Are you preparing for the IELTS exam and need some help with the listening section? If so, then you’ll know that the listening section can be one of the most challenging parts of the test. However, by the end of this blog post, you’ll have all the techniques and strategies you need to pass the IELTS listening section!

Let’s start by talking about the differences between the listening sections in the IELTS General exam and the IELTS Academic exam.


What is the difference between the IELTS General and the IELTS Academic listening sections?


As you may already know, there are two types of IELTS exams: IELTS Academic and IELTS General.

The listening sections in the IELTS General and IELTS Academic exams are exactly the same. However, some other parts of the exams are very different.

Learn more about the differences between the IELTS General and Academic exams.


How many parts are in the IELTS listening section?


There are four parts in total. They are:

1. A conversation between two people in an everyday social context (e.g. a job enquiry).

2. A monologue set in an everyday social context (e.g. a radio advertisement).

3. A conversation between up to four people in an educational context (e.g. a tutor giving a student some feedback on their coursework).

4. A monologue on an academic subject (e.g. a university lecture about a specific topic).


How many questions are in the IELTS listening section?


In total, there are 40 questions. There are 10 questions in each of the four parts of the exam.

1. Multiple choice

There is a question followed by three possible answers. Listen to the recording and choose whether option A, B or C is correct.

IELTS_Multiple choice

2. Matching

Listen to the recording and match a numbered list of items to some options on the question paper.


3. Plan, map, diagram labelling

Complete the labels on a plan, map, or diagram. Usually the answers are in a list for you to choose from, like in the example below. You need to listen carefully and write them in the correct places on the map/diagram/plan.

IELTS_Plan, map, diagram labelling


4. Form, note, table, flow-chart, summary completion

Fill in the gaps in an outline (this can include filling in information on a form, summarising the stages of a flow-chart, etc.).

In the example below, you can see that you need to listen for specific information in order to complete the notes. Do not exceed any of the given word/number limits in the exam or you will not get a point for your answer.

IELTS_Form, note, table, flow-chart, summary completion


5. Sentence completion

Read some sentences which summarise key information from the listening text, then complete the gaps in each sentence using the information from the recording.

IELTS_Sentence completion


6. Short-answer questions

Read a question and then write a short answer using information from the recording.

IELTS_Short-answer questions


Check out more details about the IELTS test format. If you feel like you’re ready to have a go at some of these exam questions, try some sample tests.


How is the IELTS listening section scored?


Each question is worth one mark.

It’s important to know that you do not lose points for incorrect or blank answers. So if you’re unsure about an answer, just have a guess and leave nothing blank!

Now, do you know how many points you need to get a certain band score? Well, take a look at this handy chart that we’ve put together for you.

IELTS_Band score

Important facts about the IELTS listening exam


  • You have 30 minutes of listening and 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer paper.
  • You only hear the recording once.
  • You do not get points for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • You do not get points for exceeding word/number limits.
  • The questions are designed to appear in order as they are heard in the recording.
  • You will hear a range of accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand, American and Canadian.

How to pass the IELTS listening section


  • Carefully check that you have no grammar/spelling mistakes and you do not exceed any word/number limits.
  • Expose yourself to a range of accents. Listen to podcasts, films and TV series to help.
  • Practise with as many mock exams as you can. If you have any incorrect answers, try to find out why. Did you fall for a trap? Were they speaking too quickly? Knowing why you answered incorrectly will help you know what you need to focus on and improve.

More helpful IELTS resources


You now have everything you need to pass the IELTS listening section! However, we have even more IELTS resources to help you with the other parts of the exam:


Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

strategy (n): a detailed plan to achieve success.

monologue (n): a long speech given by one person.

come across (pv): to find something by chance.

exceed (v): to go past a limit.

have a go at (pv): to make an attempt at doing something.

blank (adj): empty, containing no information or answer.

put together (pv): to collect many things and put them in one place.

mock (adj): not real. A ‘mock test/exam/paper’ is a practice test/exam/paper.

trap (n): a bad situation that is difficult to escape from.


n = noun

adj = adjective

pv = phrasal verb

v = verb

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