The IELTS Listening Exam: Question Types and More

If you are studying for your IELTS exam, then you’ll need to practice for the all-important listening assessment. Whether you are taking IELTS General Training or IELTS Academic, both assessments involve taking the same listening exam. In this blog, we’re going to give you a breakdown on what the IELTS Listening test involves, and the types of questions that you’ll face.

IMPORTANT: Included in this blog is a complete online IELTS listening practice test. Please read the full article before downloading the IELTS listening practice test audio files at the end of the blog.

Let’s start by looking at what IELTS actually is.

What is IELTS?

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. This is a testing system which assesses the language and writing skill of people who want to work or study in countries where English is the most-used/primary means of communication. Candidates are scored on a scale of 9-1, with 9 being the highest and 1 being the lowest.

There are two types of IELTS, Academic and General Training. Both versions will assess your reading skills, your writing skills, your listening skills, and your speaking skills.

The IELTS Listening Assessment

The IELTS Listening assessment is the same for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. It is designed to assess your ability to understand spoken English. There are four sections to the listening assessment, consisting of 10 questions each. The test-taker will listen to each section, then answer 10 questions based on that section. The test lasts for 30 minutes, with 10 minutes to answer each section. After each recording, you will have 10 minutes to answer, before moving onto the next recording.

The sections are as follows:

  • Recording 1. The first recording will be of two people, and will be set in an everyday setting. For example, you might hear two people discussing the weather, or an upcoming party.
  • Recording 2. The second recording will be a monologue, again set in an everyday environment/subject. For example, you might hear somebody discussing what they do for their job.
  • Recording 3. The third recording will be of up to four people, and will be set in an educational or work-based/training environment. For example, you might hear students discussing their essay topic, or employees talking with their boss.
  • Recording 4. The final recording will be of a monologue, set in an educational environment. So, you might somebody discussing an academic subject.
    The main thing that the assessors are looking for in this test, is your ability to understand ideas and information, plus opinions and viewpoints of speakers. Your ability to take in information and understand this, through what you have heard, is fundamental to this exercise.

The IELTS Listening assessment will challenge a variety of skills.

IELTS Listening Question Types

  • Task 1. Task 1 consists of multiple-choice type questions. You’ll have to choose between three possible answers to a question, or you’ll be asked to complete a sentence, again choosing between three possible answers.
  • Task 2. In task 2, candidates are required to match a list of numbered items from the text, with a set of options. For example, if one of the speakers is trying to book a hotel, but they need the hotel to match certain criteria. You’ll be given a list of criteria, and then asked to decide which one best fits with requirements of the speaker.
  • Task 3. In task 3 candidates are asked to complete labels on a diagram, based on what they’ve heard on the recording. For example, you might be asked to name the places on a map, based on what the speakers have said, or fill in their individual locations. The aim of this task is to ensure that the candidate understands verbal descriptions, and can mentally relay this in the form of visual recreation, or following instructions.
  • Task 4. In task 4, candidates will be asked to fill in gaps in a diagram or written information, using what they’ve heard in the text. You will be given a word limit for each gap, or you may be given a set of answers from which to choose.
  • Task 5. In task 5, candidates are asked to complete a series of sentences, containing missing words. The candidate then has to fill in the missing word, using information from the text. Again, you will be given a word limit for this, which will be specified in the question.
  • Task 6. In task 6, candidates are asked to read a question based on the text, and then write a short answer using what they’ve heard. Again, you will be given a word limit.

Pass your IELTS Listening test with our top tips!


You can download a full IELTS listening practice test audio files below for free. 

Please note, for the accompanying questions, you will need to use these audio files in conjunction with our IELTS General Training & Academic Study Practice Guide which provides a complete IELTS academic listening practice test with answers and IELTS listening tips.

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