The Listening Module


The Listening module of the IELTS consists of a total of 40 questions.

There are four sections:

1.  Social Needs – Conversation between two speakers

2.  Social Needs – Speech by one speaker

3.  Educational or Training – Conversation between up to four speakers

4.  Educational or Training – Speech by one speaker

Main Ideas

Important words and main ideas in conversation are ones that will come up again and again. Listen carefully for any word or words that come up repeatedly. What words come up in nearly every statement made?  These words with high frequency are likely to be in the main idea of the conversation. For example, in a conversation about class size in the business department of a college, the term “class size” is likely to appear in nearly every statement made by either speaker in the discussion.

Voice Changes

IELTS expects you to be able to recognize and interpret nuances of speech. Be on the alert for any changes in voice, which might register surprise, excitement, or another emotion. If a speaker is talking in a normal monotone voice and suddenly raises their voice to a high pitch, that is a huge clue that something critical is being stated. Listen for a speaker to change their voice and understand the meaning of what they are saying.


Man:  Let’s go to Wal-mart.

Woman: There’s a Wal-mart in this small town

If the woman’s statement was higher pitched, indicating surprise and shock, then she probably did not expect there to be a Wal-mart in that town.


Listen carefully for specific pieces of information. Adjectives are commonly asked about in IELTS questions. Try to remember any main adjectives that are mentioned.  Pick out adjectives such as numbers, colors, or sizes.


Man: Let’s go to the store and get some apples to make the pie.

Woman:  How many do we need?

Man: We’ll need five apples to make the pie.

A typical question might be about how many apples were needed.


As you are listening to the conversation, put yourself in the person’s shoes. Think about why someone would make a statement.  You’ll need to do more than just regurgitate the spoken words but also interpret them.


Woman: I think I’m sick with the flu.

Man: Why don’t you go see the campus doctor?

Sample Question: Why did the man mention the campus doctor?

Answer: The campus doctor would be able to determine if the woman had the flu.

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