How to Prepare for the IELTS Listening Test

How to Prepare for the IELTS Listening Test… One of the several tests that you’ll be required to take is the IELTS listening test. When registering for the International English Testing System (IELTS) exams, you’ll be required to sit for a number of tests to determine your proficiency in the English language.


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test assesses all of your English skills – listening, reading, writing as well as speaking.

The IELTS listening test takes about 30 minutes to complete and consists of four subsections (passages) and 40 questions. At the end of the listening tasks, you have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.


What will you listen to during the test?

  • The first 2 listening passages usually include 2 people having a conversation – one person requests information from the other.
  • The third listening passage is often a discussion between 2, possibly 3 people, and is often based on a college/university theme, e.g. a project, preparing a presentation, etc.
  • The fourth listening passage is more similar to a lecture, so only 1 person will be talking.
  • Generally, the listening passages get more complex as you progress.

IELTS Listening Test Instructions

In the actual test you will be given the following instructions:

  • Do not open this question paper until you are told to do so
  • Write your name and candidate number in the spaces at the top of this page
  • Listen to the instructions for each part of the paper carefully
  • Answer all the questions
  • While you are listening, write your answers on the question paper
  • You will have 10 minutes at the end of the test to copy your answers onto the separate answer sheet; use a pencil

At the end of the test you will be asked to hand in the question paper.

How to Prepare for the IELTS Listening Test

  • Listen to audio materials and read the instructions very carefully.
  • Remember you will only listen to each passage ONCE.
  • There is a 30 seconds break between each listening and often about 20 seconds between each set of questions within a listening.
  • Use this ‘spare’ time carefully to read the questions and survey the page. Get an idea of the context. Find out who is speaking, where they are and what is the purpose of the conversation. Try to predict the type of information you need, e.g. a name, a place, a point of view, etc.
  • Listen to the recording and write your answers on the question page.
  • Don’t worry too much about spelling now, just write what you hear. You will have time at the end to check.
  • Don’t stop listening because you think you’ve got the answer. Sometimes, speakers correct themselves or change their minds.
  • Try to carry 2 questions in your head, i.e. anticipate the next question.
  • If you think you’ve missed an answer, don’t panic! Forget it and quickly move on to the next question.
  • As you look at the questions, think of synonyms or other ways of saying the same thing, e.g. if the question asks about how something is financed, you might hear something about funding.

Transferring your answers

You have just 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet at the end of the test. Your answers must be correctly spelt, and make grammatical sense. If you have problems remembering when to use capital letters, write all your answers in capitals e.g. write “ENGLISH” instead of English, and certainly not “english”!!!! Check your spelling – look at the answer you wrote on the question page and ask yourself: Is this right? Last but not least, make sure you put the answer against the correct question number. You don’t want to get a low score because you got this simple task wrong!

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