IELTS Listening: Multiple Choice Questions

IELTS Listening: Multiple Choice Questions

Welcome to our continuing series on all IELTS listening question types – today is multiple choice IELTS listening.

You can read here about how to label a map.

Multiple choice questions are some of the more difficult questions mainly because they involve more reading, synonyms. and distractors compared to other parts of IELTS listening.

In this post, we’re going to look at a sample question, an exclusive listening test, the tapescript and you will get some practice doing multiple choice questions.

If you want daily updates about IELTS and help with your English, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.

The Question

You have 30 seconds to read the questions before your listen (you can get an extra 30 seconds by following one of these tips).

There is a lot to read here! I recommend that you don’t spend time trying to think of synonyms or anything like that. You should underline the keywords.

Mainly focus on just reading and understanding the questions. I’m a native speaker and I only have time to carefully read and understand the questions.

If you understand them well, then you can simply listen, understand, and choose the correct answer.

Read carefully:

The Listening

Let’s practice this together.

Look at the questions above and listen to the recording. Write down your answers.

On IELTS you can only listen once but you are practicing now so don’t worry if you have to listen more than one time (that is how you improve your listening).


The Key Tips for IELTS Multiple Choice Questions

How did you do? Comment below!

There are a couple of tips that might help when you are listening.

First, follow along the answers with your pencil. In multiple choice questions, the speakers usually talk about A, B, and C (not in that order).

So follow along with your pencil while you listen. The speakers might switch back and forth between different options multiple times so keep your pencil moving like a cat hunting a mouse!

The second tip is that multiple choice questions contain more distractors than any other type of question (more about that below). So make sure that you are not too focused on the keywords. The test is trying to trick you a lot of the time!

You might hear some key words but other ones will be paraphrased. Focus on the meaning of the questions and the meaning of the words they are saying – not trying to simply here the same words that are in the questions (that is how they trick you in this section!).

Keep reading to see exactly how the test tries to trick you with paraphrases and distractors!


Practice with the Tapescript

This is the most important part.

Whenever you do listening practice, you should always go check your answers in the tapescript and figure out why you got an answer right/wrong. That is how you will get better at question types.

If you just do practice test after practice test, you will improve very slowly. Look at the tapescript and the reasons why answers are right/wrong and you will improve rapidly!

The answer are underline in the tapescript below. Let’s look at each one and pull out the two main challenges for multiple choice questions: distractors and paraphrases/synonyms.




In question 21 it says ‘main topic’ but in the listening this is changed to ‘angle’. An angle is not a direct synonym for main topic but in this context it means the same thing – what they will be talking about.

This is why you should NOT try to think of synonyms when you read the questions. You do not have time and they will not come up. Instead, just focus on understanding the questions and keywords fully.

Here are some more examples paraphrases/synonyms from the listening:

‘Main topic’ changes to ‘angle’

‘How public library services are organised in different countries’ changes to ‘how different countries organise them’

‘Are reflected in’ changes to ‘relate the changes in libraries to external developments’

‘How the funding of public libraries’ changes into ‘changes in the source of funding’

‘Generally old’ changes to ‘out of copyright’ and ‘won’t find the latest best-seller or up-to-date information’

Look at that last one – it isn’t a synonym at all! But in this context it means that same thing.

Don’t waste time looking for synonyms. You should just focus on understanding the questions and keywords well and listening and understanding. There are no shortcuts to this!

Study the tapescript after you practice and underline the paraphrases – this will help you to be more prepared for the test and improve your ability to understand paraphrasing.



Distractors are when the test tries to trick you by showing you something very close to the right answer. For example, Stewart first suggests how libraries have changed and organisation.

You may hear this and quickly choose letter A. This is a distractor.

The more important part is what Trudie says – that they should relate the changes to external developments such as literacy and the languages that people speak.

The correct answer is B because Trudie is talking about changes in society. This is very difficult because she is giving examples of changes in society – not just saying ‘changes in society.’

In question 22 there is another distractor. Trudie says that it takes her a long time to read on screens (so you may think that the answer is A) but Stewart disagrees (‘Oh, I prefer it.’). The question asks about what they ‘agree’ about so it cannot be A.

The test tries to trick you – those are distractors. Improve your ability to avoid the tricks by looking at the tapescript afterwards so that you are more aware of distractors.

Here are the full answers:

21. B

22. C

23. C

There are no shortcuts on IELTS listening – you must improve your vocabulary in order to be able to read and understand the questions and then listen and understand what they are talking about. If this was too hard for you, you probably shouldn’t be studying IELTS at all.


