IELTS Listening: Understanding the types of questions

The IELTS Listening module takes about 30 minutes. It has four sections and you will have to answer 40 questions in all. The audio for the Listening module is played only once. During the test, you can read the questions and write down the answers on the question paper. When the recording ends, you will be given 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

Test content

The first two sections of the Listening module are concerned with social situations. For example, in the first section you might hear two people talking about organizing an event or something like that. The second section typically contains a monologue. You could hear a speech about some facilities at a university or something like that.

The third and fourth sections of the Listening module tend to have an educational theme. The third section is a conversation between up to four people. You might hear them discussing a subject related to education or training. The fourth section again contains a monologue. It could be a lecture of general academic interest.

Note that you will hear a range of native-speaker English accents in the test.

Test tasks

A variety of questions are asked. Here is an overview.

Notes / summary / flow chart / table completion

Multiple choice questions

Short-answer questions

Sentence completion

Labeling a diagram



Outline completion

An incomplete outline containing a part of the listening text may be given. You have to complete the outline by filling in the blanks with words chosen from a list on the question paper. Sometimes you have to identify the missing words from the recording. You are not supposed to change the words from the recording in any way. You must also keep to the word limit stated in the instructions. For example, if you are asked to write less than three words, writing four or more words will definitely invite a penalty.

The text given for completion could be a form, a table, a summary, a set of notes or a flowchart. While completing a table or a flowchart, you can omit articles or auxiliary verbs which are not necessary for the meaning. A summary, on the other hand, needs to be grammatically complete. That means, you can’t use the notation form while completing a summary.

Multiple choice questions

You can’t answer the multiple choice questions if you don’t understand the main points of the listening text. These questions may be followed by three possible answers and you have to choose the one correct answer.

Some multiple choice questions may involve sentence completion. You will be given the first part of the sentence and you have to complete it using one of the given options. Sometimes you will have to choose more than one option. In this case, you will be given a longer list of possible answers.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I'm Manjusha. This is my blog where I give IELTS preparation tips.

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