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IELTS Listening

IELTS Listening is taken by both General Training and Academic candidates and is designed to cover the full range of ability from elementary level to advanced level students. It covers basic language skills in a general social and educational context, as well as the skills required for academic purposes.

Module format

IELTS Listening has four sections, each with 10 items (or questions). The items are designed so that the answers appear in order in the listening passage. During the test, time is given for candidates to read the questions and write down and check their answers. Answers are written on the Question Paper as candidates listen. When the tape ends, ten minutes are allowed for candidates to transfer their answers onto an Answer Sheet.

The table below provides a summary of IELTS Listening.

Topic Area


Main Skill Focus

Number of Questions

Social needs

Conversation with a transactional purpose e.g. finding out about travel services

Listening for and noting specific factual information


Social needs

Monologue or prompted monologue with a transactional purpose e.g. giving information about a public event

Listening for and noting specific factual information


Education and training

Discussion between 2 - 4 people in an academic context e.g. tutorial or seminar

Following a conversation which involves negotiation of meaning. Listening for specific information, attitudes, and speakers' opinions


Education and training

Monologue in an academic context e.g. lecture

Following an academic argument. Listening for main ideas, specific information, attitude and speaker's opinion



Approximately 30 minutes plus 10 minutes transfer time.


Each question carries one mark, giving a total of 40 marks.

Listening texts

The first two sections are concerned with social needs. There may be a dialogue between two speakers; for example, a conversation about examination arrangements. This may be followed by a monologue; for example, a recording about library opening times.

The final two sections are concerned with situations related to educational or training contexts. There may be a conversation between two or more people; for example, a conversation between a tutor and a student about an assignment. There would then be a monologue; for example a lecture on a subject of general academic interest.

Task types

A variety of task types is used. The principal task types are:

  • Forms/Notes/Table/Flow-chart/Summary Completion
  • Multiple Choice
  • Short-answer Questions
  • Sentence Completion
  • Labelling a Diagram/Plan/Map
  • Classification
  • Matching


Each section is played once only. The recordings include a range of accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand and American.


Learning resources, notes and exercises for international students and teachers of English