Further Practice

If you need any further practice you can take a look at this video from my YouTube channel:


Comment below: Are multiple choice questions the hardest questions on the listening test?


Practice your IELTS Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking with The Avengers

Practice your IELTS Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking with The Avengers

First of all, let me apologise: IELTS is supposed to be boring. Sometimes I can’t resist making an interesting lesson about IELTS.

In this post, you’re going to do some practice and learn some tips for IELTS speaking, listening, reading, and writing (while talking about The Avengers).

For speaking, we are going to learn about Part 2 with two different sample answers.

For listening, we are going to focus on Part 1 of IELTS listening and writing down names and letters.

For reading, I’ll show you how to deal with True/False/Not Given questions.

Finally, we will take a look at a possible Writing Task 2 question and writing your main ideas for it.

Let’s go! Here is the full video – watch it and then read the analysis below:



In the speaking I focused on Part 2 Speaking.

The question was:

Talk about a superhero you admire. You should say:

Who it is

Why you admire him/her

Other heroes you admire

Here is my full answer:

The superhero that I want to talk about is Batman and the reason that I admire Batman is because he doesn’t have any superpowers. So in the last movie he was in was the Justice League – he has to come together to protect the world to bat– there’s a battle between good and evil – a threat has come out and they have to try to fight it together. So he needs needs Wonder Woman’s help and he has to go get all these other superheroes to work together to fight the evil threat and again the reason I admire him is cuz he has no superpowers – he’s just a normal kind of crazy, angry, violent man but really amazing because all the other heroes they’re fighting and they’re not gonna die – they’re fine you know, even if they lose they won’t die – just all the people in the world will die but for Batman it’s different he could actually die – all the other superheroes it’s like it doesn’t really matter. Worst case scenario: the other people die, the whole world dies but least they are okay. But Batman it could actually be him who dies.

admire (verb): look up to or respect. “I admire Elon Musk because he dates a lot of celebrities.”

come together (verb): work as part of a team. “If we come together on this, we can accomplish anything.”

a battle between good and evil (noun phrase): a fight between the good guys and the bad guys. “Every Hollywood movie basically boils down to a battle before good and evil.”

threat (noun): Something that could harm or hurt you. “The threat of prison prevents most people from committing crimes.”

work together (verb): work as part of a team (same as above). “If we work as part of a team, we can accomplish anything.”

actually (adverb): in fact or really. “I’m not into superhero movies. Actually, I hate them.”

doesn’t really matter (expression): it is not important. “It doesn’t really matter how long you practice, you’re going to end up with the same score.”

worst case scenario (expression): the worst thing that could possibly happen. “Worst case scenario we will have to find a new place to work.”

I also gave a second example answer for the same question:

I want to talk about another superhero from the Marvel movies and his name is Captain America. Now I’m an American – that isn’t the reason why I like Captain America but it doesn’t hurt. So I like Captain America because in fact actually before the last Avengers movie I didn’t like Captain America he was my least favorite and that was because he’s always on his high horse – he always thinks he’s the best and he’s so self-righteous. He thinks he’s such a good guy and I always hate characters like that. I like characters more like the polar opposite – like a Tony Stark Iron Man – guys who are full of themselves and arrogant and fun but in the last movie I did feel that the actor who plays him – his character – because he’s got so much conviction he believes what he says so much that that I started to respect his character – I even liked his character more than the other characters.

on his high horse (idiom): feels superior/smarter/more ethical that everyone else. “Don’t get on your high horse with me.”

self-righteous (adjective): consider yourself to be right all the time. “Don’t get that self-righteous attitude with me.”

polar opposite (noun): completely different, 100% opposite. “We’re polar opposites – we can’t agree on anything!”

full of themselves (verb phrase): thinking very highly of yourself, arrogant. “My boss is so full of himself – I can’t stand him!”

arrogant (adjective): thinking very highly of yourself, full of yourself. “I’m not arrogant – I’m very humble!”

conviction (noun): believing strongly in something. “One of the key qualities of a leader is conviction.”


I recommend that you take the time to record, write down, and keep practicing your part 2 speaking answers until they get better!

You can also try practicing with my answers to build up your confidence.

Get some help from the Avengers on IELTS!



In part 1 of the listening test, you are being tested on 1 simple things: you ability to listen and write.

The vocabulary is simple so it won’t be a big problem in this part. There also aren’t many distractors or synonyms (which you will find in listening parts 2, 3, and 4(.

