The Listening section 1 is supposed to be the easiest of the whole listening test. However, it can have some tricks to confuse you. In this post, I will give you tips to solve it faster and show you ways to avoid being tricked during the exam.

At the end of the post, you will find a PowerPoint summary of Listening section 1 that I created so you can download it and save it on your computer.

If you are going to take the paper-based exam, I suggest you print the listening exercise and do it. Avoid doing it on the computer since it might be more challenging. The Cambridge IELTS practice tests do not come in the format of the computer-based exam.

In Listening Section 1, have to complete a table with actual words from the recording.

As you can see from the picture, there are 10 gaps that you need to fill. You will have 30 sec to read the questions first and then you will answer the 10 questions in two parts: first from questions 1 to 5, and then from questions 6 to 10. At the end of the audio, you will have 30 sec to check your answers.

In this section, you will hear a conversation between two speakers related to everyday situations, such as a phone survey, a job application, asking for information, and so on.

What do I have to do in IELTS Listening Section 1?

You have to be able to identify the main information and specific details in the conversation.

What type of information will I listen to?

You will listen to numbers, proper names, timetables, and specific information about the topic of the table. So, before the exam, you can practice at home the pronunciation of challenging numbers, such as 15/50, 13/30, 19/90, and so on. Also, practice the alphabet and the spelling of English names, for example, street names, surnames, and names of places.

What should I do before listening?

Before listening, you should ALWAYS read the instructions to know exactly how many words you have to use to complete the table (most of the time is ONLY ONE). Then, check the title of the table to see the topic. A phone survey, a school/course enrolment sheet, and a job application are by far the most common ones. Then read the questions and underline the most important words in each of them. Such words will help you identify the correct answer while listening.  Lastly, try to predict the missing information in each gap. Think about the category/type of the word you need to use, e.g. it is a verb? a noun? a number? a profession? etc.

1. Check the Instructions

2. Identify the situation

3. Read the questions, look for keywords and predict the info in each gap

In the beginning, all these steps might look difficult to follow in 30 sec. That is why you really need to practice them at home. Start by following the 3 steps without paying attention to the timing. By repeating these steps, you will create a habit that then will become more natural and unconscious.


Once you feel confident enough, you can start timing yourself. You will see that the 3-step process comes naturally and you will be able to do it in 30sec or even less!

Many students at the beginning get very anxious and nervous because they focus on everything at the same time, e.g. the timing, the gaps, the number of words, the type of information missing. PLEASE TAKE YOUR TIME TO GET USED TO THE FORMAT OF THE EXAM IF YOU REALLY WANT TO SUCCEED. Follow my advice for 1 or 2 weeks, do 1 listening test per day at your own pace and you will see your improvement. It is crucial to develop these skills before actually concentrating on timing.


What should I do while I’m listening to the recording?

Pay attention to the speakers. As you already know, you will hear a conversation in Listening Section 1. This conversation will be between a man and a woman (or an old person and a young one). This is key to understand this section since one of the speakers will be asking questions and the other will be answering them. This is the first and most important point: RECOGNIZE WHO IS THE SPEAKER GIVING THE ANSWERS. That is why IELTS always provides conversations between a man and a woman, so in this way, it is easier to identify the one giving the answers.

Once you are ready to write down your answers, remember the following:

  1. Write FULL WORDS and do not use abbreviations, e.g. Oct instead of October. 
  2. Write each word in CAPITAL LETTERS, in this way, you will definitely avoid silly mistakes, for instance writing “monday” instead of “Monday“, that’s why you should write MONDAY.
  3. Write the NUMBERS, DO NOT SPELL THEM. It is easier and faster.
  4. Pay attention to DATES. Most students get confused when writing dates because they do not know how to do it appropriately. You should always write the number + the month, and not the other way around. For example, 18 October or 18th October (NO October 18)
  5. POSTCODES have numbers and letters and the letters should be capitalized.

How can I identify the most common tricks?

When you are listening, listen carefully to key phrases. These are the words/phrases you underlined before you started the listening test. But, bear in mind that the speakers will probably use synonyms or paraphrasing instead of the words from the table.

In the example, the speaker says “so, you paid the full price for your ticket…” instead of asking “how much was your ticket?”, which is the question we would expect to hear. This is a very common trick used in this section. You have to be very aware of what the speakers are saying.

You should also pay attention to the NEGATIVE PHRASES or WORDS that the speakers use. They tend to contradict themselves while talking.

For example, phrases like “Oh sorry, we can’t deliver the product on the 18th or “Actually, I won’t be able to make it by Sunday” are completely confusing since they negate what the speaker has just said and they also include a date/information which might be incorrect. If you are not paying careful attention, you will probably write down the incorrect date/information, which leads me to my last point.

Listen to EVERYTHING and do not rush to write an answer. Some speakers come back and forth with information until they give their final answer.

You can write down some words as they speak but, as the exam progresses, it will get more difficult. Listen to the ENTIRE IDEA and not just a part. Trying to get a word or a number out of the conversation might lead you to write an incorrect answer.

Click here to download the PowerPoint summary