IELTS Listening test Information General Training vs. Academic
There is no diﬀerence between the General Training and Academic IELTS Listening papers. IELTS Reading and Writing are the only sections that diﬀer between the two IELTS exams. Therefore, everything in this post is relevant to both Academic and General Training IELTS preparation.
Timing for IELTS Listening
IELTS Listening will take about 40 minutes total. Approximately 30 minutes of this time is devoted to actually listening to recordings and answering questions in your Question Booklet. The Question Booklet is the place where you will see the instructions and the questions you need to answer. The Question Booklet is separate from your Answer Sheet. The Answer Sheet, which looks like this, is where you will write your ﬁnal answers for grading. ONLY the answers you write on your Answer Sheet will be marked. After you listen to the ﬁnal passage, you will have 10 minutes to transfer answers from your Question Booklet to your Answer Sheet.
You should use this “transfer time” to your advantage. There is no reason to mark ﬁnal answers on your answer sheet until the 10-minute “transfer time” at the end. Use this time to write carefully and neatly. The grader needs to be able to read what you’ve written!
Misspellings are marked incorrect, so you should also use this time to check (and double check) your spelling.
Scoring for IELTS Listening
Scoring is fairly straightforward for the Listening paper. Each question is worth 1 point, so you can achieve a “raw” score up to 40 points. From there, IELTS converts your “raw” score into your Band Score. You can ﬁnd a basic conversion table on this page of the oﬃcial IELTS website. However, as with IELTS Reading, it’s important to keep in mind that each version of the IELTS is slightly diﬀerent. Therefore, getting 23 out of 40 correct may earn you a slightly diﬀerent Band score on two diﬀerent versions of the test.
Nevertheless, the tables can give you a general idea about how Listening is scored.
The passages get tougher and tougher as you progress through the Listening paper. However, question 1 is worth the same number of points as question 40 (one point each). Therefore, you must treat the questions from Section 1 the same as you do for the questions from Section 4. Read the directions carefully, make sure you spell words correctly, etc. You don’t want to miss easy points in the ﬁrst sections because of silly mistakes!
Additionally, since all points are worth the same, you don’t want lose points because you’re focusing too much attention on a particular question. Sometimes, despite your best eﬀort and close attention, you might not hear the answer to a question or you may not understand a large section of the listening passage. If this happens, just make your best guesses and move on. Don’t miss points on upcoming questions because you can’t ﬁgure out the answer to the question you’re currently working on.
Types of Listening Recordings on the IELTS
The Four Sections of IELTS Listening
You will hear four diﬀerent listening passages during the Listening test. You will answer 10 questions in each section (40 total). The passages get tougher as you progress through the exam.
Passage 1: This is usually a conversation between two people. Typically, the conversation will involve a basic exchange of information. For example, someone might be placing an order over the phone, or conﬁrming details for a reservation. The topic will be a daily-life situation.
Passage 2: This is usually a monologue (one person speaking). Passage 2 will also come from a common daily situation. For example, you might hear someone providing directions, or presenting basic information about a place or an event.
Passage 3: The topics become noticeably more challenging in Passage 3. This will be a conversation, often among several people, about an academic topic. You might hear a few students discussing something from class, or a professor providing feedback about an assignment, for example. Passage 3 is tougher because the vocabulary is more diﬃcult, the topics are more complicated, and there are more speakers involved in the discussion.
Passage 4: This will be a lecture from a professor. It could cover any topic from a typical college course. You are not required to have specialized knowledge about the subject matter. However, the language will be diﬃcult and the lecture will be complex. This is the toughest passage on the Listening exam for most students.
Types of Listening Questions
Let’s take a look at the types of questions you’ll face on the IELTS Listening paper, along with some strategic considerations for each one.
Remember to read the directions! You must follow the word/number requirements for short answer questions.
Very often, you will have to ﬁnd detailed information related to some category. For example, you might get a question like this: “What TWO types of tree cannot survive in a desert environment?”