If you are trying to get above band 6, you probably need to get all the questions in part 1 correct.

Luckily, it is the easiest section to practice for! Just practice listening and writing.

Here are some ideas for how to practice:

1. Use the video above. Listen and write down the names that I spell out. Remember that the key to listening is repetition.

2. Find another video on YouTube (I recommend BBC One Minute World News). Listen and write down the key words. Listen repeatedly. Or listen and write all the nouns or verbs. Try different ways – just make sure you are listening and writing something.

3. Use an IELTS practice test – but don’t do the whole test! Listen to section 1 again and again. Then read and listen to the tapescript. Focus on the ones that were hard or you got wrong. Figure out why you got it wrong and then practice that. For example, if you always miss the letter ‘s’, listen to a YouTube video and write down all the words with ‘s’.


In my experience as a teacher and IELTS examiner, students struggle the most with True/False/Not Given questions (actually, even native English speakers struggle with them!).

Here’s the same example from the video above:

Avenger’s 4’s first weekend at the box office was the highest grossing for any film ever.

True/False/Not Given?

1. Avenger’s 4 made more money than any other superhero movie in its first weekend.

2. Avengers 4 is a popular film.

3. Avengers 4 has made more money than any other film.

The answers are:

1. True

2. True

3. Not Given

The first one is true because if it made more money that ANY film, that also includes other superhero movies, even though it didn’t mention other superhero movies you can infer this logically.

The second one is true because if a movie makes a ton of money then it has to be popular. This is also logical (common sense).

The third one is not given because even thought it may become true later, it is only talking about the opening weekend – not the total amount of money made.

For True/False/Not Given you need to be careful of: questions that are almost true – but not quite. Those are going to be not given.

Let’s try one more example of a question that is ALMOST true – but not quite:

Dave was an IELTS  examiner.

True/False/Not Given

1. Dave worked for the IELTS department at either BC or IDP.

2. Dave is still a current IELTS examiner.

3. Dave also teachers IELTS.

Number 1 is true because BC and IDP are the only two places where you can take IELTS and to do IELTS you obviously have to work for the IELTS department.

Number 2 is false because it says that I was in the past. If it was still true it would say ‘Dave has been an IELTS examiner for years.’

Number 3 is not given. You can assume it is true but it doesn’t actually say it – so false. These are the ones you have to be most careful of – that ones that are ALMOST true.



Here is the question from the video above:

Some people think that governments should have authority over superheroes. To what extent do you agree?

Based on the movie Captain America: Civil War, there are two main sides – what Iron Man (Tony Stark) thinks and Captain America (Steve Rogers).

If Iron Man were taking IELTS he would agree 100% because he thinks governments are elected by the people and the people should have power of the decisions of superheroes.

If Captain America were taking IELTS he would completely disagree because he doesn’t think governments can be trusted and superheroes are more responsible and ethical.

If you were doing it – well why don’t you tell me!

Write your own sample answer in the comments below (using my main ideas or your own). I will give band scores for free for anyone who comments a full sample answer!

‘What’s My Current English Level and IELTS Band Score?’

‘What’s My Current English Level and IELTS Band Score?’

To be honest, you can’t really know your IELTS band score without a qualified teacher.

Wait, don’t go! I’m not wasting your time!

You won’t be able to get a completely accurate score but it is possible to figure out within a band score what you should be getting for each part of IELTS.

I’m a former IELTS examiner so I know the band scores well.

Read below to learn how to test yourself, figure out your score, and afterwards be sure to also check out my sister post on How Long it Will Take to Get Your IELTS Score.



How to Figure Out Your IELTS Speaking Score

This will take some time and effort but if you follow my instructions you will have a good idea of your speaking score without having to overpay a teacher!

This is Nguyen, the first ever customer for our Band Scores and Writing Corrections Service and a current employee. She lived in Australia for years and her speaking (and overall) scores on two recent tests for speaking were 7.5 and 8.

She uses tons of natural language, accurate vocabulary and has a nice accent.

To figure out your speaking level you are going to compare yourself with her.

Here is the Part 2 Speaking question she will be talking about:

Describe a sci-fi film that you watched.

Practice and record yourself answering the question above for about 2 minutes. Keep the recording – you will need it.

Listen to her response (In this video she speaks for more than 2 minutes. That’s not what will happen on the real test – it is just for you to get as much practice as possible!)

If you can understand 80 – 100% that doesn’t mean you are a band 8 – it just means your listening skills are good. You can’t always use all the language that you understand.

