IELTS Listening Exam Preparation
  1. Learn prelistening skills and skills for when you are listening in your test
  2. eBook for a detailed guide to the test
  3. Do ALL the Cambridge books of past test papers 7-19!
  4. Learn from your mistakes! Make sure you check and figure out why any answers were wrong. Relisten to the recording to hear it or look at the transcripts at the back of the books.
  5. If you cannot understand an answer then ask me! Go to the comments section at the bottom of this page and tell me the book, test number, and question number and I will try to explain the answer to you.

Band Converter for the IELTS Listening Test:
If you would like to convert your score out of 40 into an IELTS band score (0-9) you can use the table below as a guide.

Band Score 0.0 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0 5.5 6.0 6.5 7.0 7.5 8.0 8.5 9.0
Raw score 0 1 2 – 3 4 – 5 6 – 7 8 – 9 10 – 11 12 – 14 15 – 17 18 – 20 21 – 22 23 – 25 26 – 27 28 – 32 33 – 34 35 – 36 37 – 38 39 – 40

IELTS Listening Exam Introduction
The IELTS listening test is approximately 40 minutes in length and there are four sections, with a total of 40 questions. The listening test is the same for both academic and general test-takers. The sections are structured as follows:
Section 1: A conversation between 2 people about an everyday situation
Section 2: One person talking about an everyday situation.
Section 3:  A group talking about a specialised topic. The conversation is divided into 2 parts.
Section 4: One person talking about a specialised topic – often it is in the format of a lecture.

The listening test uses the following question types:
  • multiple choice
  • short answer
  • sentence completion
  • matching phrases
  • completing a summary
  • labeling a diagram
  • classification
  • gap filling

Tips Skills and Techniques
To improve your score in the IELTS listening section, you should focus on the following areas:

  1. Understanding the different question types, and how to answer them.
  2. Understanding how the listening test is graded
  3. Developing previewing skills (what to do with the 1 minute before each section)
  4. Developing listening skills, such as listening for key words (intonation and stress)
  5. Do lots of practice exams and receive feedback on why choices are incorrect and why the answer is the ANSWER.

Listening Strategy
Before the recording starts:
1. Check instructions – how many words/numbers are permitted for the answer
2. Skim and orientate – establish context (who, where, what)
3. Underline keywords and think of synonyms
4. Establish required information
5. Predict answers

During the recording:
1. Listen for keywords (stressed words)
2. Listen for signposts and synonyms of keywords in the question
3. Work on the current question and look ahead to the next question
4. Skip missed answers and move on
5. Watch out for distracters (incorrect answers)

After the recording (transfer time):
1. Check for spelling or grammatical errors
2. Fill in something for any missing answers

Listen to British English!
BBC English learning
Minimal pairs: words that sound similar
British pronunciation dictionary

Watch TV Shows!
I am recommending my students watch UK and Aussi TV shows to get used to the accents that are used on most IELTS listening tests – here are a couple of websites that introduce some of the shows:
UK: http://tv.ign.com/articles/105/1058497p1.html
Australia: https://www.buzzfeed.com/tahliapritchard/aussie-tv-shows?utm_term=.sty324822#.dxL7QJZQQ

10 thoughts on “Listening”

  1. Hi Mike . Cambridge IELTS 12 – listening test 3 – SECTION 4 : QUESTION 34 : Complex/ Complicated
    Question : 40: cost(s)/ price(s) / bill(s) – In all cambridge 1-12 books , in some answers in the listening section they accept some synonyms as true although there is No mentioning of the synonym in the recording.

    • I think the only acceptable answers are:
      34. Complex
      40 cost/costs

      Here is what I have to say:
      1. According to test instructions you must answer with the word you hear
      2. If you answer with a synonym and it happens to be on the answer sheet you will get it right if you answer with a synonym not on the answer sheet you will get it wrong.
      3. Synonyms should only be on the answer sheet if they are mentioned somewhere in the text;.
      4. With regard to synonyms in the books of past test papers, I strongly suspect some of these were not on the REAL answers pages and are errors in these books. I have noted other errors with the books; for instance, there “model answers” for writing are absolute garbage that has obviously NOT been written by examiners. I can tell…no examiner would do something like leave out an overall summary for a task 1 academic. They are excellent books but not perfect
      But actually you don’t have to worry about all of these because if you hear the answer there is no need to think of a synonym, so just answer with what you hear.

  2. Thank you for the reply. I know that . but does this mean cambridge official past papers cambridge 10-cambridge 11- cambridge 12 gave wrong answer key ? (in the authentic exam papers ) – The answer key provides and accepts ( for example : motorbike/ motorcycle complex/ complicated price / cost / bill are these answers wrong then ?

  3. Dear Sir or Madam ,
    I would highly appreciate if I could get a definite answer about using synonyms as an answer in the IELTS Listening test .
    In sentence or note completion questions such as :
    ( word limit only one word )
    – Findings :
    – songs learned by birds exposed to mercury are less _________________ .

    In the answer key it says : complex / complicated
    In the recording , students hear the word ” Complex ” but not the word ” Complicated ”

    Is the answer ” complicated ” accepted as true in the real ielts listening test or it is not accepted as true ?

    Cambridge IELTS books 10-11-12 (authentic past papers ) , in their answer key , they accept as true. For example ; the answer for the blank in sentence completion / note completion is ” cost (s) . but price(s) / bill(s) are also given as true and accepted answers although there is NO mentioning / or uttered word of price/bill in the recording .

    Do they really accept some synonyms as true answers in the listening section of the ielts test ?

    Similarly , motorbike/ motorcycle although there is no mentioning of motorcycle / no uttered pronounced sound of motorcycle . Cambridge official books give them as true answers . I am a bit confused .

    I would be eternally grateful if you could clarify this for me.

    best wishes


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