Top Tips for IELTS

Short answer questions in IELTS listening – preparation time

This video lesson looks at the skills you need to answer short answer questions in IELTS listening. The idea is that each type of question needs a slightly different approach – in particular in your preparation time.

Before you listen

Before you listen try and think what you do in your 30 second preparation time for short answer questions in IELTS listening. One clue is that it isn’t enough just:

look for key words

predict answers

If you want to listen well, there are more precise skills you need to think about.

Now listen/watch to my advice

What did you understand?

Here are the main ideas I wanted to communicate in this video lesson.


Main points for short answer questions


  1. Different question types need different skills – i.e. you need precise skills for short answer questions
  2. Practise smart – learn the problems of different questions – practise short questions by themselves to improve your skills

About short answer questions

There is 4 step procedure to think about:

  1. understand what the question wants you to do – e.g.  how many words do you need to write
  2. look for what type of words you need – this means focussing on the question words
  3. look for “words that tell you when the answer is coming
  4. read the whole question to understand its meaning – remember that you may need to listen for meaning/paraphrase

More videos on my Youtube Channel

I am now regularly uploading videos to my video channel DC IELTS – some of these are on older lessons so you will only be able to find them by subscribing to the channel.

More listening advice



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7 Responses to Short answer questions in IELTS listening – preparation time

  1. justnight April 2, 2014 at 3:29 am #

    Thanks for your sharing!

    I guess there is a problem about that “Find me on Facebook” section on the left of this page, because it’s wider than others so that actually it covers part of the main context.
    BTW, I’m using chrome on Linux, hope that helps.

    • Dominic Cole April 2, 2014 at 6:58 am #

      Hmmmmm. Think it must be a Linux thing – on my Mac Chrome browser there’s no issue. As it happens I suspect I’ll be going for a lighter FB plugin quite shortly.

  2. Sevinj April 2, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    I have a big problem with multiple-choice questions. Almost everyone recommends to read beforehand all questions. But there is not enough time for it. When I am in the middle of reading the voice says: Now try these questions:) Do we have time in real exam to read questions? Moreover, I always wonder if there is the introducing part in their recordings as well as in Cambridge practice books. It is so important to me. Do we have opportunity manage our reading time before listening ourselves? Thank you in advance!

    • Dominic Cole April 2, 2014 at 7:15 pm #


      I believe that you need different strategies for different types of questions – that’s really what this lesson is about. MCQs are tough because:

      1. there is so much to read
      2. the options may look very similar – so you get confused

      There are different choices available here. I’d suggest that you try not to read all the questions before. There’s no point if you don’t get the right info from them and you are still reading when the listening starts. Rather try reading just the “stem” part of the questions before and read the option parts as you go through. That’s a technique that can work for some.

      I’ll try and cover MCQs next week when I do more listening.

  3. Maah May 18, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    Dominic Cole

    I pay my gratitude to you for an excellent service you have rendered for IELTS students.


  4. goleiakh September 18, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Dear Mr Cole,

    Thank you for your teaches, but there is a problem about the video. it has really bad voice. I will be grateful if you upload a good version for listening.
    (I don’t know my sentences are correct or not, please inform me if I made a mistake to writing these sentences.)

    Thank you

  5. Bharath October 7, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    I am taking too much time for reading, though I practice, I am unable to skim or scan… What do I do?

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