Now it is time to compare your response and hers. Some of the hesitations, repetition, and grammatical mistakes in this answer could bring her fluency and grammar down and make this a 7.5. Her level in this video is 7.5/8.

I’m a former examiner so let me show you exactly what is going through the mind of the examiner when he is listening to you speak.

Examiners always have the band descriptors out and look at them before and after the test. In their small heads with their tiny brains, they are highlighting them to get an idea of your score.

Here are Nguyen’s scores (which are mainly from Band 8 with some parts from Band 7):

Her score might go up or down depending on the part and part 2 speaking is usually full of the most hesitations. If she uses more complex structures and hesitates a little less she should be able to get an 8.

Most examiners would give her a 7.5 based on this section of the test because of hesitations and the grammatical mistakes.

Here is some of the good vocabulary that she uses:

had a chance, basically, astronaut crew, revive, dead alien cell, in the end, just a few days, full-grown octopus shape, manages to break free, at this point, horror, gory, killing spree, prevent, reaching earth, threat, human race, locked himself in, eliminate, back into space, for some reason, take control of, twist.

Use your recording to make a list of the vocabulary that you used. You don’t know exactly how accurate or good the vocabulary that you used is – that’s OK. Look it up in the dictionary to check what you can.

Here are some of the different types of grammatical structures that she uses:

Past Simple: had a chance, killed

Present Simple: the movie is about, they succeed, he manages to, the movie turns out to be, etc.

Passive Voice: the astronauts are being killed, the astronauts are killed

Present continuous: are trying, driving them

‘Will’ for future: there will be

Here is the full transcript (the bolded words are corrections):

Recently I had a chance to watch a sci-fi movie called ‘Life.’ Basically the movie’s about an astronaut crew living in space and they were trying to – they are trying to revive a dead alien cell. And the succeed in the end and they name the cell Kevin. And Kevin grows so fast that its size increases incredibly after just a few days into a full grown octopus shaped creature. And Kevin tries to escape from the cage where he was kept inside for so long for the experiments. And in the end he manages to break free. And at this point, the movie turns out to be a horror film and a gory sort of movie because Kevin goes on a killing spree. And the astronauts are being killed slowly, one by one. And the astronauts’ mission now is to survive and prevent Kevin from reaching Earth because they believe that Kevin is a dangerous threat to the human race. After the chasing and the killing I think all the astronauts are killed and only one manages to survive. And I think in the end, he locks himself into a space capsule with Kevin and tries to eliminate Kevin by driving both of them back out into space instead of going back to Earth. But then somehow Kevin manages to take control of the spaceship and both of them land on Earth. And the movie ends there. So I think there will be a part 2 (sequel) for the movie. ‘Did you enjoy the movie?’ It was a good twist at the end and I’m kind of excited to see what will happen next.

Use your recording to make a list of the grammar that you used. When talking about a movie you can refer to it in the past or the present or use a combination. Nguyen smartly sticks to present simple to talk about the events of the film.

Check out one of these grammar sites to see how accurate your grammar is:

If there is a grammatical mistake in every sentence you will not be getting above a 5 or possibly 6 for your grammar score.

You should now have a general feeling how her response compares to yours. Are you at Nguyen’s level? Lower? Higher?

Now try searching for some band 6 and 7 speaking tests on YouTube and repeating the same method.

You can also try this same method with another of Nguyen’s tests here (subscribe to our YouTube channel here):



I recommend practicing that same technique with as many speaking tests on YouTube as you can find. Here is another example with Minh who also got a Band 8 for IELTS speaking:


After watching a few and recording your own responses you should know your score to within 1 full band.

If you are still not sure, you can comment below and I will message you and we can work out another way to know your speaking score.



How to Figure Out Your IELTS Listening and Reading Scores

This is the easiest one to do. Without too much trouble you can figure out what both your listening and reading scores are!

Buy the past Cambridge Practice Tests. You can get the latest one here: or take a look and see if they are available at the local bookstore in your country.

These are all past tests. Don’t worry about which number book. Anything from 7 to the most current one is fine (ones before 7 are also OK, there are just some small ways in which the test has changed).

Do it under real test conditions. The listening test is 30 minutes and the reading test is 1 hour.

Check your answers in the back of the book and use this guide to roughly figure out your score (scores vary slightly based on the difficulty of the test that week):

IELTS Listening

IELTS Reading (Academic)

IELTS Reading (General Training)

Band score

Raw score out of 40

Band score

Raw score out of 40

Band score

Raw score out of 40

























Don’t just do 1 test! It might not give you an accurate score (maybe you were lucky or unlucky with the topics).

