IELT Listening: Strategies for Section 1 – listening to a conversation

Section 1 is a conversation between two people in an everyday social context, for example: booking accommodations or asking questions at an information desk. You only hear the recording once. Each section has 10 questions and may have a variety of  question types.

Here, you will most likely be listening for specific information. You will usually have to fill in gaps in a form or notes (form completion/note completion) .  Here is  a sample question with tapescript & answers and the corresponding Mp3 recording.


1) As I wrote in a previous post on general strategies – read the instructions carefully first – it will tell you how many words or numbers you can use in the gap/blank – one, two or three at the most.

2) You have a short time before the listening to look over the questions. Read each question in the form/note and predict what you’ll be hearing – what kind of information do you have to listen out for? Look at any headings on the form and underline key words before and after that gap that will direct you on what to listen out for.

3) Think about the kind of word that will fit in the gap (a number, a noun, a name, a date, etc.)

4) Be prepared to hear a word or expression that is a synonym or similar to the key words on the form/note rather than the exact same word.

5) Since you are listening to a conversation, a speaker might say something then correct themselves or clarify what they say (as we do in normal conversation) – so make sure you catch the right answer!

6) Questions come in the order of the recording. As you listen, take careful notes as you follow the form/note. Don’t get stuck on one, move on and keep up with the recording as you will only hear it once. It’s better to miss

7) You will have time (10 minutes) at the end of all 4 sections to transfer your notes onto your answer sheet. Be careful when you transfer your answers to the correct question number! And take care with your spelling, as this counts.


  • When spelling out names, we often use the English Phonetic Alphabet to help clarify the sounds of the letters for the listener.  We often use common first names, animals, common words, city names or countries, etc. For example:
– “M” as in “Mary” – a girl’s name or “Mother”
– “F” as in “Fox”
– “T” as in “Tiger”, “Tom”
– “L” as in “London”
  • When there are two of the same letters or numbers, sometimes we say “double”. Example: “Manhattan” is spelled out ” M-A-N-H-A- double T- A-N”. With numbers – example: 633, we can say “6-double 3”. Similarly, sometimes we use “triple” for three of the same letters or numbers. 444 becomes “triple 4”
  • The number “0” can be referred to as “zero” “oh” or “nought”
  • Be familiar with numbers and units of measurements:
–  Dates/time: August 5, 1995 is “August fifth nineteen ninety-five”; 2012 can be “twenty-twelve” or “two thousand twelve”
– Dimensions/Weight/Distances: feet, inches, yards, miles, millimeters, centimeters, meters, kilometers; ounces, pounds, grams, kilograms
Money $2.50 = “two dollars and fifty cents”, “two-fifty”
Ordinal numbers: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.
– Percentages/Fractions: 1/2, 50%, half;  1/4, 25%, a quarter; 3/4, 75%, three-quarters, etc.
Decimals: American English “zero-point-two-five” = 0.25, British English “nought-point-two-five” = 0.25



I'm an English teacher specializing in IELTS preparation - especially writing and reading. If you have any questions, please ask! You can also sign up for weekly tips and lessons for IELTS and English!

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