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About the IELTS Listening test and how to prepare

Feeling well prepared for the Reading, Writing and Speaking parts of your test, but need a little more practice on the Listening section?

We can help make sure you’re feeling ready by providing you with information about what to expect on the day, the types of questions you’ll be asked and how to get the best marks.

Read this blog to make sure you’re ready for the IELTS Listening section!

Test format: What to expect in your IELTS Listening test

There are four recordings to listen to in the Listening section of the test, and you have a total of about 30 minutes to complete these. If you are doing the IELTS on paper test, you also have an extra ten minutes on top to transfer your answers to your answer sheet.

Your exam paper will include questions based on the recording you’ve just listened to, asking you to pick out key pieces of information and write them down. You can make notes during the course of the recording, and you will also have time to write up your answers once the recording has finished.

You’ll be asked 40 questions altogether – 10 questions on each recording – and you should answer all of them if you can. Each question is worth one mark.

*Top Tip: Remember, rushing won’t help so take some deep breaths and try to relax. Assigning enough time to look through the questions beforehand is always a good idea, and the same goes for double checking your answers once you’ve completed them.

Listening test sections

Make sure you know what each section of the Listening test will involve. Here is a breakdown of the type of content you can expect from the four recordings in your exam.

Recording 1
This involves a conversation between two people in an everyday social situation.

Recording 2
This includes a monologue set in an everyday social situation. For example, a speech about local facilities.

Recording 3
This includes a conversation between up to four people and is set in a more formal educational or training setting, i.e., a student and university tutor discussing an assignment.

Recording 4
The includes another monologue, but this time on an academic subject. For example, a university lecture.

Getting ready for your Listening test

British Council has lots of past sample tests you can listen to, to help you prepare for the IELTS Listening section. These include recordings for each of the four parts, plus accompanying questions similar to those you’ll receive on the day.

Access your British Council practice tests here:

Practice IELTS Listening test: Part 1

Practice IELTS Listening test: Part 2

Practice IELTS Listening test: Part 3

Practice IELTS Listening test: Part 4

*Top Tip: If you want to do some additional studying while out and about, why not take in the conversation around you and absorb the language? It’s a great opportunity to get in some good practice when it comes to picking out key pieces of information ahead of your IELTS test.

How much preparation do I need to do for the Listening section?

The more you practice for your IELTS Listening exam, the more at ease you’ll feel on test day. Doing practice tests is as much about getting used to the test format as it is about improving your mark. The pre-exam mock tests also help you to identify what level you are at, and which areas of the Listening test are your weaker ones, meaning you know which areas to focus on in your preparation.

It’s difficult to give an exact number of hours you’ll need to dedicate to practicing as everyone learns at different speeds, but it is certainly worth overpreparing! Plus, you might just earn yourself a better score if you do, so there’s nothing to lose!

Top tips for doing well on your IELTS Listening test

When practicing, only allow yourself one play of the recording
During your Listening exam, each recording will only be played once. So, practice completing the full listening test as many times as you can, using just one play-through of the recording. This will get you in the right mindset for the actual exam and mean you know what expect on the day.

Practice multi-tasking
Remember that in the exam room, you’ll have to listen to the recording, read the exam questions and write down your answers, before moving on to the next recording. So, there’s an element of multi-tasking you need to master. Practice going through these steps within the allocated timeframe, so that you’re used to this process when it comes to test day.

Familiarise yourself with the written questions first
Before the recording starts, familiarise yourself with the questions in front of you so that it’s fresh in your mind what kind of content you’ll be listening out for.

Try to answer all the questions
If you aren’t sure of the answer, take your best guess. It’s better to have a go than to leave it blank. Remember, every question is worth a mark and you just might get it right.

Listen out for key words or phrases
Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything. Concentrate on picking out key words or phrases that relate to the question in front of you – or words or phrases that are similar to those presented on your exam. This will help you to pinpoint the areas of the recording that are relevant and give you some context for the questions.

Knowing the test format
The recordings get more challenging as the test goes on. It’s worth keeping this in mind when it comes to taking the IELTS Listening test, so it doesn’t come as a shock and you feel fully prepared for this on test day.

Booked your IELTS test yet?

Put your knowledge to the test and book your IELTS exam today.

There are over 80 British Council test centres across Canada, so you’re sure to find one near you. Find your nearest centre here and register online now with British Council.