Do at least 3 listening and reading tests. If the scores are similar that is your level – now you know before you go to the real exam.

If the scores are very different each time, keep doing them until the scores become more similar – it shouldn’t take too many practice tests for that to happen.

Here are the 6 Basic Tips You’ll Learn in Every IELTS Course and here is The Most Important Skill for the Reading Test.



How to Figure Out Your IELTS Writing Band Scores

For writing, there are a number of services online that you can use to get a very accurate Band Score estimate. Well actually, there’s only 1 that’s very accurate because it comes from former examiners.

You can trust and rely on the marks we give you. We highlight the band descriptors and give a report on each category to ensure complete accuracy and transparency.

For $9 (for that price in April only!) you can get your band scores for your Writing Task 1 or 2!

IELTS costs between $200 and $300! If you use our service, you can figure out your score and won’t waste as much money later.

If you also want to get complete writing corrections along with your band scores that is more expensive ($29) but could end up making a huge difference for you!



Using the CEFR to Guide you

There’s one other way that might help you know your English level and IELTS band score.

The CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) is the most important, internationally recognized system for defining English ability.

Here is how it defines each level:

Beginner (A1): You can interact in the most basic ways if the other speaker talks slowly and is helpful. You can introduce yourself and others and can ask and answer questions bout where you live, people you know and things you have.

Elementary (A2): You can understand some sentences and frequently used expressions related to personal and family information, shopping, local geography and the environment. You can communicate in simple and routine tasks on familiar topics.

Intermediate (B1): You can deal with most situations while traveling abroad. You can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Upper Intermediate (B2): You can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without difficulty for either part.

Advanced (C1): You can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. You can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes.

Master (C2): You can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. You can express yourself spontaneously, very fluently, and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations. You understood this paragraph easily.

Here is how those levels compare with IELTS according to their official website. Most examiners would say these scores are a little low. As an Intermediate you should be able to get up to around a 6, for example.

I hope that is helpful but I fear you might just be guessing. That’s why I strongly recommend that you take some time and try the tips I talked about earlier in the post so that you get a more accurate idea of your current level.

Now let’s move on to the big question – not where you are – where you are going


‘How Long Will it Take Me to Get to Band ____?’

It’s really hard to say. So hard that I wrote a whole other post about it: ‘How Long do I Need to Study to get my IELTS Score?’

Best of luck!

Oh and if you’re still reading don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube or even all 3 if you’re a fanatic!


Comment below: What’s your current level?

Here’s some help starting your comment:

I think my level is probably around…

On my last test I got …. but I think I have improved to a …

I’m not sure but it isn’t below …

I still don’t really know. The band score I need is …

Should you Watch the Subtitles on Movies and TV when Learning English?

Should you Watch the Subtitles on Movies and TV when Learning English?

This is a question that students and friends ask me all the time on our Facebook and our Instagram. When watching a movie or TV show or YouTube video: ‘Should I watch it with English subtitles? Subtitles in my language? Or no subtitles at all?’

‘Just watching and learning is most important,’ I say to avoid thinking about the question. But there are actually good reasons for trying all 3 methods.

But let’s look at the reasons for all 3, based on 10 years of teaching experience and IELTS examining!

And head over to our YouTube Channel to practice if you have time!


Should you subtitle when learning English?



Why English Subtitles are Good

The main reason that it is good to use the English subtitles is that your listening ability is probably not as good as your reading ability.

By watching and reading the subtitles you will be able to match together what the characters are saying with the actual words.

Not only that but the images and story will make some of the vocabulary clearer.

This is very similar to the way that you learned your native language as a kid.

But there is one big difference – as a kid you learned without subtitles and your listening and speaking probably improved faster than your reading and writing.

The big drawback to this approach is related to your listening and pronunciation.

Your listening may get worse because you may become dependent on the subtitles and not improve your listening. This might not happen, but if it does, you could end up with poor listening skills.

Your pronunciation could also get worse. That’s because in English words are not always said the way they are spelled. We don’t say ‘Sit down’ as two separate words – we say ‘Si-down,’ we don’t even pronounce the ‘b’ in ‘comb’ or the ‘k’ in ‘knight’!

Reading the subtitles may focus you too much on the spelling and hurt your pronunciation.

In conclusion, watching with English subtitles is good for improving your language skills (vocabulary, grammar, etc.) but it may hurt your listening and pronunciation.

