Discover which listening skills are evaluated in the IELTS

Listening is not merely the act of hearing, but a powerful ability that unlocks a world of understanding, connection, and opportunity. In the realm of language proficiency, listening skills are the key to success, and the IELTS exam provides the ultimate stage to showcase this competence. Keep reading to discover what examiners are looking for, and some task examples to obtain a successful score.

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Listening skills: How does this section of the IELTS work?

First you should know that the listening section is the same for both IELTS Academic and General Training. It has 40 questions that you must answer within 30 minutes.  

Let’s look at some examples for each recording (which are 4 in total) so that you know what you can expect on the test day, and which listening skills the examiners will evaluate 

Recording one

The first recording is a conversation about an everyday situation.   

  • Example:  

You will hear a conversation between two people. They are discussing plans for an upcoming social event. Listen carefully and answer the following question. 

      – Conversation: 

Speaker 1: Hey, have you heard about the event next week? 

Speaker 2: Yeah, I have. What’s it for? 

Speaker 1: We’re welcoming our new colleague, Sarah. It’s a bit of a get-together. 

Speaker 2: Oh, that sounds nice. So, it’s not a birthday or charity event, right? 

Speaker 1: No, it’s just a welcome party for Sarah. 

Speaker 2: Got it. Count me in! 

      – Question: What is the main purpose of the event they are discussing? 

A) To celebrate a birthday
B) To raise money for a charity
C) To welcome a new colleague
D) To organize a surprise party for a friend

– Correct Answer: C) To welcome a new colleague.  

Even if all the answers include something said in the conversation, don’t let yourself get confused, and focus on the question, which is helpful to read before the recording starts.  

Now that you have an example, be aware that you will be assessed on the following points:  

  • Your ability to follow conversations 
  • Finding out what each person is talking about 
  • Understanding the general overview of the conversation. 
  • Picking out details, such as names, dates, numbers, and other specific information from the recording. 
  • The competence to comprehend the speakers’ attitudes, opinions, and emotions conveyed in the conversation. 
  • Getting the purpose of the spoken words or phrases, whether they are giving instructions, asking for information, making suggestions, etc. 

A group of women talking while holding a cup of coffee.


Recording two  

The second recording is a monologue about daily life.   

  • Example:  

You will hear a speech, talk, or presentation in an everyday social context. Listen carefully and answer the following question. 

      – Monologue: 

In today’s talk, I’d like to discuss some essential tips for staying healthy during the winter months. As we all know, this season can bring about its own set of health challenges. One important step to safeguard your health is to consider getting a flu shot. The flu can be particularly severe during the winter, and vaccination can provide a crucial layer of protection. While a flu shot is important, there are other strategies you can adopt as well. Regular outdoor exercise, even in cold weather, can boost your immune system. Additionally, consider taking vitamin supplements to ensure you’re getting the necessary nutrients your body needs. Another vital point to remember is to avoid close contact with individuals who are sick, as many winter illnesses are contagious. So, remember, while a flu shot is crucial, a combination of these practices can help you stay healthy throughout the winter. 

      – Question: What does the speaker recommend for staying healthy during the winter? 

A) Exercising outdoors
B) Taking vitamin supplements
C) Avoiding contact with sick people
D) Getting a flu shot

-Correct Answer: D) Getting a flu shot.  

As you can see, all the above answers are included in the monologue. However, the key is to identify which point does the speaker emphasizes the most. Regarding this task, the examiners are looking for:  

  • Grasping the primary message or topic of the monologue. 
  • Your capacity to identify details, facts, or recommendations presented. 
  • The comprehension of the order of events, ideas, or steps discussed in the monologue. 
  • Your skill in making logical deductions or educated guesses based on the information provided in the monologue.
  • Understanding the implied meaning or significance behind what is said. 

These listening skills are assessed in a real-life, everyday social context, and your ability to extract information, follow a narrative, and understand the main ideas is crucial for successfully answering the questions related to the monologue in this task. Take them into account when preparing for the IELTS 

Recording three

The third recording is a conversation between two to four people in an academic context.   

  • Example: You will hear a conversation between two or more people in an educational or training context. Listen carefully and answer the following question.

      – Conversation:

Speaker A: I’m worried about the event next week. It seems like there’s a conflict with our schedules. 

Speaker B: Yes, you’re right. The conference is on the same day as our workshop. We can’t be in two places at once. 

Speaker A: I know, and both are crucial. We need to find a solution to this problem. 

Speaker B: I agree. We could potentially reschedule the workshop or find a different time for the conference. 

Speaker A: That might work, but we should also consider the participants’ availability. Let’s not forget to check with them. 

      – Question: What problem do the speakers encounter? 

A) Technical difficulties with a computer
B) Scheduling conflicts for an event
C) A lack of interest in the topic
D) An issue with finding a venue

-Correct Answer: B) Scheduling conflicts for an event.  

You should know that the same listening skills from the first task are being evaluated here. But, in addition, here are these ones:  

  • Recognizing the relationships between the speakers and how they interact, such as agreements, disagreements, or discussions. 
  • The test assesses your ability to diagnose the problem, challenge, or issue that the speakers are discussing. 
  • Distinguishing between statements of fact and those that reflect personal opinions or beliefs within the conversation.
  • Identifying when speakers change in a multi-speaker conversation, and keeping track of who is saying what. 

A woman practicing her listening skills in her computer


Recording four

The last one is another monologue, but this time regarding an academic subject.  

  • Example: You will hear a university lecture or academic discussion. Listen carefully and answer the following question. 

Good afternoon, everyone. Today, we’re going to delve into a critical issue that affects us all—climate change and its profound impact on modern society. As we know, the world is experiencing a range of environmental challenges, from rising global temperatures to extreme weather events. In this lecture, we will explore how these changes are altering the way we live, affecting everything from agriculture to energy sources and urban planning. We’ll also discuss the importance of adapting to these shifts and the role individuals, communities, and governments play in mitigating climate change’s far-reaching consequences. 

      – Question: What is the main topic or focus of the lecture? 

A) The history of ancient civilizations
B) The impact of climate change on modern society
C) The role of technology in contemporary education
D) The study of cognitive development in children

-Correct Answer: B) The impact of climate change on modern society. 

Besides the abilities assessed on task 2, here are others that you should consider:  

  • Drawing conclusions from the information 
  • Understanding complex vocabulary and academic concepts presented by the speaker. 
  • The test evaluates your capacity to follow and understand the speaker’s argument or presentation, which may involve multiple points and supporting details. 
  • The ability to take effective notes while listening to the lecture to aid in answering questions accurately. 
  • Your aptitude to identify the speaker’s intention, whether it’s informing, explaining, analyzing, or comparing. 
  • Grasping how the lecture is structured, including introductions, transitions, and conclusions. 

Tips to improve your listening skills

At this point, you know what to expect, but here are some tips to improve your listening skills for the IELTS: 

  • Get used to different accents and speaking styles through several kinds of materials (podcasts, music, TV programs, etc.).
  • Expand your vocabulary and understanding of academic language, as these are often featured in the listening section. Reading academic articles or books can help.
  • Time yourself when answering practice questions and take full-length practice tests. This will help you manage your time effectively during the actual exam. 
  • Build your ability to maintain focus during extended listening tasks. Try meditation or mindfulness exercises to enhance your concentration. 
  • In tasks where you need to predict what comes next, work on your ability to anticipate what the speaker might say. This can be a valuable skill for understanding spoken content. 

Remember that improving your listening skills takes time and consistent effort. These tips, when applied regularly, can help you become a more effective listener and perform better in the IELTS listening section. 

Visit the IELTS Canada homepage to find out more 

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