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The ultimate guide to IELTS Listening: Tips for gap-filling, map labelling and multiple-choice questions

Hey there, IELTS warriors! 

Are you ready to conquer the listening section of the IELTS exam? 

If you’re here, it means you’re in search of strategies, tips, and insights to excel in this part of the test. And guess what? You’re in the right place!

You already know the IELTS exam is a big deal. It’s your passport to studying, working, or settling abroad. Of the four skills it tests (Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking), today, we’re setting our sights on the Listening section. Trust me, with the right strategies and practice, you can score high. So, are you ready to dive in?

1. Read and follow instructions carefully 

It sounds so simple, right? But trust me, many miss out on valuable points because they don’t follow instructions to the T. Every word in the instruction matters, so read them carefully. Doesn’t matter how correct your answer is, if it doesn’t follow the instructions, it’s a zero. So, rule number one – always, and I mean always, read and follow the instructions!

For instance, different sets of questions will have different word limits. Don’t make the mistake of assuming they’re all the same. So, be sure to check the word limit for each new set of questions!

2. Read the questions before the recording starts

So, why should you consider reading the questions in advance? Well, let me tell you, it’s a game changer!

First up, anticipation. When you read the questions ahead of time, you’re preparing yourself for what’s to come. It’s like having a secret roadmap to the conversation. You’ll be able to quickly pinpoint the crucial points in the audio because you already know what to listen out for. Cool, right?

Secondly, it’s all about focus. Knowing the questions in advance is like having a laser-guided system for your attention. It helps you zone in on the specific parts of the conversation that hold the golden nuggets of information. No more wading through irrelevant chatter!

And lastly, we’re talking efficiency. Time is precious, and we don’t want to waste it, do we? Familiarizing yourself with the questions beforehand means you can immediately match the answers when you hear them. It’s like having a superpower that lets you cut straight to the chase!

3. Pay attention to keywords 

As mentioned earlier, Before the audio starts, read through the questions and options (if applicable, like in multiple-choice questions) and identify key words. These keywords are crucial as they guide you on what to listen for in the recording!

While listening to the recording, stay alert for these keywords or phrases. They often signal that the answer is about to be mentioned or discussed.

If you’re dealing with multiple-choice questions, each option is likely to contain distinct keywords. Spotting these is like having a cheat sheet – by identifying them, you can match up what you hear in the recording to the right option!

Now, if you’re doing a paper-based test, here’s a neat trick. When you hear something in the recording that tells you an option is wrong, go ahead and cross it out. It’s like clearing the clutter – it narrows down your choices and makes it easier to pick the right answer!

4. Gap-filling task

Are you ready to master the art of gap-filling tasks in the IELTS Listening test? For this task, you’ll be required to fill in gaps in sentences, summaries, notes, tables, or flow charts based on what you hear. 

Let’s dive into some strategies and tips that will help you excel in this tricky part of the exam. It’s all about focus, attention to detail, and a bit of smart thinking!


  • Sneak a preview: Before the audio begins, quickly scan the questions. Get a sense of what you’re listening for – names, dates, places, and so on.
  • Keyword detective: Keep an eye out for those keywords around the gaps. They’re your hints for when to perk up your ears.
  • Expect the unexpected: The recording might use different words than the questions. Stay sharp for synonyms and paraphrases.
  • Quick on the draw: Whether you’re writing or typing, get those answers down as soon as you hear them.

Practical tips:

  • Spelling and grammar: Ensure your answers are spelled correctly and fit grammatically into the gaps. Incorrect spelling can lead to losing marks!
  • Word limit: Adhere strictly to the word limit. If the instruction says “NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS,” writing three words will result in a wrong answer, even if part of your answer is correct.
  • Number formats: Adhere strictly to the word limit. If the instruction says “NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS,” writing three words will result in a wrong answer, even if part of your answer is correct.
  • Practice with different accents: The test loves to mix up accents – British, American, Australian, you name it. Familiarize yourself with these to avoid surprises!
  • Double check your answers: If time allows, review your answers. Sometimes, a second thought can help you correct a hastily written incorrect answer.

How to build your skills:

  • Transcript is your friend: Use practice tests with transcripts. After completing a listening exercise, go through the transcript to see where you missed answers or misunderstood something!
  • Time it right: Practice under timed conditions to get used to the pace of the test!
  • Diversify your listening practice: Mix up your practice with podcasts, news, and lectures. The more variety, the better your ears will get at picking up different accents and speeds.

With these strategies up your sleeve, you’re well on your way to acing those gap-filling tasks. You’ve got this!

5. Map-labelling task

In map labeling tasks, you are required to identify certain locations or features on a map based on the audio description. These tasks typically appear in Part 2 of the Listening test, so, make sure to be prepared!


  • Get familiar with the map: Before the recording starts, study the map. Notice landmarks and paths – these are key reference points for you.
  • Spot keywords: Check out the labels and descriptions on the map. They give you a heads-up on what to listen for in the audio.
  • Anticipate answers: Think about what information (like names or places) might be needed based on the map’s layout and existing labels.

Practical tips:

  • Follow the speaker’s route: The speaker might describe a path or sequence. Try to visualize this journey on your map.
  • Listen for directions and locations: Be attentive to words that indicate directions (like “left,” “right”) and locations (like “beside,” “in front of”).
  • Watch for corrections and extras: Speakers might correct themselves or add details. Keep alert to catch these updates.
  • Use elimination: If you’re unsure, eliminate options based on what you’ve already figured out.
  • Practice with different maps: Get comfortable with various map types to improve your spatial understanding.

How to build your skills:

  • Practice with mock tests: Regularly do practice tests with map labeling. Review your answers to understand where you went wrong.
  • Visualize while listening: During practice, try to picture the map and the locations being mentioned. This helps in real-time during the test.

By adopting these strategies, you’ll enhance your ability to tackle map labeling tasks in the IELTS Listening test. Keep practicing, stay focused, and you’ll be set to ace this part of the exam!

6. Multiple choice questions

In these questions, you’ll have to pick the correct answer from a few choices. Sounds simple, but it can be quite a challenge with all the information thrown at you! These questions are often considered challenging due to the volume of information and potential for similar-sounding or misleading options. But don’t worry, we’ve got strategies to deal with that!


  • Know what you’re listening for: Take a moment before the audio starts to read through the questions and all the options. It’s like getting a preview of the show!
  • Keyword hunt: Look for those crucial keywords in the questions and options. They’re your guides to finding the right part of the audio.
  • Make a guess: Before the audio plays, try to guess the answer or the kind of info you need. This keeps your brain on its toes!

Practical tips:

  • Be alert to paraphrasing: The words in the recording might not exactly match the words in the questions or options. Listen for synonyms and paraphrased sentences.
  • Watch out for traps: The speakers might mention several options, but only one (or a few) will be correct. Be cautious of information that is similar but not exactly what the question asks.
  • Eliminate wrong answers: Use the process of elimination. If you’re sure an option is incorrect, mentally discard it to narrow down your choices.
  • Stay focused throughout: Multiple-choice questions can be lengthy. Stay focused throughout the recording to ensure you don’t miss key information.
  • Review if time allows: If you’re unsure about an answer, mark it and come back to it at the end if time permits.

How to build your skills:

  • Dive into different topics: Since multiple-choice questions can cover a wide range of topics, practice with materials from various subjects.
  • Analyze your mistakes: After completing practice tests, review your incorrect answers to understand why you chose the wrong option and how to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

By incorporating these strategies and tips into your preparation, you can improve your ability to tackle multiple-choice questions in the IELTS Listening test, which is crucial given their complexity and potential to impact your overall score!

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