How To Answer IELTS Listening Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple choice questions in the IELTS listening test are often more difficult than they should be.  This is how they might appear:

Here is my step-by-step guide to answering them:

  1. Carefully read the instructions.
  2. Underline keywords in the questions so that you are clear about what exactly is being asked.
  3. Next, underline keywords in the options, which give clues as to the difference in meaning between the different choices.
  4. Quickly think of topic related synonyms and paraphrases you might hear. Even if they do not come up it still gets your mind focused on the fact that the answer may be given using other synonyms.
  5. Based on the information in the question can you make an educated guess at the answer.
  6. Whilst you are listening, be sure to listen out for synonyms and paraphrases.
  7. Wait until you have listened to all of the options to be talked about and never write the first answer you hear.
  8. If you cannot answer a question, take an educated guess and the immediately refocus on the next question. Do not let missing one question cause you to panic, stay focused.

Always remember that the speakers and the questions are trying to trick you! This means that:

If a question has 3 choices, normally all three answers will be mentioned, so be careful that you do not simply choose the first answer that you hear! This is a very common mistake, especially when students are nervous.

The listening test is also really a vocabulary test. Often the answers will be given using synonyms and paraphrases, so mentally prepare yourself for this to happen so you do not miss the answer.

Even though it is a listening test, there is still a good deal of reading to do before you can even answer the questions. Try to remain calm and underline keywords in the question AND in the different options. Always, try to work out the difference in meaning between the different options.

A few more ideas to help:

Sometimes between recordings there is an opportunity for a short break. Avoid using this time to check previous answers and instead use this to read ahead and understand the upcoming multiple choice questions.

Don’t get ‘held up’ on one question if you are not sure, make your best guess and be ready for the next question.

If you hear words such as, ‘even though’, ‘but’, or ‘however’ then this can be a sign that the meaning of a sentence is going to be modified in some way which may affect your choice.

And finally, make sure you are clear on the the steps you are going to go through when answering multiple choice questions. Practicing these steps will give you confidence and help you remain calm on test day AND hopefully boost your score!

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