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IELTS Listening & How To Score High

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What’s IELTS Listening All About

Are you struggling with IELTS Listening? Read on to learn more about this section and how to practise. Many candidates struggle with the IELTS listening section for several reasons.

One reason is that the listening passages may contain vocabulary and grammar that a candidate is unfamiliar with. At the end of the day, IELTS is a test of your English ability, and you should only attempt the test once you are ready.

However, there are other reasons, and one of the biggest is accents. The IELTS test is owned by Cambridge, the British Council and IDP. IDP is an Australian organisation, and as a result, around a third of the accents you will hear on test day are Australian. Having monitored hundreds of test takers, we know that it is the Australian accents where candidates lose the most marks.

Not being able to keep up with the pace of a conversation can also damage a candidate’s score. The answers are all in speech order, so it can be difficult to catch up and know which question you should be answering if you miss an answer. If you are unprepared, missing one answer can lead to you missing many more!

The structure of the Listening test is the same for both General and Academic candidates, and knowing that structure can help you to get a better score.

Below we have broken down the format of the listening section and give some quick tips to help you be as prepared as possible for your IELTS exam.

IELTS Listening Test Breakdown

The IELTS Listening test is designed to evaluate a candidate’s ability to understand spoken English in a variety of contexts. The test is divided into four sections which are around 30 minutes in length.

With the paper test, you will be given another 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. However, with the computer-delivered test, you should enter your answers on the answer sheet as you listen.

IELTS Listening Part One

In part one of the test, you will always hear a dialogue between two people in an everyday situation. This conversation might take place face-to-face or over the phone.

Part one of the Listening test will always consist of ten questions divided between one or two question types (e.g. gap fill or short answer questions). This part tests your ability to listen and understand 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 and how they sound. We have found that the most advanced candidates have often forgotten how to write something down when it is being spelt for them.

See our video courses for an in-depth analysis of how you should approach the IELTS Listening, and analysis of the biggest mistakes candidates make.

IELTS Listening Part Two

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 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.

Mock IELTS Writing General Task 1 Model Answer - Moving House (informal) by Andrew Turner @ EnglishWithAnExpert.com

IELTS Listening Part Three

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. With up to four speakers, you have limited time to tune into a new accent.

IELTS Listening Part Four

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 into 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.

Important Things To Expect From The IELTS Listening Test

The Differences Between Paper-Based & Computer-Delivered IELTS Listening Tests


The IELTS listening test comes in two formats: paper-based and computer-delivered. For the paper-based test, most test takers listen to the recording and note their answers on the question sheet before transferring them to an answer sheet. They are given an extra 10 minutes to transfer the answers. This allows them to check their answers and spelling before submitting them.

On the other hand, those taking the computer-delivered IELTS listening test must put their answers directly into the computer. They are not given an extra 10 minutes to transfer their answers like those taking the paper version. Instead, they are given only 2 minutes to review their answers and make any necessary changes. This is the only difference between the paper-based and computer-delivered listening test.

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Tips On How To Improve Your IELTS Listening Score

The IELTS listening test can be challenging for many test takers, but with the right preparation and strategies, you can improve your chances of success. Here are some key pieces of advice to keep in mind as you prepare for the test:

● Practice listening to a variety of accents and dialects, as the test will feature recordings with different types of spoken English.

● Learn and practise common academic and formal vocabulary, as the test will feature passages with complex language.

● Get familiar with the different question types that appear in the test and practice answering them.

● Pay attention to the word count limit for each set of questions and make sure to answer them within the limit. If you use more words than you are supposed to, your answer will be marked incorrect. Using fewer words is OK.

● Be aware of the time limits and practice working under pressure.

For more detailed information and tips on how to succeed in the IELTS listening test, check out this page.

IELTS Coaching



Mock IELTS Writing General Task 1 Model Answer - Moving House (informal) by Andrew Turner @ EnglishWithAnExpert.com