In the IELTS listening exam you will be given four passages with ten questions each. One of the most common question types is multiple choice, which means choosing from a list of possible answers. But many students wonder how to answer multiple choice questions in the IELTS listening test. Fortunately, there are several important tips you can follow.

Don’t Answer Too Quickly

It can be tempting to choose an answer because you hear a word from the question. However, you need to listen to the whole section to choose correctly. Sometimes that word might be misleading, and the correct answer comes later. Of course, you do need to listen for synonyms or important signposting words… but you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

Listen in depth for information regarding time because sometimes that can help you choose between two possible correct answers. If you are asked what someone saw at a certain time, and two possible answers are stated, it might be tempting to choose the first one you hear. But maybe that isn’t the correct one. Perhaps the stated time refers to the second answer.

Also, one common IELTS tactic is to give error correction, especially in section one. A person will often say a word and then correct themselves. For example:

It was in July of last year… no, actually it was in June.

Make Statements Into Questions

Sometimes a multiple choice question requires you to complete a sentence by providing the first half and then several possible second halves. In this case, you can often turn the first half of the sentence into a question to help guide you to the correct answer. For example, if the prompt says, “The team of researchers carried out the study to…” you could change this to “Why did the team of researchers carry out the study?” This should help you listen better for the correct answer.

In this case you should also be looking for phrases to guide you. You will find phrases like:

  • in order to
  • because
  • to see if

Decide If An Answer Is Appropriate 

In multiple choice questions for IELTS listening you will often find that all possible answers are referenced in the listening passage, and this can be difficult or confusing for candidates. However, of course not all the answers are equally likely. Some of them, although mentioned, are inappropriate. If you are talking about computer parts then they may well mention a desk, but it’s not really part of the computer, is it? Neither is the mouse mat, chair, or a book about how to programme software. These may all be mentioned, but they are not appropriate answers. On the other hand, a monitor, keyboard, or hard drive are indeed a part of a computer. You can figure this out prior to listening, and then discount them while listening.

Again, however, it is important to listen to everything the speaker says before choosing an answer. This will help you to avoid making a silly mistake.

Cross Out Wrong Answers

This may sound obvious, but actually it is one of the best ways to succeed in IELTS. Essentially, when listening to the passage, any time you hear an answer being eliminated for any reason, you cross it out. Like this. If you are asked about when two people are meeting and someone says, “Well, it wasn’t Monday or Tuesday…” then you can eliminate those two days from the options. Trust me, so many candidates don’t do this and later they forget. If you are determined to hear the correct answer, often you overlook those that it couldn’t possibly be and choose one by mistake!

This method also helps when you end up not hearing the right answer. Why? Because let’s say you have seven possible answers to choose from. If you really don’t know the answer, you should always choose. However, 1 in 7 is not good odds! But if you can eliminate four or five answers definitely then you have a much better chance of guessing the correct answer.


There are many methods that can help you answer multiple choice questions for the IELTS listening exam but the hints and tips above are some of the best. Ultimately, though, you have to boost your listening skills and practice every day with regular and specialized IELTS listening materials. Don’t forget to search this website for TED Talks that will really help you.