IELTS Listening tips

  • By Kanan Team
  • 23-11-2022

The listening test is used to assess your ability to listen to a conversation or a speech and understand the content intent, process the opinion, follow the narration, and decide upon a conclusion. The IELTS listening tips given here can be used for both academic and general tests as the listening section is similar. These tips will help you in enhancing your listening skills for a higher listening band score. 

In the listening section, you will listen to audio and give answers to the set of questions given. The answers must be taken only from the audio. These IELTS listening tips will guide you in preparing for your listening test and completing the test within the time limit. In this article, you will be able to understand the IELTS listening test, task types, and tips to improve your listening skills. 

IELTS Listening Test

The IELTS listening test is one of the important skill tests in the IELTS exam, used to assess the individual's listening capability, idea processing, and ability to draw conclusions about the content discussed. The test will be conducted for 40 minutes, where you will be listening to the audio and answering the questions in 30 minutes and use the 10 minutes to transfer the answer to the listening answer sheet in the paper-based test. In the computer-based test, you will be given only 2 minutes after the audio section to review your answers.  

You will be provided with 40 questions in 4 sections to be answered. The listening test will be scored based on the number of correct answers provided. Each question carries 1 mark and the raw score will be converted into a band score ranging between 1-9 in increments of 0.5. You can use the listening tips provided here to secure an IELTS band score of 8.

What is the IELTS listening test format? 

The IELTS listening test consists of 40 questions covered in 4 sections. Each section has 10 questions. The listening sections are common for both IELTS test versions and thus content related to academic and social context is covered. The IELTS listening test format is as follows,

  • Recording 1: Here you will be listening to a conversation between two people in any social context related to daily life.
  • Recording 2: In this section, monologue audio on any topic related to everyday events in a social context will be played. For instance, the topic may be about a transport system or a water facility. 
  • Recording 3: A conversation between more than two people will be played here. The conversation will be regarding a training program or any educational-related topic. For example, it can be a classroom conversation, where the teacher may discuss an assignment. 
  • Recording 4: This will be a monologue about any educational topic. Audio like a speech about a university or a course will be played. 

You may wonder how to improve your IELTS listening skills, but enhancing your skills is very easy if you understand the basic concept and strategize your way of answering. 

Listening task types

IELTS listening has 6 different tasks to assess your overall listening skills. These listening question types are structured to test the individual's ability to listen, understand and provide responses to the native speaker's words. The recordings consist of monologues, conversations, and discussions, of native speakers. The task types are 

  1. Matching questions
  2. Multiple choice questions
  3. Plan, Map, and diagram labelling questions
  4. Summary, form, note, table completion 
  5. Sentence completion 
  6. Short answer questions.

IELTS Listening tips

1. Understand the test

All the language proficiency tests have their exclusive exam format to assess the candidate's language skills. For a perfect score on these tests, you must have a clear understanding of the exam and its format. So before starting your IELTS preparation, make yourself familiar with the following details regarding the exam. 

  • What are the sections in the test module?
  • How many questions will be asked?
  • What are the different task types involved in the exam?
  • Exam duration
  • How is the section scored?
  • What are the skills tested in the listening test?
  • What are the strategies required to answer the questions in time?
  • How to tackle the different listening audios given? 

The answers to these questions will give a basic idea of how the listening test acts and will aid you in understanding the listening test exam format. 

2.Have regular practice

If you are an active listener, you can easily excel in the test with a good band score. However, you need to have regular practice to enhance your answering skills. This can be done by regularly listening to podcasts, news reports, Ted talks, monologues, etc of native speakers. This will expose you to different accents and vocabulary that improve your confidence level. 

As both social and academic content are used in the test, you can start practicing with interesting topics and then move on to academic content. Listening is your everyday activity, you can make this a habit to listen to various interesting audio. This will increase your confidence in the actual IELTS tests.  

3.Listen for Keywords, signposts, headings, etc

As this is an International English Language Testing System, the listening test is used to assess the candidate's skills perfectly. Here the audio will be played only once and you have to answer the questions as you listen to the audio. Thus you will be multitasking in the listening section. 

To make it easier, read the question carefully and look for the keywords to understand the context of the audio. Always pay attention to the keywords, signposts, and heading given in the questions as well as in the audio. Note these words to identify the answer and to predict the given content. 

The heading will be given in the question paper. Use this heading to understand what the audio content will be and guide you in predicting the answers. 

For example, if Global warming is mentioned in the question paper, then the audio will be regarding global warming. 

Signposts are used in the listening sections to indicate the content that is to be discussed in the further part of the recording. The commonly used signposts in listening to audio are 

  • I’ll start by examining …
  • For instance, …
  • First / Secondly / Another …
  • In addition to …
  • As well as this, …
  • On the one hand / On the other hand, …
  • One major advantage is …
  • The problem, however, is …

4.Attention to distractors

To write the answers, you must listen to the audio without any distractions. The speaker may express one opinion at the start and can reverse their opinion later. Thus you must choose your answer, without getting carried away by these distractors. Paying attention to every detail mentioned in the audio will guide you to choose the correct answer as corrections distractors will be used.

