This is the first component of the IELTS exam. It confirms that students are able to listen and understand the English language using recordings. Students should note down facts and ideas from the recordings in order to answer comprehension questions. This portion lasts for 30 minutes.

What are the sections?

Once the IELTS listening test begins, a recording is played with information and questions. The recording plays continuously and is not stopped.

The recording has four parts:

  • Section 1—a social conversation between two people
  • Section 2—a speech about one social matter
  • Section 3— a four-person conversation, usually about education or training, such as a teacher discussing a project with students
  • Section 4—a lecture by one speaker about an academic subject, such as a classroom lecture

What questions will be asked?

There are 40 questions in total, with 10 questions per section. There are a variety of question types, including:

  • Matching
  • Multiple choice
  • Labelling diagrams
  • Matching
  • Summaries
  • Short sentences

Marking and Scoring

The IELTS exam is graded according to a bandwidth score based on an overall mark of 40.

A qualified IELTS professional marks the test, awarding one mark for every correct answer before translating it to a bandwidth score out of 9.

Note: Students can achieve partial bandwidth scores (such as 7.1). There is no failing grade, but students should aim to get as close to 9 as possible to achieve their goals. In addition, some English universities require bandwidth scores between 6 and 7.

Here’s a reference chart of bandwidth to test score relationships:

Band Score 9 8.5 8 7.5 7 6.5 6 5.5 5 4.5 4 3.5 3 2.5
Score / 40 39-40 37-38 35-36 32-34 30-31 26-29 23-25 18-22 16-17 13-15 10-12 8-10 6-7 4-5


Find more IELTS listening tips on our blog.