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IELTS Listening Question Types

Instructor: Bill Sands
The IELTS Listening section contains a wide range of question types designed to gauge a test taker's ability to understand important facts and main ideas contained in everyday conversation. Read on to learn more about each question type and how to prepare for this part of the exam.

Listening Question Types on the IELTS

During the IELTS Listening section, students will listen to four recordings. Recordings range in nature from a casual conversation in a social setting to an academic lecture delivered by a professor.

There are 10 questions for each recording, meaning the entire section contains 40 questions. These 40 questions fall into six categories, which are explained below. The number of each question type varies, but there is usually an even distribution between the six categories.

Multiple Choice

Candidates will be asked a question and then given several possible responses. They must then select the option that best represents the correct answer.

In some cases, more than one answer will be correct, and test takers will need to choose multiple responses.

Matching

This question type requires candidates to make connections between different pieces of information. Questions of this nature provide candidates with a set of choices, which must then be paired with items from a numbered list.

Map/Plan/Diagram Labeling

These questions involve graphical representations of the topics being discussed in the recordings. Candidates will be shown an image, such as a map of a city or the diagram for a piece of machinery. Certain elements will be left off of the graphic, and candidates must fill them in.

In most instances, candidates will be given a list of possible responses and asked to choose the most appropriate one for each blank.

Table/Form/Note/Summary/Flow-Chart Completion

The completion part of the Listening section requires candidates to finish incomplete outlines related to the recordings. Possible outlines include:

  • Tables: These will organize the key data in a recording according to well-defined categories, such as time, place, price, etc.
  • Forms: Examinees will be given a form containing details about the recording. For example, they might be given a shipping agency's quotation form and asked to fill in the dimensions and destination of a package, among other information.
  • Flow-Charts: These diagrams show the order in which a process moves from one stage to the next.
  • Notes: These appear in a variety of layouts and require an understanding of how different parts of a recording are linked. For example, test takers might be given a brief outline summarizing an arts center's history, amenities, and event schedule and asked to fill in the blanks.

The number of words used to fill in each blank is strictly monitored. The question paper will provide clear directions on how responses should be filled out, including information on word limits ('no more than three words,' 'only one word,' etc.). Any student whose response exceeds the word limit will be penalized.

Sentence Completion

Questions in this category are composed of several sentences with important words and phrases omitted. Candidates will need to plug these gaps using content from the recordings.

As with the other completion tasks, candidates can only use a certain number of words and will be penalized for writing too much.

Short-Answer

Unlike the previous question types that provide potential answers or text with gaps to fill in, this section requires candidates to create their own responses. Candidates will be asked questions related to the recordings, and will need to answer it in their own words.

Preparing for the Listening Section

In addition to familiarizing yourself with the question types, you can get ready for the Listening section - as well as the Reading, Writing, and Speaking sections - by reviewing this IELTS Practice & Study Guide.

The chapter on Basic Listening Skills includes video lessons that allow you to hear examples of the listening concepts being discussed, and the Lexical Resources chapter provides tools to strengthen your vocabulary, which will be useful when listening to others speak.

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