5.Never spend too much time hearing one answer

In listening, you will be marking the answers as you are listening to the audio. If you are not able to identify the answer for a long time you might have skipped it. You cannot go back and forth listening to audio for identifying the answer. If you are not able to answer, skip the question and try answering the next question. You can come back to predict the answer to the skipped question. 

6.Transfer your answers carefully to the answer sheet

For the paper-based test, you will be given 10 minutes to transfer the answer to the answer sheet. You must be careful while transferring the answer. The answer must be free from spelling errors and grammatical errors. Points to remember while transferring the answers are 

  • Use a pencil to write the answers
  • Write your answer in the space provided for the corresponding question number.
  • The answer type must be similar to the instruction given. For instance, if the instruction is to write a single word, only one word is to be written. 
    If the instruction is to write the alphabet of the option, only the letter must be written. 
  • The answer must be incorrect spelling and grammar structure. 

7.Read the questions before the recording plays

Before the audio is played, you will be given a few minutes to go through the given question and the instructions. While going through the questions, try to predict the content that will be discussed in the audio. You can also note the keywords, given in the questions to find the answers. As the exact words may not be used, you must look out for the synonyms. 

8.Focus on the word limit

Clear instructions will be given before every question stating the type of answer and the word limit. You must note the word limits given in the instructions to write your answer. 

If the instruction says “not more than 2 words/number”, your answer must be in only 2 words, if it exceeds the word limit, the answer will be considered wrong. 

9.Concentrate on questions given with options 

In matching and multiple-choice question types, you will be selecting your answers from a set of alternatives or options. While selecting your answers, you must be careful in choosing them, as all the alternatives will be closely related and give the same meaning. Thus try to cancel out the not related terms to narrow down your choices. This method will save you time. For matching questions, the options may not be in order, thus you must mark the answer, as you listen.

10.Improve your listening skills

To excel in the listening test, you must have basic listening skills. The important skills required to secure a higher band score are listed below for your reference.

  • Paying attention to the purpose and context of the content spoken. 
  • Ability to clarify and paraphrase information.
  • Predict the opinion of the speaker based on the topic 
  • Critical listening to understand the main idea of the content 
  • Staying focused on the audio.

11.Enrich your vocabulary

Build your vocabulary to crack the listening test with a good band score. Word knowledge is useful here, as it helps you understand the audio transcripts. Listening to and reading different speeches on academic and general topics will help you to enrich your words. You can also make use of these listening words to improve your vocabulary. 

12.Make notes as you listen

As you listen to the audio, you can take notes of the important content like date, year, numbers, spellings, keywords, etc. These points might help you in answering easily. You can also write the answers and transfer them to the answer sheet at the end of the test. Keen attention to detail is required as the given details will be changed or discussed at some other point in the conversation. Thus listen to the audio till the last, even if you identified all the answers. 

13.Never leave any questions unanswered

Try answering all the given questions. Even if you are not confident about any answers, you can give them a try on it as they may be correct. Negative marks are not given for incorrect answers. Don't try to answer as soon as you listen to the audio. Take your time, process the content spoken, and then provide your answers. 

14.Predict your answers

While reading the question try to predict the answer using the keywords and the heading. This will help you in finding the answers easily while you are listening to audio. Your predicted answer may not perfectly match the answer, instead, a synonym or a related word may be used. You must use only the word, given in the recording transcript. 

15.Ensure grammar and spelling usage

Cross-check your answers for spelling errors and grammatical accuracy. The answer you choose must be from the recording and must fit in the blanks grammatically. While transferring the answer to the answer sheet, make sure you are using the correct spelling. Always revisit your answers once to ensure the spelling. 


The given IELTS listening tips are expert proven tips that will help you in improving your listening skills. Make use of these tips, and practice for the listening test for a guaranteed band score. 

FAQ on IELTS listening tips

1.How can I score band 9 in IELTS listening?

Scoring a band 9 is easy if you are practically ready to face the test. Understand, in listening you will be answering 40 questions in 30 minutes and transferring the answer in 10 minutes to the answer sheet. With 10 questions given in each of the 4 sections, and with 6 task types, you must be able to answer all the questions within the time limit. This is possible only with persistent training and preparation. 

2.How can I avoid mistakes in IELTS listening?

  • Follow the given instructions
  • Understand the specific information provided
  • Remember the word count for the answers
  • Spell-check your answers
  • Manage your time effectively
  • Follow/understand the audio
  • Have a good vocabulary

3.Can I prepare for the listening test in 2 days?

This is not an advisable idea, as you have to understand the concepts, question types, exam format, etc to start your preparation. It is always better to start your preparation at least a month before the exam date. 

4.Does the IELTS question repeat?

The frequency of the IELTS question repeating in the exam is very limited. Every year the exam board comes up with a new set of questions for all the batches.

5.What does 35 out of 40 mean in IELTS listening?

35 indicates the number of correct answers provided by you in the listening test out of 40 questions. As each question carries 1 mark, your raw score will be 35. The corresponding IELTS band score for 35 is band 8. 

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