You can practice it with the live lessons on our YouTube channel which all feature subtitling.



Why Native Language Subtitles are Good

I have a lot of friends who swear by this method.

One teacher I know, who spoke completely fluent English despite only beginning to learn at age 12, used to watch cartoons in English and figure out from the subtitles in Romanian what the words meant.

There is also a lot of good research to suggest this can be effective.

It works because a clever and active listener can link together the meaning they already understand from the subtitles.

This is supported by research that shows one of the best and most memorable ways to learn English is by making comparisons between your native language and English.

However, there are two very serious drawbacks.

The first one is what happens in the majority of cases: people just read the subtitles in their language and mostly ignore the English. Lots of people even turn down the volume and just read the screen!

The second one is that it encourages you to translate from English back to your language.

This might later hurt your listening comprehension: instead of listening and understanding you will listen, translate and understand.

If you carry over this habit to speaking and writing it will also slow you down. You don’t want to be translating every single word when speaking or writing – it should flow out more naturally.

This might not happen – but you must be very active practicing with the vocabulary that you learn to make sure you don’t end up like an old slow smartphone that takes 5 minutes just to load up Google!



Why No Subtitles at all are Good

This is the way that you learned your native language.

You listened to your parents, friends and teachers. You watched TV shows and movies without subtitles.

This is the most natural way to learn English.

When you learn this way, your pronunciation will be good because you only focus on the sounds, never the spelling of the words.

You will develop excellent listening skills because there will be no help from the subtitles.

However, because this way requires you to be completely independent, it is also much harder.

For a long time it will be confusing and difficult (maybe too difficult!) and you might give up.

Only use this method alone if you are already confident with English, you have lots of free time or you enjoy challenges.


Aristotle said this.

How to Combine Different Ways of Using Subtitles

Aristotle’s quote means that the best method is not at either extreme, but somewhere in the middle – moderation in all things.

Jumping in without any subs at all is a huge challenge – you might give up.

Using just one approach has advantages but also disadvantages. You will end up with one skill – listening or vocabulary – stronger than the other.

You should combine the approaches to make sure that your skills are well-rounded – moderation in all things.

Here are some ideas for how to combine these approaches (all Netflix programming has subtitles and you can also check out this YouTube playlist I made! (be sure to hit the CC button for some of them to turn on the subs!)):

  1. No Sound: Try watching a video on YouTube or Netflix with no sound first. Pay attention to the body language. Try to guess what they are saying. Write down some ideas. Then listen. Take some notes of words they said. Then watch with subtitles and check again. Then watch again with no sound and no subtitles and try to remember what they said. Keep trying variations of this until you know the whole scene by heart!

  2. Native Language First: Watch with subtitles in your native language first so that the meaning is clear. Then make notes on some of the English words used. Try to rewrite the whole thing in English. Keep watching until you fully understand the English.

  3. Eng Subs First: Watch it with English subtitles first. How much can you understand? Make notes in two columns: things you understand and things you don’t understand. Watch it a couple of times with English subtitles and try to move everything into the understand column. Then watch it with your native language subtitles and again try to move everything to the understand column.

  4. No Subs First: Watch it without any subtitles. Write down the things you can and can’t understand. Keep watching it until you understand as much as possible. Then put on the English subtitles and keep watching it. Finally, use your native language subtitles to understand it totally. Watch it from the beginning with no subs again and see the progress you have made!

  5. Switching Throughout: The above 4 ideas work best with short videos that you watch repeatedly. That might be boring. Watch a whole show or movie. But don’t just use one technique. Keep your brain active by changing it up: sometimes no subs, sometimes native language subs and sometimes English subs. Try to enjoy it as well!

  6. Review, Review, Review: All the above ideas will work – my personal guarantee as a teacher and former IELTS examiner. But the most important thing to make real progress is to review. Studying without reviewing is like working out once a week – you won’t see a big difference. Drag yourself back to the gym to exercise again and again and you’ll get stronger. Review the same scenes, movies and shows over and over again until you are confident you understand everything. Then begin to practice using the language you learned. That is the essence of language learning – now stop reading this and just go do it!

Now it’s your turn! Go watch a video and post the link to it in the comments!

A Beginner’s Guide to IELTS Listening

A Beginner’s Guide to IELTS Listening


The Test Format

It takes the makers of IELTS (Cambridge) an average of 2 years to make every test. Each question has to go through dozens of people before it is finally approved – let’s study the test with the same attention to detail! If you want to learn more about IELTS from former examiners you can check out our YouTube Channel or our Facebook Group.

