IELTS Listening Test

The IELTS Listening test is the first module of the IELTS test. All IELTS students take the same listening test. So, if you’re taking academic IELTS or general training IELTS, you all take the same test, the same questions, the same format, and the same scoring. Let’s learn some facts about it.

The IELTS Listening Test

  • It takes approximately 30 minutes, then candidates are given an extra 10 minutes at the end to transfer their answers from their Question Booklet to their Answer Sheet.
  • There are 4 sections with 10 questions each (40 questions). The first two sections are the easiest; they are social. That means the context of the situation is a social situation (an everyday situation) and the last two sections are more difficult, they are academic in content.
  • The recording is heard only once. Ensure you listen carefully. If you miss something, there’s no second chance. That means you really are multitasking during this listening test. You need to listen to the recording, read the questions and at the same time write down your answers. It can be quite difficult and it’s something that you do need to practice.
  • Test gets more difficult as it continues.
  • There are a total of 40 questions, with 10 questions per section. A variety of tasks that may be presented in the Listening test (e.g., Multiple Choice, Short Answer, Form Completion, sentence completion, labeling diagrams, etc…). Candidates are given time to read the questions before they listen and time to check their answers after they listen.
  • Candidates must use a pencil to write answers on the Answer Sheet because it is scanned by a computer. That’s the same as the IELTS reading test.

Overview of the IELTS Listening Test

The IELTS Listening test is approximately 30 minutes, plus 10 minutes as transfer time. The Listening test is the same for both the Academic and General Training modules.

Timing: Approximately 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes’ transfer time)

Questions: There are 40 questions. A variety of question types is used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labeling, form completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, summary completion, sentence completion, and short-answer questions.

Section 1 is a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context (e.g. a conversation in an accommodation agency).
Section 2 is a monologue set in an everyday social context (e.g. a speech about local facilities or a talk about the arrangements for meals during a conference).
Section 3is a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context (e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment, or a group of students planning a research project).
Section 4 is a monologue on an academic subject (e.g. a university lecture).

  • Each section is heard once only.
  • A variety of voices and native-speaker accents is used.


Skills Assessed:

A wide range of listening skills is assessed, including understanding of main ideas and specific factual information; recognizing opinions, attitudes and purpose of a speaker, and following the development of an argument.

IELTS Listening Marking:

All IELTS marking takes place at the test center by trained markers and examiners. Markers are trained to understand the IELTS marking policy and are required to demonstrate that they are marking to standard before they are allowed to mark Listening and Reading papers.

IELTS Listening paper contains 40 items and each correct item is awarded one mark; the maximum raw score a candidate can achieve on a paper is 40. Band scores ranging from Band 1 to Band 9 are awarded to candidates on the basis of their raw scores.

Although all IELTS test materials are pretested and trialed before being released as live tests, there are inevitably minor differences in the difficulty level across tests. In order to equate different test versions, the band score boundaries are set so that all candidates’ results relate to the same scale of achievement. This means, for example, that the Band 6 boundary may be set at a slightly different raw score across versions.

The table below indicates the mean raw scores achieved by candidates at various levels in Listening and provides an indication of the number of marks required to achieve a particular band score.

Listening band scoreRaw score out of 40