IELTS Multiple Choice questions only have 3 possible answers. Sometimes (but not frequently), there will be more than three answer choices. In this case, you will usually be instructed to choose more than one answer.
You must remember to answer with LETTERS (A, B, or C) on your Answer Sheet. Don’t write the answer choice word(s)!
Sometimes, you will only have 2-3 Multiple Choice questions in a section. But it is possible there could be more (5 to 8). Treat Multiple Choice questions exactly like other question types. In the time provided before you listen to the passage, skim all of the questions and the answer choices to ﬁnd keywords. Answers will come in order in the passage, so you need to track answers across all of the questions in the task you’re working on.
This is a common question type in Section 1 of the Listening exam (although it can come up in other sections too!).
In this question type, you will ﬁll out a form of some kind. Often, these are standard types of forms such as an application or an order form.
The forms will include a lot of information you can use to make predictions before you listen. For example, most forms will have some kind of title at the top, or an indication of the kind of information to expect in the discussion. It is common to see blanks next to “Phone number” or “Address” on these forms, for instance. Use contextual clues on the form to track where the speakers are in their conversation as you follow along.
Sentence Completion questions are a form of Short Answer question. Therefore, it’s crucial to look to the directions for word and number counts.
As the name suggests, this question type requires you to complete a sentence with a short answer at the end. The sentence will almost always be a paraphrase of something you’ll hear in the passage. In other words, don’t expect to hear a speaker say the exact sentence as it’s written in the question.
The sentences will provide a lot of information that will help you make predictions about the answers. In particular, it is often possible to gather information about the grammatical form of the answer (noun, verb, adjective, etc).
These questions involve a visual of some kind, with missing labels that you will have to ﬁll
in based on what the speakers say.
You can get a lot of clues by looking at the visual for these questions. For instance, if you are answering a Map Question, look at the location of the ﬁrst question, and then look around the map to see where the following questions are located. This provides the order in which the speaker will describe the visual. Study the Map further, and you will become familiar with the location of other places. For example, perhaps the map includes a statue, a restaurant, or some other landmark. Getting familiar with the Map, Plan, or Diagram before you listen to the speaker will help you get oriented.
Matching Questions usually involve listening for detailed information in the discussion. It is very important to look at the category of information that you will match to the answer choices. These will be lettered options that look like the example below:
Within which timeframe will each event occur?
Event Starting Times
A. 9:00 to 12:00
B. 12:01 to 16:00
C. 16:01 to 23:59
These choices may be presented inside a box, or as a list of items like the example above. In this example, you know that you will need to listen for the time certain events will occur. You will then have a list of times to “match” to the appropriate event.
When you analyze these questions before listening to the passage, make sure you understand the category of the lettered answer choices, and pay close attention to the order of the items you need to match in the questions. It is the questions (not the lettered answer choices) that will be presented in order within the passage. You will listen for each of these question items as you “track” answers in the passage.
Flow Chart, Table, Note, Summary Completion
These question types look diﬀerent, but they share a lot in common. They are often Short Answer questions, but you may also be presented with a list or a box with answer choices. Basically, you will need to ﬁll in missing information based on the Listening passage.
It is very important to look at each question number. Notice where it is located on the visual or summary and what the keywords are that surround it. You will need to “track” these keywords as you listen to the speaker.
A Flow Chart is a kind of visual that shows steps or stages in a process. You can expect that you will need to listen for the diﬀerent stages of the process.
A Table could be many things. Often, a table is used to categorize several things, so you will need to ﬁll in missing information on the table.
Notes Questions are a common question type for Passage 4, in which you will hear a lecture. You will have incomplete lecture notes that you need to ﬁll in based on what the professor says.
For Summary Questions, you will be presented with a paragraph of several sentences which summarize the listening passage. Like the other questions in this category, you need to ﬁll in words that complete the summary based on what you hear.
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