IELTS Listening is a 30 minute test of your English listening ability and there are 4 parts.

There are 40 total questions and each part has 10 questions.

You will conduct the test in a room full of other candidates and will be provided with your own personal pair of headphones (that you can’t keep!).

You cannot leave the room to go to the toilet during the test because it would disturb other test takers.

Write your answers on the test itself. At the end of the 30 minute test, you will have 10 minutes to transfer your answers from the test paper to the answer sheet.



IELTS Listening Part 1

In part 1, you will hear an informal conversation typically asking for information or making a purchase.

Some examples of conversations that you might hear in part 1 listening include:

  • Someone asking about a job vacancy over the telephone (at a restaurant, office, The White House, etc.)

  • Someone book a service (a hall for a party, a hotel room, a bus ticket, a plane ticket, a holiday trip, etc.)

  • Someone asking for information about a service or place (a guided tour, an amusement park, a school, etc.)

This is the easiest part of the listening exam because it is only testing one thing: your ability to write what you hear.

You just have to be able to write down names, numbers, spellings, and simple vocabulary.

Here is what part 1 typically looks like (it is almost always a gap-fill):

Pay close attention to the instructions because it will tell you how many words/numbers you can write for this question: ONE WORD AND/OR A NUMBER.

This will not always be the same so make sure you carefully read and circle the instructions.

To do better on these types of questions you can check out the 6 basic tips here.



IELTS Listening Part 2

In part 2, you will hear one person typically talking about a public event or attraction.

Some examples of conversations that you might hear in part 2 listening include:

  • Someone giving information about an event (a museum opening, a concert, a fundraising event, etc.)

  • Someone explaining something (how to get around campus for new students, the details of a guided tour, a project they are involved in, etc.)

In this section the exam begins to become more difficult.

The vocabulary is a little more difficult and there will be more distractors and paraphrases/synonyms.

Here are 2 examples of a listening part 2:


(You can read more about maps on listening here and about multiplie choice questions here.)

The synonyms and distractors make part 2 really challenging. All the keywords might be paraphrased. The listening might mention options A, B, and C but only 1 of them is coffect.

For example, take a look at this question:


Here are some paraphrases from the tapescript:

‘Most rapidly growing’ changes to ‘has seen the largest increase in population’

‘Group of residents’ changes to ‘demographic’

‘Sheepmarket area’ changes to ‘Sheepmarket and its surrounding community’

‘Young professional people’ changes to ‘young professionals’

‘Students from the university’ changes to ‘young people who are still studying’

‘Employees in the local market’ changes to ‘the local workforce’

The listening will also probably mention all 3 options: A, B, and C.

Maybe the speaker talks about how there are tons of new young professionals first, then about how that has helped the local workforce expand then back to mention how many young professional people there are now before finally saying that this is overshadowed by the number of new university students. Good luck with that!

They could talk about the options in any order so be really careful before circling your final answer!



IELTS Listening Part 3

In part 3, you will hear a discussion usually involving 2 people, but which could be as many as 4 people.

Some examples of conversations that you might hear in part 3 listening include:

  • A discussion of an academic project or research (a teacher discussing the results of a project with a student, a teacher giving a student advice or an overview of a subject area, two students planning to do a project together, etc.)

The difficulty usually also increases in this section because there will be even more distractors, paraphrases and because the vocabulary is more academic and challenging.

Here are 3 examples of listening part 3:



Just like in part 2, a lot of the keywords will be paraphrased or changed.

There will also be distractors – answers that are mentioned and could be correct, but are not.

The main difference between part 2 and 3 is that in part 3 the vocabulary will be more academic and you might have a harder time understanding everything you hear.



IELTS Listening Part 4

In part 4, you will hear part of a lecture on an academic subject.

Some examples of the subjects talked about in the lectures include:

  • Astronomy, history, political science, biology, marine biology, geology, neuroscience, psychology, art history, literature, physiology, etc.

You can see from the list above that many of the topics are related to science.

A lot of my students think this is the most difficult listening passage.

The biggest challenge in part 4 is the difficult vocabulary related to an academic field. It is a professor’s lecture – even native English speakers have to listen very carefully to understand it well!

For example, in this question:


Here is some difficult vocabulary that you might hear related to noise in cities: urban noise pollution, rising decibel levels, neurological effects of noise, personal sensitivity levels to noise, increasingly pertinent problem, abnormal sleep patterns, more acute stress levels, subjective perception of a sound, research methodology, and much more!

