Home » IELTS Listening: Nine frequently asked questions

IELTS Listening: Nine frequently asked questions

IELTS Listening: Nine frequently asked questions

You ask, we answer

Here are just a few of the questions candidates have asked us about the Listening test. Some of these you may have wondered about yourself, so read on for IELTS Listening tips and tricks…

I would like to know: would my answer be marked wrong if I write each and every letter of word as capital; for example there is blank in which I have to write seventeen and I write it as SEVENTEEN.
According to IELTS Listening Advice from IELTS, ‘You may write your answers in lower case or capital letters.’

What are the differences between the Academic and General Training Listening tests?
There is no Academic Listening or General Training Listening — there is only one Listening test. There are, however, different papers in the Reading and Writing tests.

Can I write my answers in short forms / acronyms?
No. Abbreviations will not be accepted. So if the answer is, for example, New England, then don’t simply write NE.

What happens if I spell a word wrongly?
You don’t get the mark. It’s as simple as that. There will be no half-a-mark deduction. However, answers in the Listening test rarely involve long and difficult words.

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

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

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

Can I write during the pauses between section and section?
Yes, these are your golden opportunities to highlight the keywords and 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.

What are the differences between the four sections?
The first two sections are about using the English language to get by in a English-speaking country. It 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.

Get more for free

You can read more key facts and information about the test from the IELTS Study Guides. Sign up for them here. You can also get an IELTS sample test for online preparation here

Further reading

Now you’ve read about commonly asked questions for the Listening module, why not read about seven FAQs 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?

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