Home » IELTS Listening: Nine frequently asked questions

IELTS Listening: Nine frequently asked questions

IELTS Listening: Nine frequently asked questions

We have collated the nine most frequently asked questions candidates have sent us about the IELTS Listening test. You will find these answers useful in the Listening section and other parts of the IELTS test too.

1. Using capital letters

Question: Would my answer be marked wrong if I write in capital letters, for example, writing ‘seventeen’ as ‘SEVENTEEN’?
Answer: According to the official guide from IELTS, ‘You may write your answers in lowercase or capital letters.’

2. Academic vs General Training

Q: What are the differences between the Academic and General Training Listening tests?
A: If you only look at the IELTS Listening test, there is no difference — there is only one Listening test. There are, however, different papers in the Reading and Writing tests.

3. Using acronyms

Q: Can I write my answers in short forms / acronyms?
A: Avoid them if you can. There are several acceptable abbreviations you can use in all parts of IELTS, such as 10am / 10 a.m., 100m, 5kg, amongst some others. In a few cases, even some well-known acronyms are allowed, such as UK, US and — yes — IELTS. However, to avoid losing marks, you should always try to write the full form of a word if you can spell it (correctly). So if the answer is, for example, New England, then don’t simply write ‘NE’.

4. Spelling

Q: What happens if I spell a word wrongly?
A: You don’t get the mark. It’s as simple as that. There will be no half-a-mark deduction. Answers in the Listening test rarely involve long and difficult words but some candidates struggle with spelling names. You can try these exercises to practise and improve your spelling.

5. Listening to accents

Q: Can I choose which variety of English to be included in the Listening test? For example, I find Australian accents really difficult to understand!
A: Unfortunately, you can’t. And IELTS Listening tests always involve more than one accent, with varieties including Received Pronunciation (British), General American, etc. It is therefore a good idea to practise not just from one source, but instead multiple.

6. Writing numbers

Q: I am afraid of the answers with numbers — I don’t know if I should write them as words or figures!
A: Either will work nicely: 2 or two.

7. Reading the question paper

Q: Will I have the question paper in front of me while listening?
A: If you are doing paper-based IELTS, then yes. First, listen carefully and note down the answers quickly in the appropriate slot. You will then be given time to write your final answers more clearly on the answer paper, at the end of each recording. If you are doing computer-delivered IELTS, then you will see the questions on the screen and answer them as you listen.

8. Writing in pauses

Q: Can I write during the pauses between section and section?
A: Yes, these are your golden opportunities to read ahead and highlight the keywords to get a gist of what the recording will be about. It is not an exaggeration to say that how you use these pauses will decide the band score you will get in the end.

9. Explaining the four sections

Q: What are the differences between the four sections?
A: The first two sections are about using the English language to get by in an English-speaking country. The first section can be about anything, ranging from getting a call from a car dealership to booking a restaurant table. The second section often involves a floor plan or a map which you will need to study carefully. The third and fourth sections are primarily related to academic subjects, with the last one generally harder than the rest.

Further reading

Now you’ve read about commonly asked questions for the Listening module, why not read about seven common questions candidates have asked us about the Reading module.


  1. Fatima Gilani says:

    in a task which says no more then three words and or a number, if the recording says ”22nd of October”, will writing it as it is make it wrong? Is ‘nd’ considered as a separate word in an answer? Please clarify as the key said 22 October.

  2. fatima gilani says:

    if in speaking exam part 2, there something asked of past and i talk about present and miss some of the keys in the cue card, will i be penalised?

    • Using present as a comparison is fine (e.g. No one talks about global warming when I was small, but now we know why it is important) but you shouldn’t talk too much about it. Your past should be your focus. Missing key instructions though, could be potentially damaging. Hope this helps!

  3. syed adnan omer ahmed says:

    Could you please help me out because i am making this mistake consistently. The answer is (a) Silence in the answer booklet and i have written silence and the answer is (the) splash ride and i have written splash ride. Will the answer be marked as right or wrong ?. I really appreciate that.

  4. Aditi says:

    Just cross checking again, if I attend an offline test, I will be able to refer to the questions while listening to the audio clip?

  5. Romi M says:

    What happens if I have the right answer, in addition to an adjective or a noun? Is it considered wrong?
    For example, in a sample test, the answer to a blank is “magazine” and I wrote “local magazine” instead, will my answer be marked as wrong?
    The question did allow me to write more than one word in the blank, and the speaker in the listening did mention the term “local magazine”.

  6. Mitra says:

    Hi, thanks for this post. I have two questions:
    1. What would happen if I wrote more, for example, I might write “a modern farm” while the answer is “farm”, when the word limit is three. Would I lose marks?
    2. What should I write when the recording says my birthday is on “21st of March 1999”, and the word count is 2?

    • Hi there!
      1. Take a look at point 2 of this post. It will give you more detail about how to be accurate when answering questions.
      2. In most cases in the IELTS Listening test, you just have to write the date and month as an answer. So you could write 21/03 or March 21. I haven’t seen cases where you need the year too but in that case you can write it as one word 21/03/1999.

    • Hi there,
      The Reading and Writing tests are different in the Academic vs the General Training test. The topics in the Academic test are catered towards people entering university or education. The General Training topics are more about general interests and English.

  7. Id says:

    Do you have simulations adequate for a CD test taker? i want to register but i need to be sure about this. I also want to know if you provide 1 -1 tutoring on speaking and writing?

    • Hello! Yes, on Road to IELTS there is test practice for IELTS on computer candidates. There is no 1-to-1 tutoring but you can access plenty of practice activities, questions, and video advice on the Speaking and Writing sections of Road to IELTS. Thanks!

  8. Eda çıngırlar says:


    There are 4 section of listening part. How many time shall we listen these audios? Especially, last section of the listening is harder than the first section (for example). Do we listen them just one time? Or is there any chance to listen to the last section twice?

  9. Mohammad says:

    If I write the answer “miss” instead of the answer from the answer booklet “missed”. Will it be wrong because of the wrong tense?
    Thank you

  10. N says:

    Hi there.

    May I ask while listening to IELTS audio during listening test, am I allowed to write directly on the answer sheet?

    I know that it is recommended against as this practice may cause the candidate to lose focus, but am interested to know if this is permissible.

  11. Rubina Ayaz Baig says:

    Is it possible for the correct answer in the booklet noted, Is it would to be acceptable? Even though it has not been transferred to the answer sheet.

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