What’s in this section?

Part 1 of the IELTS Listening Section is a recording of a 2-3 minutes telephone dialogue. It is ‘transactional’, meaning that one person in the dialogue wants something. They might want to join a club, or to inquire about a product or service, or it might be something connected to their university studies.

On your test paper, you see some notes from one side of the recording of the conversation, but they’re incomplete. As you listen, you need to complete the notes as answers for the section.

How do I answer?

During the test, it’s easier to write your answers directly onto the test paper for the listening section. At the end, you will have time to transfer them onto your answer sheet, checking for spelling mistakes as you do so.

How is it marked?

You can score a maximum of ten marks in Section 1. There are 10 questions, worth one mark for each answer. To be awarded a mark, you must:

  • spell all word(s) correctly
  • use appropriate punctuation (like capital letters for names)
  • show that you understand some ‘conventions’ for how we write things in English – for example, when writing the floors of a building, we write “3rd/third floor”, not “3/three floor”.

You also need to take note of the word limit. Many IELTS tasks have an instruction like “Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER” at the top of the page. Below you can see an example of this section.

If you don’t read this instruction, and you write too many words, you will not receive a mark for your answer.

How difficult is Exercise 1?

Stronger candidates usually find this the easiest section of the test, but there can be some problems. Weaker candidates often struggle to write down all the information quickly and accurately, because the answers are not equally spaced apart – there can be a long gap in the recording between one answer and the next, then two or three answers close together.

What kind of information do I need to write?

The information can be of many kinds, but there will often be addresses and locations. If the conversation is about a product, for example, you might need to write down the location of the shop where the product is sold. For this, it’s useful to review some prepositions (e.g. in the town centre, behind the cinema) and to make sure you know all the different types of street names there are in English – Road, Close, Avenue, Lane and so on.

“How do you spell that?”

One thing you will always need to do in Listening Section 1 is write the name of a place, a person or a product, which is spelled on the recording.

In the example from the link above Maria Garcia is checking into student accommodation. During the phone call, you will hear this exchange:

Accommodation officer: “Maria… can you spell your surname please …
Maria: “sure it is….G-A-R-C-I-A”

This type of question can cause problems for some candidates, because the English alphabet has some ‘difficult letters’. Some pairs sound similar – a lot of people find the sounds of G and J hard to distinguish, while others confuse I and E or I and A. Candidates may also not be used to hearing the names of some letters, like H and Y.


What are the other Exercises in this Section?

After doing exercise 1, 3 more exercises are to come. If you want more information, check these articles:


Practise Online with GlobalExam

To maximise your score, practice this section a lot before you take the IELTS test. After each practice test, make a note of any mistakes you made in questions where people spell words. Try to identify letters that are difficult for you, then continue practicing with the goal of hearing those ‘difficult letters’ more clearly.

On GlobalExam, you can study for IELTS thanks to many exercises, and mock exams. This way you will get used to the question types, and become more confident. Each exercises has a correction, so you can follow your progress over time. Register now for free and try our platform!

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