Top Tips for Answering IELTS Listening Multiple Choice Questions - Kohli Star Image School

Top Tips for Answering IELTS Listening Multiple Choice Questions

The IELTS Listening test requires that you answer many different types of questions, but what proves the most problematic for students are often the Multiple Choice questions. Whilst multiple choice questions may seem scary at first, there are some useful strategies that you can apply to make sure that you get the best mark possible.

PROBLEM: Expecting to hear the same words

A key thing to remember in both IELTS Listening and Reading is that the tasks will often test your ability to recognise synonyms. This means that the words given in the multiple choice options are unlikely to match the exact words that the speaker mentions/uses.

For example:

The idea for the two new developments in the city came from

A  local people.

B  the City Council.

C  the SWRDC.

As many of you may know, the ideas for these initiatives came from you, the public.

In this example, the correct answer is A: local people. This is because when the speaker uses the phrase ‘you, the public’ it carries the same meaning as answer A: local people.

TIP: Having an awareness of synonyms will help you to locate the correct answer more easily. When practising, try giving yourself a bit more time to predict possible synonyms or paraphrases. In order to do this, you will need to make sure that you have a wide-ranging vocabulary.

PROBLEM: Distractors

Another important point to remember is that the IELTS Listening Multiple Choice questions contain many distractors. Distractors are words that are set to ‘distract’ you from the real answer.

Let’s look once more at the example below:

The idea for the two new developments in the city came from

A  local people.

B  the City Council.

C  the SWRDC.

The city council conducted an extensive consultation exercise last year, to figure out how to develop the local area, but as many of you may know, the ideas for these initiatives came from you, the public. And they’ve been realised using money from the SWRDC.

The audio mentions both the city council and the SWRDC. However, if we look more carefully, we can see that the correct answer is actually A, the local people (the public).

TIP: You need to be very aware that these distracting words, or distractors, will probably appear in most IELTS Listening Multiple-Choice questions. DON’T just assume that the first option that you hear is the correct answer. Think carefully about the meaning of what the speaker is saying, and be prepared for the speaker to change their mind. Listen out for words like ‘but’ and ‘however’; these types of linking words indicate that the answer may not be quite so straightforward.

PROBLEM: No time to read the questions!

The IELTS Listening test gives you time to read after each section. However, a common complaint from IELTS students is that they don’t have enough time to read the questions properly before the audio begins. Some of the options given can be very long and wordy, and students are unable to understand the full meaning of each option in time.


IELTS gives you some time to check over your answers after each section. If you feel confident with your answers you may skip ahead to the next section, in order to give yourself more time to read the next questions.

If you find that you are still low on time, you may want to focus on the question only. Make notes on your test paper about what you hear. Later, in the transfer time, you can check these notes and then locate the correct answer.

IELTS Listening Multiple Choice sample

PROBLEM: Losing track

Another common problem that students face in IELTS Listening Multiple Choice is losing pace, and not being able to ‘keep up’ with the audio. This often happens when you miss an answer. For example, if you miss the answer to question number 2, you might not realise that the speaker has actually started addressing question number 3.


Remember to underline the keywords in all of the questions before you start listening and be prepared to move on when you hear any words connected to the next question. Thinking about not only the current question but also the next one will mean that you won’t fall behind with the audio.

PROBLEM: Low level of comprehension

For some students, the problem lies with comprehension. Perhaps you feel that the speaker is very quick in their speech, or perhaps you’re just not used to listening for such an intense? period of time.


Try listening to the audio without looking at the questions. If you feel that you are unable to follow the ideas of the speakers, then you probably need to spend some extra time just on building up your general comprehension skills. Try downloading some podcasts from i-tunes or google play, and stick to subjects that you are interested in, in order to maintain your motivation. Watching English TV shows and films can be useful, but remember that in the real test you won’t have the help of a visual, so it is important that you get some audio-only practice too.


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