IELTS Listening Short Answer Questions

Short answer questions are not very common on the IELTS listening exam. Nevertheless, for the completion of your preparation, we have prepared this guide.

These questions are quite straightforward, and similar in many respects to sentence completion questions. The key difference is that the sentence has been phrased as a question and you are required to give the answer.

Strategy

The strategies for answering short answer questions are the same as for many other listening tasks. Essentially, you need to use your reading time to do three things:

  1. Check the number of words which you can write;
  2. Find key words which indicate when to listen for the next answer;
  3. Anticipate what type of word you are listening for.

Step 1: Read the Questions

As with many other listening questions, there is one part of the instructions you need to read first. Have a look at the example instructions below:

SECTION 1
Questions 1-5
Answer the questions below.
Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS for each answer.

You need to know how many words you can write, and whether that includes a number. In this case you may only write two words.

Step 2: Read the Questions and Predict

The remaining time before the recording you should spend reading the questions. In particular, you should note two things:

  1. For questions 2 onwards, any key word which you are likely to hear.
  2. For all of the questions, what type of word you are listening for.
Identifying Key Words

Although what you hear will not include the questions in front of you, the recording may include some of the same words. This can help you to keep track of the recording. This is important because if you miss one question, you shouldn’t let it cause you to miss the next few questions as well.

When identifying a key word we are looking for something which will be low frequency and is of central importance to the question. Any words marked on the paper in ‘quotation marks’ will be a good key word as it is being quoted from the audio.

You don’t need to identify a key word for the first question. You should be listening for the answer to this question from the beginning.

Predicting the Answer

While looking for key words, also read the questions. What can you tell about the answer from the question? Among other things, you can probably at least tell the word class (e.g. noun, verb, etc.).

Practice

Read the questions below and identify the key words. What can you tell about the answers? Then check your answers below.

  1. What part of the assignment is Alan going to start working on?
  2. Where will Melanie get more information on used paper collection?
  3. What will they add to the assignment to make it more interesting?
  4. What do they agree to complete by the end of the month?
  5. Who will they ask to review their work?
  1. What part of the assignment is Alan going to start working on? (no key word necessary; noun – some part of an assignment e.g. introduction)
  2. Where will Melanie get more information on used paper collection? (noun – source of information e.g. books, internet)
  3. What will they add to the assignment to make it more interesting? (noun – possibly data, images, quotes)
  4. What do they agree to complete by the end of the month? (noun – part of the writing process e.g. a draft)
  5. Who will they ask to review their work? (noun – a person, most likely a classmate or tutor)

Step 3: Listen and Write the Answers

Now is the time to listen and write the answers. While doing this make sure you move to the next question when you hear the key word.

  1. (the) introduction
  2. (the) council
  3. (some) data
  4. first draft
  5. (their/the) tutor

Step 4: Check Your Answers

After each set of questions, the recording tells you to check your answers. However, this is not actually possible. Instead, make sure you have answered every question, then start reading the next set of questions.

Acknowledgement

The listening audio and questions used here are taken from The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS. The full book can be purchased here.

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