Top Tips for IELTS

Part 4 listening practice

This is the next in my series of free practice listening for IELTS. This time I am focussing on part 4 which is the hardest part. Before the listening, it is worth considering for a moment what makes part 4 tough. Knowing the problem is always part of the solution. In this post, I am going to focus on just problem – time.

The problem of time

The part 4 listening goes on for around 5 minutes without a break. Part of the problem is that’s quite a long time to concentrate particularly at the end of the test. I’m thinking of something more particular though: you get only one answer every 30 seconds or so. This means you can spend a lot of time hearing no answers and so it becomes easy to get lost. You don’t know if you’re waiting for question 2 or of it has moved onto question 4.



Try to understand how the talk is structured and make sure you keep up with the listening

The first solution is simple enough: always look at two questions at once. It’s never a problem to miss one answer, it’s only a problem if you miss two answers because you don’t know what you’re listening for.

The second solution is to spend just a little time looking over all the questions to see how the talk is structured. If you can understand this, then you should be able to follow the talk as it proceeds and not get lost.

An example

Let’s look at this sample listening to see what I mean:

See the big picture

I’m not a very big fan of spending too much time trying to predict the answers to individual questions before you listen – I simply don’t believe that you have enough time for that. What I suggest is that you clear your head and see the big picture and then relax so you can concentrate as you listen.

Here the big picture is:

  • there are two topics: malaria and quinine
  • the quinine part is generally chronological: it starts near the 17th century and ends in the 1940s

This is useful information because you know if the speaker (me!) starts talking about quinine and not malaria you skip onto question 5. Then you know to concentrate when you hear dates and if you hear a later date, you move onto that question.

The detail

This I’ll leave to you for now, but you’ll find some notes added as a comment to help you out and then you can download the tapescript to see the answers.

The one point I would make is that you should only concentrate on the first one or two questions before you listen. If you try and focus on all the questions, you are likely to confuse yourself with too much information. You will have plenty of time to look at them as you listen.

Listen and download the tapescript

The answers are added as a comment below. I strongly suggest you listen at least twice and the second time you read through with the tapescript so you can see how to find the answers.

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25 Responses to Part 4 listening practice

  1. Dominic Cole December 17, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    1 and 2: headaches and weakness. Note that these two answers come very quickly one after the other. This is quite a common pattern. You hear nothing for 45 seconds and then two answers come along at the same time. Also note the trap with the word “cause”, you hear it quite a lot but not with this sentence. You need to listen for meaning, not individual words.

    3 dinosaurs. Note it must be a noun following “the”

    4 mosquito habitats. Note that you shouldn’t worry about the spelling as you listen. You can do that at the end. I suggest you write “mos habit” or something similar and try to keep listening.

    5. Peru/1638 You should be able to guess it is a time or a place because of “in”

    6. “widespread”. A harder one. You need to understand “combatting” is a synonym for “fighting”.

    7. “annual crop”. Note the “an”, you must need a word beginning with a vowel.

    8. “production”. The tough part here is that you need to understand the word “monopoly” in the question matches 97% in the listening.

    9.”chemical substitute”. Another long one I wouldn’t bother writing out in full – keep listening.

    10.” Japanese”. You should be able to guess you are listening for the name of a people from the question. To get the answer you need to understand implied meaning from the listening. That’s the sort of listening you get in part 4.

  2. Serge December 22, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    In 1 I’ve putted headache not headacheS. Is this also a correct answer ?
    6 and 7 were the hardest for me 🙂

    • Dominic Cole December 22, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

      Nope. Sorry it must be headaches. Spelling is crucial in the listening. One way to know it must be “headacheS” is that “headache” is not grammatically correct. In your checking time in the real exam you should always check that your answer is grammatical.

  3. chips June 1, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    I’m sorry but I’m afraid I misunderstand about something. Why it must be “headaches”? I mean why we use plural hear?

    • Dominic Cole June 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

      You need to use “headaches” as we use the plural to speak generally.

  4. shivakuamr August 23, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    Hello sir, i have gone throw this test. however i was un able to catch up right answers and i did only four. it was a bit difficult to follow his pronounciation and i am unable to do better in listing test.

  5. Patel September 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    Very impressive and extremely difficult … appreciated ur quality work …

  6. Orma September 26, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    definitely a difficult one to is still a very good listening practice. thanks!!!!

  7. jonas October 15, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    this part of the listening is the toughest…it is hard to keep your concentration while listening for subtle meanings and inferences

  8. vibinu November 26, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    a tough task..:-(

  9. Dr S Kamath January 18, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    Hi I am not able to have the audio Loaded hence Cannot hear the same what is the solution ?

  10. farshid January 25, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    6 out of 10 (Not bad)

  11. binu May 20, 2012 at 4:29 am #

    I am not able to hear few of the listening modules.

  12. Rashmi July 8, 2012 at 5:04 am #

    Hello sir,
    The audio of only part 1 was audible. MCQs and Part 4 couldn’t be uploaded. Kindly let me know whether there is need for some flash player version to hear the tasks.

    • Dominic Cole July 8, 2012 at 5:14 am #


      Thanks for letting me know. As it happens, I am even now working to fix problems with audio files – the whole site crashed about a month back and this means I need to re-upload all sorts of files, which is a time-consuming business. It will probably take me a day or so to get right. Sorry

  13. MEHBOOB ALAM July 14, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    many more students and their ancestors will pray for u i think this is so enough for a guid line.for a success every students have to do a great hard work for his ownself.with best ragards

    • Mye August 5, 2012 at 9:13 am #

      Hi Dominic,
      Listening task seems to be a difficult one for me, though for others seem to be the easiest..You’re great, you give a very helpful and useful I will follow your tips on my
      upcoming exam..your blog site helped me a lot..hope I can maki it on my exam..Thank you very much.. You deserved a a gazillion thanks.

  14. alma September 18, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    i like all your tips and lessons. i already took ielts several times though it expires again before i can go abroad. even though im an advance learner, i still find your site very helpful and i keep coming back. i’m not finish yet with all your courses. keep up the good work. God bless….

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  16. JD June 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Pretty Difficult..Got 7/10 in 2nd attempt:)..Got 5 correct in the first one..

  17. karthi October 16, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    hellow sir;
    your site is awesome . its shows all the relevant content which we need for beginners of IELTS . I learned massive amount of technique from you . ..thanks allot

  18. Karina October 25, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    this task is so difficult… when I read the next answers, i distract and then I miss the answers… 🙁

  19. Alaa Eldin April 23, 2014 at 6:35 am #

    Thank you so much Dominic for this tremendous website, I have learned alot from it.

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