IELTS Listening Section 4 Tips and Practice

IELTS listening section 4 is regarded as the most difficult section in the listening test because it requires students to finish two parts of questions after playing the recording only once. In most cases, you need to fill in a form first and then do another five multiple choice questions. It is also likely to include other such as sentence completion questions.

The recording is usually an academic talk about a certain subject such as biology and history, which makes this section even more difficult. Let’s take a look at the best section 4 IELTS listening tips to help you succeed on test day!

Tip 1: Allocate Time Wisely

It is an important step to wisely allocate your time in the listening section. At the beginning of the listening section, try your best to read all the questions. If you can finish reading the section four questions before section one begins, read them again after answering section three, especially the long choices in multiple choice questions. Getting familiar with the questions in advance helps you to concentrate on the recording!

Tip 2: Circle Key Words

When you are reading the questions, circle the key words. The key words refer to the most important information in the question. Some key words are easy to identify such as an academic term or a name; others are subtle. You need to listen carefully for the key words in the recording.


American boys drop out of school at a higher rate than girls because

  1. A) they need to be in control of the way they learn
  2. B) they play video games instead of doing school work
  3. C) they are not as intelligent as girls

The key words in the question is drop out of school and the key words in the choices are control the way they learn, video games, and intelligent. Then, just pay attention to these words or the paraphrased forms while listening.

Tip 3: Predict the answer

Sometimes, you can predict the answer based on the given information, especially in table/form/sentence completion questions. Let’s take the following question from the British Council as an example.

IELTS listening section 4 -magoosh

According the given information, Question 31 should be another way to think about time based on the past. Since the first way is positive, we can predict that Question 31 is also a descriptive adjective. Also, based on the features and consequences, the second way may be the opposite of the positive outlook. Therefore, the answer is very likely to be negative.

Tip 4: Practice

To get prepared for this section, you can do practice tests as well as listen to academic talks from various websites. Here are some recommended resources for you.

Ted Talks 

Online Courses

Science Talks

Magoosh’s IELTS Listening Practice Test (below):

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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  • Kuangyan

    Kuangyan creates IELTS blogs at Magoosh. She is passionate about language education and has a MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from New York University. Kuangyan has experience of teaching English both in China and in US. In her free time, she drinks mocha, does yoga, takes photos and travels to different places to explore the exciting world.