If you are interested in reading a lot of academic vocabulary related to noise you can check out this article.


The Question Types

There are 10 different questions types on the listening test.


  • Multiple Choice

  • Matching

  • Labeling a Plan/Map/Diagram

  • Completing a Form

  • Completing a Table

  • Completing Notes

  • Completing a Sentence

  • Completing a Summary

  • Completing a Flowchart

  • Short Answer Questions

In order to do well on the test, you should be familiar with all the types of question so that you feel comfortable during the test. This is one reason to do lots of practice tests.

To do really well on the test, you need to put in a lot of work practicing specific types of questions repeatedly in order to improve your listening skills.



How to Score the IELTS Listening Test

The listening test has 40 questions and each one counts for 1 point. You can get half-bands, for example a 6.5 or 8.5.

Here is a chart provided by the official IELTS page on how the scores are marked:

However, the scores vary slightly based on the difficulty of the test that week.

In general those numbers give you a rough idea of what your score will be.

Do a few practice tests and if the results are similar you should expect to get a similar score on your actual test.

If you are not close to the score you want, don’t waste your money – spend some more time improving your listening first!



How to Improve your Listening Skills

There is a difference between testing and improving your IELTS listening skills.

To test your IELTS listening, do a practice test and add up your points. Use the chart above to figure out what your score is. Now you know how much you have to improve.

To improve you can read this post:

Best of luck!

Comment any questions that you have below!

You can also check out our Facebook Group or our Instagram for more information about IELTS!

IELTS Listening FAQ

IELTS Listening FAQ

Here are some ‘frequently asked questions‘ about IELTS Listening. If you can’t find your question, please put it in the comments or send us a message.

The Test

“How many questions are on the listening test?”

There are 40 questions.

“How long does the listening test last?”

It may feel like forever, but it’s only 30 minutes listening and 10 minutes to transfer your answers to answer sheet.

“How many sections are there?”

There are 4 sections.

1. a transaction (2 speakers)

2. a public announcement (1 speaker)

3. an academic discussion (2+ speakers)

4. a lecture (1 speaker).

“How many different types of questions are there?”

There are 14 different question types.

“How long do I have to read the questions?”

You will have 30 seconds to read the questions before listening.

“When should I write on the answer sheet?”

At the end of the test you have 10 extra minutes to transfer your answers.

“Can I write in all capitals?”

Yes, if you want.

“Is capitilisation important?”

No, you will still receive full marks for ‘london’ or ‘London.’

“Is spelling important?”

Yes, you will be marked down for mispelling words.

“Do my answers have to be grammatically correct?”

Yes, pay close attention to the gap-fills to be sure the grammar is accurate.

“What counts as a word for the ‘no more than ____ words’ questions?”

Dates, times and numbers all count as 1 word. 200 is one word, 3,000,000 is one word, 11am is one word, 22% is one word and so on. Words with hyphens like mother-in-law are one word. For dates, 18th September is one word and a number.

“I don’t understand the test. Do you have a guide?”

Yes! Funny you should ask, I have it right here:

“Do wrong answers hurt my score more than blank ones?”

No, fill in all answers even if you are guessing. Do not leave any answers blank.

“How is the listening test made?”

It takes 1 – 2 years for a listening test to be made and every question must be approved and adjusted by dozens of people. The test is very reliable.

“How is the listening test marked?”
Usually the local staff in your country will mark them by hand before recording your scores.

“Do the sections get harder as the test goes on?”

Yes, section 4 is usually the hardest and section 1 is the easiest.

Test Day

“How many times can I listen?”

Just once.

“Can I write on the test?”

Yes, go ahead!

“Will I get headphones?”


“What if there’s a problem?”

Tell one of the staff working at the center. They will help you.

“Should I write in pen or pencil?”

Pencil for both listening and reading.

“Can I go to the toilet during the test?”

No, you cannot stand up during the listening test.

“Can I bring a drink?”

Yes, as long as the bottle is transparent. (But be careful because in many countries there are no bathroom breaks allowed!)

Improving your Listening

“How can I improve my listening?”

In general, follow the tips here:

For specific tips for IELTS listening, check out this one:

“What else is the listening test testing?”

It tests listening, reading and writing. So practicing listening alone isn’t enough to do well on the test.

“Can you recommend some good listening websites?”

Our favourite one in general is

For IELTS, the best one is

“How long should I practice everyday?”

It depends on your level of English and the score you want. The important thing is that you do it everyday – that’s more important than how long you practice!

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