How is Exercise 3 different from the earlier sections?

The first half of IELTS Listening is about everyday situations that you might encounter as a student living abroad. The second half is different; it’s a recording related to the academic life of an international student.

International students speaking together.

In Exercise 3, you hear a 3-4 minute ‘campus dialogue’ recording, in which people discuss something related to their university course. Sometimes the people are all students, talking about a major assignment or a project. Other times, you hear students in the recording asking for advice from a lecturer or tutor. Here’s an example of section 3 (on GlobalExam):

Exemple de question pour la section sur GlobalExam.


If you want to learn more about the other exercises in this section, check out our other articles:


What are the question types?

The questions in Part 3 are usually quite challenging. There is usually a variety of task types; you may have three or four multiple choice questions, for example, followed by a matching task, and then a diagram or a flow chart which is missing some information.

Your score in Exercise 3 depends heavily on your understanding of synonyms and paraphrase that you hear on the recording. On your test paper, you usually hear the same ideas that you read in the questions, but they are expressed in another way on the recording.

For instance, in the dialogue from Question #2 above, the tutor says “Attendance and participation of all students at any such workshops is required. This will be assessed on a pass/fail basis. Failure to present as scheduled and to participate in at least 75% of seminars may mean that you are ineligible to submit your thesis.”

You need to find the right paraphrase for what the tutor said while you’re listening. This is quite a high-level skill, which is why some candidates find this section tougher than the first two.


Where should I write my answers?

Exercise 3 goes quite fast, so write your answers directly onto the test paper. At the end of the test, you will have seven minutes to transfer them onto your answer sheet.


How is the score calculated?

There are 10 questions worth one mark each for this section. To achieve the best possible score in this section, be sure to do the following things:

  • 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”
  • check the word limit, and never write more than the maximum number of words allowed.


How to get ready for the test?

It’s important to do as much practice as possible for this part of the test. As you hear more examples of Part 3 recordings, you will start to become familiar with a lot of the vocabulary used and with the various task types that appear as questions.

While you prepare for IELTS, you should also keep a page in your vocabulary notebook where you write vocabulary connected to studying at university – words like ‘assignment’, ‘fees’, ‘tutorial’, ‘extension’, ‘deadline’ and so on. These are used very often.

On the day of the exam, use the time which you get between each group of questions. Some candidates say that this exercise is difficult because there’s a lot of information to read on the test paper. This is true, so read as much as you can before you hear each part of the dialogue in the recordings.

Finally, don’t rely too much on key words. In part 3 multiple choice questions, for example, the dialogue usually contains a key word from all the possible answers. So if option A has the word “marketing” in it, and you hear “marketing” in the dialogue, this doesn’t mean that A is the correct answer.

Instead, focus on trying to get a good understanding of what the people on the recording say to each other. This will help you more than just listening for key words.