs that do the calculations so that prices can be changed very quickly and accurately.

After having examined the questions, you would know that "the law" and "computer" were the correct response here based on some keywords and knowing the question type.

Step 2: Predict Potential Answers

The second step in this strategy to succeed on the IELTS Listening section is very closely related to the first. In fact, you should attempt to complete both of these steps within the same 20 second preparation time before the recording starts. While this may seem like a difficult task to do in such a short amount of time, remember that these steps are actually linked to one another.

To predict potential answers to the Listening questions, you will first need to have completed step one by examining the questions closely. At this point, you should know what kind of question you are looking at, what potential answers will look like, as well as which keywords will be of assistance in locating the answers quickly. To predict answers, you will combine all of this information and make a guess about what kind of answer you expect to hear.

Let's revisit the same Note Completion example question from above.

Two reasons for the new approach to pricing are changes in (27) and (28) programs.

Just by looking at the grammar of this sentence allows you to identify what part of speech the answer will be. In this case, the preposition "in" precedes both of the potential answers. Grammatically, only nouns or noun phrases can be used this way in prepositional phrases. Not only can you predict, correctly, that the answer will be a noun or noun phrase, but it would also be possible to predict that the answer could be something related to policy or government (law), and a word that can appear with programs (computer) based on context.

Although it's impossible to guess the exact correct answer based on predictions alone, by making an attempt to imagine what the answer might be, you are more likely to listen for relevant information while ignoring irrelevant information. Predicting potential answers before the recording begins will prepare your ear, getting you one step closer to the correct answer.

Now, try putting Step 1 (examine questions) and Step 2 (predict potential answers) together in a more difficult multiple choice example question.


Questions 23-26

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

24. According to the conversation, theatre tickets are lowest when they
  1. are for weekend shows
  2. are booked well in advance
  3. are non-refundable
  4. are booked for groups

Although there isn't a way to know the answers to these questions for sure, you can still use the information found in these questions to predict potential answers and target your listening. For example, question 24 concerns the reason why theatre ticket prices will be the lowest, so you will want to listen closely for any of those reasons mentioned. Bear in mind, it's possible that more than one will be mentioned. Take a look at the script below to see how prediction can help you eliminate wrong answers.

Sally: Well...the ticket agent said the price you pay depends on things like whether you make a group booking and whether you want to go to a weekend show or one during the week. And it's cheaper if you buy a ticket where you can't get a refund if you have to cancel; if you do that the ticket costs about half the normal price. You wouldn't think it would make that much difference, but it does.

Notice how three of the potential answers are mentioned, "booked for groups", "are for weekend shows" and "are non-refundable." However, the correct answer is C "are non-refundable" because it is mentioned as cheaper separately from the other two, which are simply listed together.

Step 3: Follow Along

Once the recording starts and the actual listening part of the test begins, you should follow along to complete step three of this IELTS Listening section strategy. Following along requires you to focus closely on what you are hearing, while at the same time keeping track of which question the content may be addressing.

The questions on the IELTS Listening exam section will usually appear in order of where their answers can be found in the content of the recording. This gives you an advantage in the test, because it means that once you have heard the answer to one question, you will immediately turn your attention to the next one in order. If you are able to follow along successfully by matching the context from the questions to what you are hearing in the recording, you will stay on track and avoid missing key information necessary to answer each of the questions.

Doing this is easier said than done, however. You will need to multitask by listening while simultaneously keeping your eye on the next question. If you do, in fact, miss the answer to a question, you will know when you hear the answer to a later one. Even though this can be confusing and even frustrating, missing one answer and being aware of it is still preferable to getting completely lost in the content and missing even more of the answers. In the scenario of missing a question, you should simply leave it, and continue onto the next one. At the end, you will have to make your best guess about the question you missed. However, on the bright side, it's possible that listening to the recording in its entirety may provide you with other contextual clues and allow you to answer any questions you missed more accurately.

IELTS Listening Practice Free Resources

You'll need strong listening skills to get a high band IELTS listening score. Because of this, it's important you train consistently every day until test day.

Below are some resources you can use to train and maintain your listening skills daily.

  1. YouTube - https://www.youtube.com
  2. BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish
  3. TED - https://www.ted.com/
  4. BBC radio - https://www.bbc.co.uk/worldserviceradio
  5. ABC news in Australia - https://radio.abc.net.au/stations/news/live?play=true

All information on this page was referenced from the official IELTS website: www.ielts.org