How to prepare for IELTS Listening Test

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The IELTS Listening Test lasts for 30 minutes; you get an extra 10 minutes to transfer your answers from your Question Booklet to your Answer Sheet. The test has the following 4 sections:

List of different types of IELTS Listening questions

In each of these sections, different types of questions are asked. First, you will listen to a brief introduction to the Listening section. You will be told about the speakers, what they are talking about and why. You must listen to this information, known as the context, carefully, as it is not written on the question paper and it helps you to understand the topic. Soon after the introduction, you will be given a short time to read the questions. This helps you to understand what the speakers are going to discuss or talk about in that recording.

IELTS Listening Test Online

IELTS Listening Tips on how to score well

  • You must read the instructions and the questions carefully before you listen.
  • Understand what information you must focus on by going through the questions first.
  • You must try to understand the background of the talk or the conversations – Who are the speakers? What are they talking about?
  • You will have to read, write and listen at the same time, and you will hear the recording only once. So, you must listen carefully.
  • You must pay attention to ‘signpost language’ – however, moreover, on the contrary, etc.
  • You will perform well if you practise regularly by taking many practice tests.
  • Sometimes, the spellings or the digits are the answers. Therefore, you should become familiar with the sounds in Spoken English.
  • Understand that English is not a phonemic language. 5 vowels of the alphabet have 20 different vowel sounds and 21 consonants have 24 different consonant sounds. Also, these sounds may vary according to different accents.
  • Practise your listening skills regularly. Take practice tests and try to know the difference between different vowel sounds.
  • In English speech, vowel sounds give syllables to words Example: Turn – mono-syllable (one vowel sound) Turning – bi-syllable (two vowel sounds) Termination – muti-syllables(three or more vowel sounds) If a word has two or more syllables, one is stressed more than the other/others. By taking more practice tests, you will become familiar with this aspect of English speech. Some weak sounds such as SCHWA vowel sound as in section, are never stressed.
  • Listen for meaning – who, what, when, where, why, how

IELTS scoring pattern and the 9-BAND scale

IELTS Listening content is the same for IELTS Academic and IELTS General. You should be familiar with different accents as an audio is played and you hear a pre recorded conversation or a monologue in different accents – Australian, North American, British or New Zealand accents.

Tips to improve your Listening skills

Understand the different sounds of English

There are 5 vowels but 20 vowel sounds.

The same vowels sounds are different when used in different words, therefore, understanding the variations in the 20 types of vowel sounds is crucial to success.

For Example:

Different A sounds – take, task, tall, machine, tax Different E sounds – ten, teen, deer, dear, team, perfect, pervade Different I sounds – tin, time, tire Different O sounds – no, now, toll, poor, pool, foot Different sounds of U – umpire, universal, put, bus, suppose

There are 5 vowels but 20 vowel sounds. There are 5 short vowel sounds, 6 long vowel sounds, 1 schwa vowel sound and 8 diphthong sounds. Also, there are some sounds that are different in British and American accent. Therefore, while practising, you must listen to recordings with different accents.

Take as many practice tests as possible. While practising, listen to the vowel sounds of different words.

  • Short vowel sounds Short vowel sounds have a short sound as in the following words. There are 6 short vowel sounds.
    • Chin tin ring blink
    • man tan ran bland
    • Men ten lend send
    • Pull should look took
    • Pot hot cot not
    • Hut shut bud ton
  • Long vowel sounds Long vowel sounds have a long sound as in the following words. There are 5 long vowel sounds.
    • Charge father task last
    • Tool fool rule bloom
    • All ball call tall
    • Turn curl earn burn
    • Team beam keep league
  • Schwa vowel This is the weakest sound in English speech and is never stressed. If you have the word – water – the second vowel sound, ie of e in water, is not stressed in speech. More force of breath is put on the other vowel sound. Example: About, father, manner, survive, colour


In diphthongs, we have a combination of two vowel sounds. More stress is put on the first one. These sounds are longer than the other vowel sounds. With practice, you will understand the difference. Remember that some diphthongs sound different in British and American accents. Practice listening to both British and American accents.

    • Boy toy joy
    • Bright light mile
    • Cake bake shake
    • Round sound town
    • Boat coat close
    • Hear near beer
    • Hair bear there
    • Doer poor sure
  • There are triphthongs also. They have three vowel sounds. Example: Vowel Towel Flower player


There are 21 consonants but 24 consonant sounds.

