Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Today you will get answers to student questions about the Listening exam.

These were all posted by 3 Keys IELTS students in our Facebook group.

We have had so many questions posted lately about the Listening test and when students are in our course, they are able to get answers within a few days from a member of our 3 Keys certified team.

It is breaking their brains!

  • breaking your brain: any time you are mentally exhausted and “over it”

Listening Question #1: No more than three words

  • If the instructions say “No more than three words,” will at least one answer have three words?

There are no guarantees!

As a general rule, if the instructions say “No more than three words” there will likely be at least one answer that is three words.

However, for questions with multiple options, one of the options may have three words, but the correct answer only has two.

Therefore, it is possible that none of the answers will have three words.

Listening Question #2: Spelling and abbreviations

Both are accepted!

For example, you can write meters or metres and both will be marked correct.

  • Can I abbreviate words?

It is acceptable to abbreviate time and distance, such as km and min.

However, all other words must be spelled out!

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Listening Question #3: Timing

  • How long will I have to read questions and highlight/underline before the audio begins?

If it is a section that is broken up into two halves, you will have 30 seconds to look at the questions.

Pay attention to the recording.

  • “You will now have some time to look at questions 1-5”

Just look at those questions.

You will again have 30 seconds for the next set of questions, so you don’t want to look ahead.

Practice is so vital!

The practice in the 3 Keys Success System and IELTS practice books are exactly like the exam.

The more you practice, the more you will know what to expect.

Listening Question #4: Articles

  • I wrote “female elephant” and it was marked wrong, with the correct answer listed as “a female elephant.”

This is a very common question, and many students make this mistake!

If it is short answer, sentence completion or summary completion, the grammar has to be correct.

Pro Tip: If it’s note completion or table completion, look at how the other answers are presented in that group.

If you are completing one bullet point in a list of others which all have articles, yours must also have an article.

Check your answers!

Do not skip ahead.

Do not trust teachers who tell you to read the next group of questions without checking answers.

You need to read through summary completions and check each answer.

You can catch mistakes which can make the difference in a whole band point!


There are so many important details about the Listening exam.

You will have questions about the IELTS exam as you are studying and doing practice exercises.

Also add the All Ears English Podcast to your list of listening practice resources. We publish fun and lively episodes four days per week.

Don’t waste time googling or risk receiving incorrect information.

Get into our extremely active, supportive IELTS Facebook group!

We’ll see you in there when you sign up at

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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