Test Preparation

How To Prepare For IELTS - Listening Section

How To Prepare For IELTS - Listening Section

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IELTS listening section can get a bit tricky, but we have got you covered. Check here IELTS listening study tips, topics, sample questions and books, and so on!

Yogender Panchal
Updated on:  27 Sep 2023  | Reviewed By: 
| 8.15K | 10  min read

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is taken to assesses your English skills in all sections i.e. listening, reading, writing, and speaking. IELTS listening section takes 30 minutes to complete and includes four subsections and 40 questions. At the end of the IELTS listening tasks, you get 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. In this blog, we will cover some IELTS listening preparation tips and know the best ways to practice for this component.


What is the IELTS Listening Test?

There are two types of IELTS scores - overall band scores and sectional band scores. Speaking of sectional band scores and their importance in achieving a good overall score, let us now take a look at one of the most important and difficult sections of the test - the Listening section. The IELTS listening test is divided into four sections, and each section is more difficult than the preceding one. You will be given four passages to hear; remember, you can hear each passage only for once. The time for the test is 40 minutes.

Read more about: IELTS Syllabus

The listening part takes 30 minutes, and then you have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to an answer sheet. The first two sections of the test have questions related to social needs. The final two sections have questions based on situations related to educational or training contexts. All the IELTS listening topics deal with general topics, and it makes no difference what subjects you are planning to study or what work you intend to do. A range of English accents and dialects are used in the recordings which reflects the international usage of IELTS.


What are the Different Sections of the Test?

There are four subsections in total in the IELTS Listening section, an overview of which is given in the table below:

Sections of the IELTS Listening Test


Social Needs

Conversation Between 2 Speakers


Social Needs

Speech By 1 Speaker


  Educational Or Training  

  Conversation Between up to 4 Speakers  


Academic Subject

Speech By 1 Speaker


Now let’s get a detailed insight into each of these sections:

  • list items Section 1 - In the first section, there will be a short conversation between two speakers. For example - a conversation about travel plans, booking accommodation, or decisions about a party or celebration.
  • list items Section 2 - The second section will have a monologue (a speech by a person). It will be set in an everyday social context. For example - a speech about student services at a University campus or arrangements for meals during a conference.
  • list items Section 3 - In this section, there will be a conversation between up to four people. For example - a conversation between a teacher and a student about a test or between three students planning to write a research paper.
  • list items Section 4 - The final part is yet another monologue. It could be a lecture or talk on subjects of general academic interest, for example, a college or university lecture.

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What are the different types of questions in the IELTS Listening Section?

For the listening section, each of the four recordings has 10 questions implying that there are 40 questions in total. These forty questions are of six different types. The number of questions for each type may vary, however, it has generally been observed that there is an equal distribution of questions between all the six types.

Following are the six types of questions asked in the IELTS listening section:

  1. list items Multiple Choice  
  2. list items Short-Answer Questions  
  3. list items Sentence Completion  
  4. list items Notes/Summary/Diagram/Flow Chart/Table Completion  
  5. list items Labeling a diagram which has numbered parts  
  6. list items Classification  
  7. list items Matching  

How to Prepare for  IELTS Listening Section Preparation?

As we get our grip on the basics of the section, let’s now discuss how to prepare for the test. Following are some IELTS Listening section preparation tips which will guide you as to how to study for the section and obtain a decent score on the test.

Regular Study - Firstly, it is extremely crucial for candidates to be consistent and study for the IELTS on a regular basis. Since there are three other sections along with the listening section, it is important for test-takers to equally distribute time between all the sections; an ideal strategy would be to devote 1.5 hours to each section daily. Check for IELTS Listening practice tests online and try to solve the sample questions within the aforementioned time.

A Feasible Time-Table - Candidates should devote a minimum of 3-6 weeks to IELTS listening section preparation depending on their skill level from good to average. As they begin with the preparations, they should take about 1-2 days to understand the test format and the question pattern for the particular section. They can then start practicing for the section. 

Improve Listening Skills - A common error which candidates often commit while preparing for the section is that they jump onto IELTS listening practice tests directly. One should remember that if one’s conceptual base or basic listening skills are weak, one would never get a firm grip over the section, irrespective of the number of mock tests attempted. Therefore, it is advised that candidates practice listening exercises and listen to audio or listening materials like radio reports, documentaries, TV shows, and programs and then move on to IELTS listening practice papers. 

Practicing Mock Tests - One cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of attempting complete and sectional mock and practice tests. Candidates are advised to practice online IELTS listening practice tests on a regular basis once they are done with their basic preparation so that they do not only get to practice different types of questions with varying difficulty levels but also habituate themselves to the pattern of the exam.

Devising Strategies as per Mock Test Performance - As candidates practice mock tests, they will also be able to assess their overall performance in the section on the basis of the score obtained. It is advised that candidates analyze their performance and take corrective measures to improve. If one’s score in the section comes below 7, one could consider joining a coaching center or getting help from seniors.

