Struggling with IELTS Listening?
Read on to discover which section of the exam candidates find the most difficult and why.
Introduction: The Four Parts of IELTS Listening
Many locations do not have the resources to separate test candidates into two separate rooms. As a result, all candidates take the same Listening test, whether they sit for General or Academic IELTS.
To balance the test for all candidates, every listening test has four sections.
The first two recordings cover general non-academic situations. For example, you might listen to someone booking a holiday or giving a guided tour.
The second two sections cover academic contexts. For instance, you might have to listen to a study group or a university lecture.
In theory, the level of difficulty increases with each section. However, many candidates find the third part the most difficult. Keep reading to find out why.
General Rules And Tips For Each Listening Task
You will only hear each recording once.
Before each section begins, you will hear a short pause. Use this time by reading the questions and thinking about how you might answer them.
Above each set of questions, you will find instructions for how to complete them. You must read these each time the task changes since the instructions will also change.
Before each section begins, you will hear a brief explanation of the context for the conversation. The question paper does not include this, so focus on what they say.
You can write your answers on the question paper and will receive ten minutes at the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.
IELTS Listening Part One
In part one of the test, you will always hear a dialogue between two people in an everyday situation. The conversation might take place face to face or over the phone.
Part one always consists of ten questions divided between one to two tasks (e.g. gap fill or short answer questions).
This part of the Listening tests your understanding of specific information (e.g. dates and places).
The first recording often asks you to spell the name of a street or person etc. You may find it useful to revise the letters of the alphabet.
In part two, you will hear a monologue, which means you will listen to one person speaking.
The subject will be one of general interest, and there are usually two tasks. Typical question types might include multiple choice and matching.
As usual, part two contains ten questions with a brief pause before each task.
This section tests your understanding of specific factual information and your ability to select relevant information from what you hear.
Part three shifts to an academic context. You will hear a discussion between two to four speakers – usually students and possibly a university teacher.
The subject revolves around some form of academic life and often involves a study project.
As with each section, you will hear ten questions. The questions will relate to identifying key facts and ideas and how they connect. They may also involve identifying speakers’ attitudes and opinions.
My students often find this part of the test the most difficult. In large part because of the range of accents they hear. With up to four speakers, you have limited time to tune in to a new accent.
Part four returns to the monologue format, often in the style of a presentation or lecture.
The subject matter is always academic, and the ten questions are divided amongst up to three tasks. Typical question types include completing notes, a table or a flow chart.
Part four tests your ability to distinguish between reasons, causes, effects and consequences.
As with all sections, correct spelling is essential.
IELTS Listening Tips
Next week I will write about the most common problems candidates have with the Listening test,
I will explain the quick way to calculate your band score and link you to some useful online resources.
Need help with the test? Learn more about our coaching options here.