What is the IELTS Listening test?

a baby listening on headphones

The IELTS test begins with the Listening section. It lasts for roughly 40 minutes.

During the IELTS Listening test, in the exam center, you will be seated on individual desks with headphones in front of you. All the candidates in one test center get the same set of questions with the same audio recordings played only once for everyone at the same time. You would not be able to pause, play, rewind, or skip any section. You would only have the control to increase or decrease the volume on your headset.

There are 40 questions in total divided into four parts with 10 questions each in the IELTS Listening test. Before the beginning of each part, some preparation time is provided in order to go through the questions.

Type of audio in the IELTS Listening test

Generally, the audio recording for the IELTS Listening test consists of a native English speakers talking clearly and fluently on various topics.

You should expect to hear British, American, and Australian accents fairly often in the IELTS Listening test. This does not mean that other accents are not common. Usually, dialects and accents from other English-speaking nations such as Canada, Scotland, and South Africa can also feature in the exam. Lastly, it is not unusual to hear non-native speakers of English in the test such as Indians or Japanese speaking in English with their heavy accents.

The style of speaking can range from formal to colloquial, so candidates have to be familiar with common aspects of the English language as it is used in academia, business, media, entertainment, and casual conversations. It is imperative that you easily comprehend English used in English-language news channels like the CNN, the BBC, and the RT as well as dialogues in popular Hollywood movies and tv shows. Anything more difficult that that, for example, scholarly discussions on esoteric concepts or public debates full of political jargons, is not used in the IELTS Listening test.

Each audio recording is between 5 and 8 minutes in length. In total you will listen to four separate audio recordings with 10 question each.

Part 1 of the Listening test includes a general conversation between two people.

In Part 2, you will listen to a monologue.

Part 3 consists of a group discussion between two to three people in an academic context.

Part 4 comprises of a classroom lecture on an academic topic.

The answers in the audio recordings are provided in the same order as the questions appear in the question paper.

The Listening Answer Sheet

Candidates are supposed to listen attentively to the audio recordings and jot down the answers in the question paper itself without caring much for handwriting or spelling. There is a separate answer sheet and extra time of 10 minutes is provided to copy the answers in the answer sheet in a neat and clear manner.

ielts listening answer sheet

The answer sheet has 40 blanks marked with numbers 1 to 40 which are supposed to represent the question numbers. After the end of all the audio recordings, you have to write the answers in the answer sheet in the corresponding boxes.

You are supposed to use a pencil to fill in the answer sheet. It is highly advisable you write your answers in block letters (UPPERCASE) so that they are easy for the examiners to read.

Questions are either multiple choice or fill in the blanks. For multiple choice questions, you need to enter the correct letter (A, B, or C) in the box. Alternatively, for fill in the blanks questions, you have to listen attentively to the words spoken in the audio recording so as to write them down exactly into the answer sheet. Errors in spelling, grammar, and word order may make the answer incorrect. There is also a word-limit instruction you have to pay attention to.


Depending on how many questions out of 40 you get correct in the IELTS Listening test, your score is converted into a band scale of 9.0. Each correct answer gets you 1 point and each incorrect answer gets you 0 point.

The questions get progressively difficult as you move further along the IELTS Listening test. That means the first few questions are the easiest while the questions towards the end are the hardest.

For a band score of 6.0, candidates generally have to get 23 questions correct. Similarly, getting around 30 questions correct will result in a score of 7.0. Click here » to see a detailed chart for the score calculation of the Listening test.

As IELTS Listening test is considered the easiest section compared to Reading, Writing, and Speaking, a full score of 9.0 is not uncommon. Many of my own students have also been able to score 9.0 out of 9.0 in the Listening test. A habit of watching Hollywood movies or series is the key to success.

Next lesson:

IELTS Listening Part 1

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