Furthermore, while practicing the IELTS listening test papers, candidates will come across questions or segments which take them longer to solve or understand. The best way is to devote more time to such areas by practicing more and trying to achieve better conceptual clarity. Additionally, they may also keep a track of how long they usually take to solve such questions and then come up with proper time management strategies to be able to address those questions well within time while also not compromising on others.

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What Are Some Preparation Sources For IELTS Listening Section? 

There are abundant resources available both online and offline with the help of which candidates can prepare for the overall test as well as for the section. Below, we have selected some sites and books which you can refer to for preparing for IELTS listening with answers. These resources will be ideal for those who prefer to study on their own instead of taking help from coaching centers. 

Online Resources - 

  • list items www.IELTS.org
  • list items IELTS Liz YouTube channel
  • list items IDP  India
  • list items British Council
  • list items IELTS for Free

Offline Resources - 

  • list items The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS by Cambridge University Press
  • list items Official IELTS Practice Materials by Cambridge ESOL
  • list items British Council for IELTS
  • list items Barron's IELTS Practice Exams by Lin Lougheed

What Kind of Questions Do You Have To Tackle in IELTS?

Below are some sample questions to help you get a fair idea of the questions asked in the section. Further, you could also use these sources for practice purposes. 


What are the tips that I should keep in mind while attempting the IELTS Listening Section?

Some tips have been added below for attempting the section. These instructions are crucial for candidates to follow to attempt the examination properly and avoid major mistakes:

Read the Instructions and Questions Carefully

The most important task you need to do before the recording starts is to read the instructions and questions carefully. Instructions are important because they tell you how to answer the questions. For example: 
If a question says, “Write no more than one word and/or a number for each answer.”
According to the instruction, you need to know that you should write just one word/number for each blank. Always remember that even the articles like “a”/ “an”/ “the” count as words.
As reading the questions while listening will divert your attention from the listening material, it is better to read them while the speaker is reading the example question.

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Use Your Prior Knowledge During the Test

Use your prior knowledge from your own understanding and life experience to predict the words. Most situations in IELTS listening test are familiar to the students and are related to the events of everyday life. 

Write your Answers on the Test Paper First

For the IELTS paper-based test, it is advised to jot down the answers on the test paper first and then transfer them to the answer sheet while listening to the recordings. You will be distracted if you write the answers directly on the answer sheet because you will have to take care of other important things too such as handwriting and spelling. Also, you will be given another 10 minutes to write your answer sheet at the end of the listening section which you can utilize to write your responses on the answer sheet.

Check your Spellings and Grammar 

Before submitting your answer sheet to the invigilator, do not forget to check your spelling and grammar, especially of the plural and past forms of nouns and verbs, etc. Despite knowing these rules, candidates still commit silly errors in the test. Therefore, one should take extra care of even these minor things which play a major role in one’s score.

Focus on Listening for Answers 

The listening materials contain a lot of information to confuse the test-takers. Candidates should be only focusing on listening for answers and filtering out all the irrelevant information instead of trying to understand everything. 


How to Prepare for  IELTS Listening to a Week Before?

How you approach the section a week before plays a major role in your performance on the exam day. Here are a few tips which you can follow a week before the exam: 

  1. list items First, get a crystal clear understanding of the examination format and the question pattern of the test. 
  2. list items Secondly, take multiple sectional and complete mock tests to fine-tune your preparations. 
  3. list items After practicing the mock tests, take note of your strong and weak areas and improvements. Work accordingly on them.
  4. list items Update yourself with the vocabulary used in academic conversations and common situations. 



What are the Key Pointers to Keep in Mind on the Day of IELTS?

Listed below are some tips which you should keep in mind on the day of the examination:

  1. list items Make sure your headphones are working. If not, let you are your problem be known to the invigilator.
  2. list items Ensure that the sound is audible and clear to you, if not, raise your hand and get your problem addressed.
  3. list items Listen carefully to all the instructions which will be given in the examination hall.
  4. list items Use capital letters to write your answers.
  5. list items You are not allowed to wear a watch inside. Keep an eye on the clock inside the hall for a time.
  6. list items Get proper rest and supper the day before the exam. Relax and do not panic on the day of the exam.
  7. list items Focus and be calm while attempting the test.
  8. list items Don't cheat, else you will be disqualified from the examination. 
  9. list items Do not write after the invigilator tells to stop or else the paper will be canceled.
  10. list items  Don't use any form of learning aid during the examination.


As can be inferred from above, one really needs to be on one’s toes while attempting the IELTS listening section. Not only should the candidate train himself/herself in answering questions correctly but he/she should also strive towards developing his/her concentration power and multi-tasking skills. Furthermore, deciding a proper strategy to approach the exam, for example, when to listen to the instructions, when to read and understand the questions, and when to write, is of paramount importance to the test-takers as it will help them to tackle the exam adroitly. Additionally, to know more such preparation tips for the other sections, candidates can click here. 

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