How to help individuals get ready for the IELTS listening test 

The IELTS listening test is designed to assess a person’s ability to understand spoken English. The same test is used for both IELTS Academic and for IELTS General Training . 

This video will introduce you to key features of the test and offer some IELTS listening tips that you can pass on to those you are teaching.

Test structure

The listening test paper includes 40 questions spread over four sections. These questions become progressively more difficult as they go on.

Those taking the test have a total of 30 minutes to answer all of the questions, then [an additional t/b/c] 10 minutes at the end to transfer their answers to the answer sheet.

Listening closely

Listeners will hear each passage only once, so they must pay close attention to specific instructions. For example, if a question says ‘write no more than three words’, an answer of four or more words will be marked as wrong, even if the content is factually correct.

Answering carefully

When transferring answers, it’s important for those taking the test to write carefully. Spelling is considered, but capitalisation is not. 

Any wrong answers will be disregarded. Scores are determined only by the number of correct answers, so it’s a good idea to attempt to answer every question.

Preparing and predicting

Everyone is given time in advance of the test to read the questions. It can be useful to underline or circle any key words – typically nouns or verbs – as these can provide clues about the type of answer required.

Often, there will be a word in a question and then a different word with a similar meaning in the listening so an understanding of synonyms is important.

This video explains these points in a little more detail. You can also find a summary and other IELTS listening tips in this handy reminder.

Don’t be caught out

In the listening test, the speaker may try to trip up the listener by giving an answer and then changing their decision, or by slipping a negative into a sentence.

That’s why it’s very important to listen carefully for meaning and not just for specific words. Paying attention to tone of voice can also be helpful.

It’s good practice to always keep the next question in mind, as this will help prevent any answers from being missed.

Practice, practice, practice

As with every section of the IELTS test, there’s no substitute for practice. 

The more listening that people can do in advance, the better – whether it’s listening to the radio or podcasts, watching TV or films, listening to online lectures, or listening to any other source of spoken English. It also helps to be familiar with a range of different accents.

Finally, do encourage those taking the test to download our listening resource. And remember, we have other videos to help you support them with the speaking, writing and reading sections of the test.