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

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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.

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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?

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