Top Tips for IELTS

IELTS listening guide


 Map of the IELTS listening test

IELTS listening map 


Key points

around 30 minutes

10 questions per section

questions get harder later in test

10 minutes at end to fill out answer sheet 


Understanding IELTS listening

Easy to harder

The questions start off easy with listening to in a social context (like checking in at a hotel) and get slowly harder until you get to an academic lecture

One people and two people speaking

Note also that you must listen to both one and two people speaking - this can make it harder It is important that you spell all the answers correctly - any wrongly spelled answers are marked as wrong

Time to read the questions first

You are given time before each section to read the questions

You should use this time to think about what you are going to listen to and think what the answers might be

Time at the end to fill out the answer sheet

You are given 10 minutes at the end of the test to fill out your newer sheet - use this time to make sure your answers are correctly spelled and grammatically correct


Learn the types of question

A smart way to prepare is to learn the different types of question. There are 6:

  1. multiple choice
  2. selection
  3. short answers - video lesson
  4. sentence completion
  5. labelling a map/diagram
  6. form completion

You should practice each type of question.

Note you need to write down answers to the questions types 3-6,while you only need to select the correct alternatives in types 1 and 2 

Download and learn how to fill out the answer sheet

How to fill out the answer sheet

Listening answer sheet (3663)

Some FAQs and their answers

Q: Can I use a pen?

A: No you must use a pencil


Q: What happens if I make a mistake?

A: You erase and write the new answer


Q: Does spelling matter?

A: Yes. But both US and UK are allowed


Q: Must I use capital letters?

A: No. But it is a good idea if your writing is bad


Q: What about dates?

A: Different formats are fine. For October 25 1965 you can write

25 10 1965

October 25th 1965 

25th October 1965


Q: Does grammar matter?

A: Yes. If the answer is computer then computers may be wrong. You need to be particularly careful in sentence completion questions.


IELTS band score calculator for listening


In a hurry? Get my quick IELTS listening tips

10 top tips for IELTS listening



What are the skills you need in IELTS listening?


The key skills you need for IELTS listening are:

  • ability to predict answers
  • understand the context
  • ability to recognise words
  • ability to understand paraphrase (the meanings of words)
  • ability to follow signpost language especially in a lecture
  • ability to listen to two people talking together
  • note-taking
  • good spelling


Some of my older listening lessons

How to avoid mistakes in IELTS listening -  video lesson that focuses on key word strategy 

Using BBC 6 minute English to improve your listening

Get some online listening practice

These are some of the video listening exercises I post on my FB page. Videos can make great practice.

Quick video listening practice

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