IELTS Listening Lesson: multiple choice

Multiple choice questions commonly occur in parts 2, 3 and 4 of IELTS Listening test.  In such questions you are given three (rarely four) answer choices, only one of which is correct.

In this lesson you will learn useful strategies and advice to answer multiple choice questions in IELTS Listening test most effectively. You will also practice gained skills by answering tricky exercises with multiple choice questions.

The transcript is provided for each audio. The correct answers are underlined in the transcripts. For the examples the transcript is shown, and for the exercises it is hidden. You can hide/show the transcripts as you wish.

First, let’s learn some basic answering strategies and look at the examples below.

Strategy 1: don’t immediately pick up the first answer choice you hear.

How to choose correct answer in IELTS Listening

You will often hear all of the answer choices in the audio. And only one of them is correct, the other two are meant to confuse you! So don’t straightaway choose the answer you hear the first as it may be incorrect. So listen carefully and wait until the speaker finishes giving information about the current question.

Let’s try to use this strategy in the first example.

Example 1.

Only rescue birds that are

  1. all alone
  2. sitting on the ground
  3. obviously injured


1st man: Right, okay. I think we should start by talking about how to rescue a bird. Probably, first we should help people understand which birds need rescuing.

2nd man: Yeah, that’s really important! Because a lot of times people see a baby bird that’s all alone or they find a bird sitting on a ground and they think it needs to be rescued.

1st man:  And usually those are just baby birds learning to fly. So we should emphasize that people should only attempt to rescue a bird that’s clearly injured.

As you can hear, all three answer choices were mentioned. However, the first two of them (“all alone” and “sitting on the ground”) are clearly incorrect, because the speakers say that people often think that if a bird is all alone or sitting on the ground it needs to be rescued, but it’s just learning to fly. The last sentence the speaker says gives us the correct answer: “So we should emphasize that people should only attempt to rescue a bird that’s clearly injured”. So the correct answer is C.

Strategy 2: know that answers may come in a different order.

Answers may come in a different order in IELTS Listening

Unlike other questions types in IELTS Listening, multiple choice questions don’t necessarily have their answer choices coming in the same order as you hear them in the audio. So don’t worry if you first hear the third answer choice - it doesn’t mean you’ve missed the previous two, as answers often come in a different order.


Strategy 3: mind that answers are often paraphrased.

Synonyms occur in multiple choice questions in IELTS Listening

You shouldn’t be waiting for a 100% match - the answer choice can differ from what you hear as it can be paraphrased. To approach multiple choice questions effectively, look through the answer choices while listening to the question being discussed. Do it to get a general idea of answer choices.

Now let’s use strategies 2 and 3 in the second example.

Example 2.

What is the best way of protection from harmful bacteria?

  1. following hygiene rules
  2. using antibiotics
  3. visiting doctor regularly

We all know that some bacteria can be dangerous and cause diseases. But how can we protect ourselves from harmful bacteria? Well, a lot of people would answer that using antibiotics will kill the pathogenic microbes. However, antibiotic abuse can be dangerous to people’s health as well! In fact, the best way of protection is preventing the disease by keeping yourself clean and washing hands before you eat.

You have probably noticed that answer choices come in a different order than they are mentioned by the speaker. This often happens in IELTS Listening multiple choice questions, so read all answer choices for the question at once. 

Moreover, the synonyms are used! The speaker gives the correct answer when she says, “In fact, the best way of protection is preventing the disease by keeping yourself clean and washing hands before you eat”. But instead of keeping yourself clean or washing hands we have a paraphrased answer choice - following hygiene rules. So, the right answer is A. Beware that paraphrase is often used in such questions, so you shouldn’t always look for an exact match.


Now use the skills you’ve learnt in practice. Listen to the audio and answer the questions below.

For each audio the transcript is provided. The correct answer is underlined in each transcript.


Exercise 1.

The tomato originally came from

  1. Mexico
  2. Spain
  3. Peru


Exercise 2.

The speaker recommends to put the bird in a

  1. cage
  2. box
  3. bag


Exercise 3.

Which organ helps parrots to imitate different sounds?

  1. tongue
  2. trachea
  3. vocal cords


Exercise 4.

What is the major question about fungi nowadays?

  1. their organs of perception
  2. their life cycles
  3. their ability to be harvested in a hothouse


Congratulations with completion of this lesson! Now you know tips & strategies to answer IELTS Listening multiple choice questions to get a high score. To sum up, the main tips for answering IELTS Listening multiple choice questions are:

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