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Understanding IELTS Listening Test


What is the format of the test?

Let’s first look at some key facts about the Listening test.

  • Except in Australia, where the listening is the third module, here in Nepal it is always the first module of your test.
  • It takes approximately 30 minutes(listening audio). You are given an extra 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers from your Question Booklet to your Answer Sheet in the paper-based test.
  • There are four sections. The sections become progressively more difficult, with Section 4 being the most difficult.
  • The recording is played only once.
  • There are a total of 40 questions, with 10 questions per section. Different types of questions are used in the Listening test (e.g., Multiple Choice, Short Answer, Form Completion, etc.).
  • You are given time to read the questions before you listen and time to check your answers after you listen.
  • In the paper-based test, you must use a pencil to write your answers on your Answer Sheet because it is scanned by a computer. You cannot use a pen.

In the paper-based test, you will be given a Question Booklet containing the questions. You should write your answers in the Question Booklet as you listen to the test. You will have 10 minutes at the end of the test to transfer your answers to the Answer Sheet.

You will not have the 10 extra minutes at the end of the computer-delivered test as you must type your answers at the end of every question.

Note: You will hear a variety of different accents in the Listening test, for example, British, Irish, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, American, and Indian.

For computer-delivered IELTS test.

How many parts is the test divided into?

There are four parts(Before 2020 these were known as sections) in the Listening test. Let’s look at the content of each section.

Part 1
  • This is a conversation between two speakers in which one speaker is asking for information from the other speaker. Often conversations in this section involve one speaker doing everyday activities such as registering for a course or renting an apartment.
  • The topics of this section are of general interest and are not related to academic topics.
  • This section is the easiest of the four sections because you are asked to listen for basic information such as names, numbers, dates and locations.
Part 2
  • This is a monologue (i.e., there is only one main speaker). A second speaker may ask one or two questions of the main speaker.
  • The topics are of general interest such as cooking, nature and animals, weekend activities, travel and health.
  • You do not need specialist knowledge to understand topics in this section.
Part 3
  • This is a conversation between two or more speakers (usually three speakers).
  • The topics are academic ones, often related to student life at university.
  • This section is more difficult than Sections 1 and 2, since it involves more speakers and because the topics are more abstract.
Part 4
  • This is a monologue and very often involves a university lecturer speaking on an academic topic.
  • You do not need specialist knowledge to understand topics in this section.
  • This section is the most difficult, because you are asked to listen to a longer lecture.


You can see that Sections 1 and 2 are on general interest topics while Sections 3 and 4 are related to academic (university) topics. This is because both Academic Module and General Training Module candidates take the same Listening test.

Another important point is that Sections 1 and 3 are conversations between two or three people while Sections 2 and 4 are monologues (just one person speaking).

The instructions

Instructions for the Listening test are spoken as part of the recording so it is important that you listen carefully to these instructions. The instructions are not difficult and they are clearly explained. Instructions are also written on the Question Booklet in the paper-based test and on the computer screen in the computer-delivered test.

Note:- You don’t get examples in IELTS Listening from 2020 onwards.

The Answer Sheet

Now look at a sample Answer Sheet for the paper-based Listening test. Your Listening test Answer Sheet is on one side of a double-sided (two sides) A4 piece of paper. On the other side of this sheet is the Reading test Answer Sheet. Make sure you put your Listening test answers on the correct side!

You can see that there are spaces for 40 answers. You have 10 minutes at the end of the test to transfer your answers from your Question Booklet to the Answer Sheet.

You should write your answers in the longer spaces next to the numbers. You should not write in the spaces with the tick or tick symbols. These spaces are used for marking your Answer Sheet.

In the computer-delivered test, you will input your answers directly by typing, drag-and-drop, clicking on the radio buttons or ticking the boxes.

Answer as many questions as you can. If you cannot find the right answer – guess! Your answers will be marked incorrect if you leave them blank. You will have a better chance of getting an answer correct if you try to answer each question.

Writing your answers on the Answer Sheet

Remember that you have 10 minutes at the end of the paper-based Listening test to transfer the answers you have written in the Question Booklet to the Answer Sheet.

When you transfer your answers, it is very important that you transfer your answers onto the correct line. In other words, make sure that you write your answer for Question 5 on the line for Question 5.

Assessment of the IELTS Listening test

One mark is given for each correct answer in the test. The total number of correct answers (out of the total 40) is then converted into an IELTS Band Score between 0-9. Listening test Band Scores come in whole bands (e.g., 5.0 or 6.0) or half bands (e.g., 5.5 or 6.5).

It is very important that you:

  • spell correctly and check that your answers are grammatically correct. You lose marks if you misspell a word or if you put a word in the wrong grammatical form. If the answer you hear is the verb, complete, but you write the answer in its noun form, completing or completion, it will be marked incorrect.Graphic showing a correct and an incorrect answer
  • follow the instructions – for example, if the instructions are:Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the text for each answer.The answer will be marked incorrect if you use more than three words.