IELTS Listening Note Completion

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Section 4 of the IELTS listening test tends to involve a note completion task.

In this task type, you are presented with a set of notes which have been written about the listening. Your task is to complete the gaps which have been deleted. This task is therefore very similar to other completion tasks.


As with many of the IELTS listening tasks, the key strategies to performing well on note completion questions are to follow the recording and anticipate the missing information.

Step 1: Read the Instructions

Before you listen, you will have some time to read the instructions and questions.

The instructions will tell you how many words you may write and whether the answer could also inlude a number. For example, the instructions may say:

WriteΒ ONE WORD ONLYΒ for each answer.

Typically the instructions will say to write between one and three words and may also allow a number.

Step 2: Read the Notes

Having read the instructions, you should next read the notes. Here you are aiming to do two things:

  1. Identify key words which will tell you when to move to the next question.
  2. Anticipate what could be missing from the gap.
Identifying Key Words

You should identify key words for all of the questions except the first. For the first question, you will be listening for this answer from the moment the audio begins.

A good key word is one which is likely to be said in the recording, but is not likely to be repeated many times.

Anticipating Answers

While looking for key words, you should also anticipate what type of information is missing from each gap.

As you will be completing notes, the words will very often be nouns. If you are permitted to write two words, these are likely to be compound nouns or an adjective with a noun.


Look at the example notes from a note completion task. Which key words would you underline? What can you tell about the words which are missing?

Episodic memory

the ability to recall details, e.g. the time and 31 _____ of past events

different to semantic memory – the ability to remember general information about the 32 _____, which does not involve recalling 33 _____ information

Forming episodic memories involves three steps:


involves receiving and processing information

the more 34 _____ given to an event, the more successfully it can be encoded

to remember a 35 _____, it is useful to have a strategy for encoding such information


how memories are strengthened and stored

most effective when memories can be added to a 36 _____ of related information

the 37 _____ of retrieval affects the strength of memories


memory retrieval often depends on using a prompt, e.g. the 38 _____ of an object near to the place where you left your car

Episodic memory impairments

these affect people with a wide range of medical conditions

games which stimulate the 39 _____ have been found to help people with schizophrenia

children with autism may have difficulty forming episodic memories – possibly because their concept of the 40 _____ may be absent

memory training may help autistic children develop social skills

31. (no key word) noun – something with completes “time and _____” – therefore place seems likely

32. (semantic memory) – noun – synonym of event e.g. incident

33. (semantic memory) – adjective

34. (encoding) – noun – detail

35. (strategy) – noun – something which is remembered e.g. fact

36. (consolidation) – noun – where information can be stored e.g. “bank” of information

37. (retrieval) – noun e.g. frequency

38. prompt – noun e.g. name

39. (schizophrenia) – noun – part of the brain e.g. amygdala

40. (autism) – noun e.g. past

Step 3: Listen and Write the Answers

You are now ready to listen to the recording and write the answers you hear. Remember to move on when you hear the key word.

31. location

32. world

33. personal

34. attention

35. name

36. network

37. frequency

38. colour/color

39. brain

40. self

Step 4: Check Your Answers

After each set of questions, the recording will tell you that you have some time to check your answers. However, that isn’t really possible. You will not see the correct answers, so how can you check?Β 

As this is the end of the listening exam, you should check you have an answer for all the questions in the paper. Then transfer your answers to the answer sheet.


The listening audio and sentence completion questions used here are taken from Cambridge Academic IELTS 13, which can be purchased here.

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