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The IELTS Listening Test

Those following both the ‘General’ and the ‘Academic’ IELTS path will take the same listening test. The test lasts for 40 minutes and comprises of four sections, each lasting 10 minutes.

Sections 1 and 2 are focused on social situations, whereas sections 3 and 4 focus on academic situations. There are ten questions to answer in each section, totalling 40 questions altogether.

For 30 minutes, you will listen to the audio recording and answer questions. During this time, you will need to jot down your answers. Afterwards, there is a ten minute period for you to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet.

You are not allowed to listen to the recording more than once; therefore thorough preparation for this test is highly recommended.

Effective Strategies for the Listening Test

To help you to achieve the best score you can, we have rounded up some top strategies to help you in the listening test.

  • Answer every question. You won’t lose marks for incorrect answers, so be sure to fill in an answer for every question.
  • Before the audio recording is played, you will be given some time to look through the questions. You will be told the upcoming questions the section of audio refers to, e.g. “You will now hear questions 14-19”. Make sure you read through those questions before that section of audio is played.
  • You must use the time provided to read through the questions to be as prepared as you can once the audio begins. For the best preparation, read through each question carefully and underline the keywords. This helps you to focus on the right information when you are listening to the recording. You may also think about other ways certain words and phrases in the questions may be paraphrased in the recording. This will help you to listen out for those important words and phrases.
  • The question sheet is not marked so you can make as many notes and markings on it as you want – whatever is going to help you to succeed!
  • DON’T worry about capital letters. As long as the marker can clearly understand the answers you have written, you will not lose marks for using capital letters incorrectly.
  • DO worry about spellings. If an answer is misspelt, it will be marked as an incorrect answer. Make sure that you check your spellings carefully and don’t lose marks in this way.
  • Read The Instructions For The Question Carefully. Be sure that you read and understand how to answer each question. Questions may require answers in word, number or letter form. For instance, if you must provide an answer in the form of a letter, you must ensure that you give a letter, not a word, as your answer. Mistakes like this are an easy (and frustrating!) way to lose marks.
  • Some questions may require you to complete a sentence. When you do this, you must ensure that when the whole sentence is read, it is grammatically correct. Otherwise, you will lose marks.
  • Expose yourself to various accents. Listen to a wide range of accents in English in preparation for the test. The IELTS listening test often includes a range of accents to reflect its international nature. Be sure to have experience of listening to and understanding different English accents, such as Australian, American and British.

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