Listening: Problems and Ways to Deal

by IDP IELTS — August 6th, 2020

In this article, we will learn about the problems encountered in the Listening section and ways to deal with them. Thus, you can complete the Listening section calmly and confidently.

Unlike the Reading section, where you have a written text in front of you and you can return to it at any time, in the Listening you only have one chance to listen to the recording once. Unfortunately, it is not possible to take it back or forward and listen again. This can cause some stress and strain during the test, whereat making easy mistakes.

Following the instructions and understand the questions

Before listening to the four-part test, you will be given some time to check the questions. It can be really challenging to read the question and understand what you need to write at the same time. So, read the questions and the instructions for what kind of answer you need to write before listening begins (one word, up to two words, letters, numbers). Also, underline the words you think are important in the question. These keywords will help you associate questions with what you hear.

Understanding specific information

For some types of questions, such as filling out forms, you need to understand specific information such as name, date, time. Sometimes you may have trouble determining exactly what information you need to use to answer the question. Let’s remind you, it’s very important to read the instructions (such as the maximum number of words you should write) before you start listening to the questions. These redirections will make it easier for you to understand the information you need to write in the blanks.

Note that the questions you are listening to may appear differently (such as similar words) in the question booklet. You are expected to answer these questions by understanding these differences.

Following definitions

Map, plan, or diagram marking is the most common question type in Part 2 of the IELTS Listening. When you encounter such a question, you need to understand locations, from what substance, or how it works. You may encounter questions that are difficult to follow, such as locations, buildings, names of departments, or stages of a process. But there is no need to be upset! There will always be keywords to guide you through the problem. These can be verbs, adjectives (related to size, shape, quality, etc.), direction, or position reporting words (such as behind, next to, in front of).

Understanding speech

You have to follow the dialogue between a maximum of four people about work in the third part and understand important information, reasons, opinions, or suggestions. As the number of people in the conversation increases, it can be difficult to keep track of who says what, so read the questions carefully before you start listening. Look at the information provided and give an idea of ​​what the conversation might be about.

Following the conversation

The 4th part is usually the most difficult part, as the difficulty level of the Listening section increases. In this section, you will be asked questions about an academic topic or a lecture. Good speakers and academics use speech-guiding words such as ‘on the other hand’, ‘for example’, ‘lastly’, ‘although’, ‘in addition’, ‘because’ to indicate where they are in the conversation. These words will warn you about more information coming during listening and what kind of information this might be. You should also pay attention to the stress and intonation in speech.


Writing words correctly is vital for the Listening section. In order for your answer to be evaluated correctly, you should not make spelling mistakes.

One of the problems encountered in the IELTS Listening is not to match the answers by mixing the order of questions. If you take paper-based IELTS, you will have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to an answer sheet. Make sure that you spell the words correctly and match them with the correct question.

The questions in the IELTS Listening section are the same for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, but there are many challenges that make it difficult to complete the section successfully. Do not forget that you can easily reach your goal with good preparation and lots of practice.

Sample IELTS Listening questions

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