The usage of consonant sounds is guided by rules; however, there are also some exceptions to these rules. The 21 consonants and their sounds are as follows:

  • B in English has only /b/ sound. It remains silent at the end of the word if it is preceded by ‘m’ like climb, thumb, bomb etc. Combined sound of BH is for non-English words.
  • C has different sounds • /s/ as in – cyber, science, cinema, century (if it is followed by e/i/y) • /k/ as in – coffee, can, correct, cut • /sh/ as in – special, financial • Combination of CH can have the sound of – /k/ as in chemist, chameleon /sh/ as in chivalry, charade /ch/ as in charge, chair, chores • C can have the sound of /s/ or /k/ when it is preceded by s /s/ as in science /k/ as in scorn
  • D has the sound of /d/ and ‘j’ • diamond, dynasty, bold • education, immediate The combined sound of DH is for non-English words.
  • F has the sound of only /f/
  • G has different sounds • ‘j’ if followed by e/i/y such as gems, longevity, gymnastics, regime. In this case, the exceptions are words such as get & give • /g/ as in go, games • nasal sound if preceded by ‘n’ as in sing, interesting • Sometimes the combination of GH has the sound of ‘f’ laugh, rough
  • H can have the sound of /h/ or can remain silent • high, humid, hammer • honest, honour – silent • why, what, whopping – silent
  • J has the sound of only ‘j’ jive, jittery, major Combined sound of JH is for non-English words
  • K has the sound of only /k/ • kind, stake, Combination of CK has the sound of /k/ • mock, lock, pickle
  • L has clear and dark sounds • lie – before vowels (clear sound) • eel – before consonants and at the end of a word(dark sound) L has a syllabic sound when it comes at the end of a word and is preceded by a consonant • little, mingle, comfortable
  • M has a nasal sound • mandatory, mall
  • N also has a nasal sound • nine, nose, bang, ringing N has a syllabic sound when it comes at the end of a word and is preceded by a consonant
  • P has the sound of only /p/ Combined sound of PH is /f/ • pharmacy, claustrophobic
  • Q has the sound of /k/ • quantum, opaque
  • has the sound of /r/ only • respiratory, rubbish In British English, it remains silent if preceded by a vowel but not followed by a vowel (In American English it is not silent) • perfect, water, perspiration
  • S can have different sounds • /s/ solvent, sanctuary • // fusion, vision • /sh/ mission, submission • /z/ fuse, refuse, rose
  • T can have different sounds • /t/ tentative, tall • /ch/ situation, accenture • /sh/ nation ‘tt’ has the sound of ‘t’ in British English but ‘d’ in American English T has the sound of /ch/ if it is followed by ch – batch
  • V has the sound of ‘v’ only. It’s a friction consonant. You press your lower lip with the upper teeth to produce this sound. • valour, violent, voracious • move, evaluation, evolve
  • W has the sound of ‘w’. It is a gliding consonant. You round your lips to produce this sound. • world, when It remains silent if it is followed by ‘r’ or ‘l’ • wrath, wretched • brawl, sprawl
  • X has the sound of ‘eks’ or ‘z’ • x mas, x ray • Xerox, xylophone
  • Y has the sound of’y’ and ‘I’ • Yellow, yield, yesterday • Beauty, derogatory, absolutely
  • Z has the sound of only ‘z’ • Zoom, zeal, zone

Your familiarity with the sounds in spoken English will help you to understand the native speakers of English. This is important as you can have correct spellings only when you are familiar with the different sounds in English speech.


Click + to see the answer

Answer: The IELTS listening test has four recordings – two monologues and two dialogues.
Answer: There are two dialogues and two monologues. In section one, you listen to a conversation between two people set in any day to day situation (enquiry etc.). In section two, you listen to a monologue related to social needs. In section three, you listen to a conversation between upto four speakers related to educational or training content. In section four, you listen to a monologue related to educational or training content.
Answer: The recordings can be in British, American, Australian or New Zealand accent.
Answer: In section one, the recording is on a day to day situation (enquiry etc.). In section two, it is related to social needs. In section three, it is related to educational or training content. In section four, it is related to educational or training content.
Answer: There are four sections in the IELTS listening test.
Answer: In all, there are 40 questions.
Answer: There are 10 questions in each section.
Answer: You will get 30 minutes for the listening test. In addition, you will get 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.
Answer: Yes, the marks are deducted because a wrong spelling means an incorrect answer.
Answer: You can listen to the recording only once.
Answer: No, you can not pause the recording in between.
Answer: Yes, you get time to read the questions before you hear a recording.
Answer: No, you can make notes on your question paper. You get an answer sheet to transfer your answers.
Answer: No, you should not. Answer all the questions. There is no negative marking for a wrong answer. So, you must guess the ones you don’t understand.
Answer: You must use a pencil. Carry an eraser with you to erase wrong answers.
Answer: You can write your answers in capital or small letters.
Answer: No, all questions carry the same marks – one mark for each correct answer.
Answer: Yes, it does matter in questions where you have to complete the sentence. You will need the correct form of the word – noun, verb, adjective, etc.
Answer: There is no fixed order. It will vary according to the type of question. For some questions, you will get your answers in order, but not for all.
Answer: No, you can get your score in half bands also, for instance, 5.5, 6.5, etc.