IELTS listening guide

IELTS listening toolkit – 10 lessons to improve your score

My best advice is to practise the following skills for the listening test:

Listening to numbers, names,addresses and dates 

Listening for key words –

Listening and spelling and note-taking

Avoiding distractor questions

Dealing with multiple choice questions

Listening to a map

Listening for directions

Following signpost words

Listening to two people discussing training

Map of the IELTS listening test

IELTS listening map

Key points

around 30 minutes

10 questions per section

questions get harder later in test

10 minutes at end to fill out answer sheet

Understanding IELTS listening

Easy to harder
The questions start off easy with listening to in a social context (like checking in at a hotel) and get slowly harder until you get to an academic lecture

One people and two people speaking
Note also that you must listen to both one and two people speaking – this can make it harder It is important that you spell all the answers correctly – any wrongly spelled answers are marked as wrong

Time to read the questions first
You are given time before each section to read the questions. You should use this time to think about what you are going to listen to and think what the answers might be

Time at the end to fill out the answer sheet
You are given 10 minutes at the end of the test to fill out your answer sheet – use this time to make sure your answers are correctly spelled and grammatically correct

Learn the types of question

A smart way to prepare is to learn the different types of question.

multiple choice
short answers – video lesson
sentence completion
labelling a map/diagram
form completion
You should practice each type of question.

Note you need to write down answers to the questions types 3-6,while you only need to select the correct alternatives in types 1 and 2

In a hurry? Get my quick IELTS listening tips

10 top tips for IELTS listening

More listening lessons and resources

How to avoid mistakes in IELTS listening –  video lesson that focuses on key word strategy

Using BBC 6 minute English to improve your listening

Free online IELTS listening resources

Download and learn how to fill out the answer sheet

How to fill out the answer sheet

Calculate your IELTS listening  band score

Band score calculator

What happens if I make a mistake?

You erase and write the new answer

Does spelling matter?

Yes it does. You need to spell the word correctly to score the point.

Both US and UK spelling are allowed.

Must I use capital letters?


You are marked on the content of your answer and handwriting is not an issue. You can use capitals if you want to make your writing easier to read.

What about dates?

Different formats are fine. For October 25 1965 you can write

25 10 1965

October 25th 1965

25th October 1965

Does grammar matter?

Yes. If the answer is computer then computers may be wrong. You need to be particularly careful in sentence completion questions.

What are the skills you need in IELTS listening?

The key skills you need for IELTS listening are:

  • ability to predict answers
  • understand the context
  • ability to recognise words
  • ability to understand paraphrase (the meanings of words)
  • ability to follow signpost language especially in a lecture
  • ability to listen to two people talking together
  • note-taking
  • good spelling

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