IELTS listening multiple choice questions
In both the reading and the listening test, one question type you may be required to answer is multiple choice, where you have to choose the correct answer from three or four given options.
There are two basic styles of multiple choice question:
1. Answering a short question
Example: What did the student say about the lecture?
A. It was boring.
B. He couldn’t understand.
C. He had heard it before.
D. He disagreed with the lecturer.
2. Completing a sentence
Example: One of the most notable changes in our leisure time is that
A. we have longer holidays
B. we get paid more for our holidays
C. people are increasingly going abroad.
Tip 1: Highlight the differences
Multiple choice in the IELTS test can be difficult because very often there is no grammatical or logical reason to reject any of the answers. When the answers have similarities and differences, the first thing you can do is highlight the differences between the options. Also remember that in most questions, parallel expressions may be used to express the same information
For example, in the question below, listening only for the word flower is obviously not good enough, as all the options include that word. Instead, concentrate on the differences between them – in this case, it is the colours.
The pohutukawa tree has…
A. yellow flowers
B. dark orange flowers
C. red flowers.
Tip 2: think of parallel expressions
In some multiple-choice questions, however, there are no real similarities. In this case, the second thing you can do is think of other ways the information may be expressed. Look at the example below.
Question: What does Professor Roberts say about sports injuries?
A. Apply an ice pack to the injured area
B. Bandage the area firmly and rest
C. Call for medical help only in serious cases
- Option A could be rephrased as: Put/press / something cold/frozen / painful/hurt
- Option B could be rephrased as: Wrap/bind tightly/hard / relax/sit down
- Option C could be rephrased as: Contact the doctor/ an ambulance / not trivial/light
Tip 3: All options may be mentioned
It is common in the IELTS listening test to hear a reference to some or all of the options in the multiple choice question, but only one answer will be correct. Be careful to think about what is being said, what is being contradicted (directly or indirectly) and what is not exactly being said.
Here’s an example:
The doctor says the patient…
- should take regular exercise
- should not spend any time standing
- should stay in bed as much as possible
- should not go back to work yet
“Well, you are certainly looking better than the last time I saw you. For the next few weeks, I recommend that you do some gentle exercise but only when you feel you have the energy. Try to spend some time on your feet rather than keeping immobile for too long. At this point, I would suggest arranging for another week away from work.”
1. should take regular exercise
This is not exactly what is being said. The speaker says ‘only when you have the energy’, so therefore not ‘regularly’
2. should not spend any time standing
This is directly contradicted. The speaker says ‘try to spend some time on your feet’.
3. should stay in bed as much as possible
This is indirectly contradicted. The speaker says ‘rather than keeping immobile for too long’, which is an indirect way of saying not staying still, in bed.
4. should not go back to work yet
This is correct. The speaker says ‘I would suggest arranging for another week away from work’
Tip 4: Be sure to match the whole meaning of the option
In the IELTS test (both listening and reading), it is important to match the whole meaning of the option. To illustrate, look at the question below and the notes the candidate has made. What’s wrong with the notes?
Sports psychologist Dr Johnson argues that today’s top athletes
A. win because of a positive mental attitude CANDIDATES NOTES: They feel positive.
B. occasionally use performance-enhancing drugs CANDIDATES NOTES: They take drugs.
C. are under considerable pressure from the media. CANDIDATES NOTES: They talk to people from newspapers, etc.
- A. The candidate’s notes do not refer to ‘win‘ which is an essential part of the option
- B. ‘occasionally’ has been ignored
- C. they don’t talk to, they are under considerable pressure from
Now practice with this short test. Use the 4 tips above to answer this question. Listen to the recording and put a letter (A–D) in each of the columns below.
According to the speaker, why do more people rent rather than buy their houses?
A Most people do not have the money to put down as a deposit.
B There are fewer worries about maintenance and repairs.
C Job mobility means people do not want to make long-term commitments.
D There is a risk of buying a house and losing money.
The correct answer
Show answerC – ‘fluidity in the job market’
Show answer D – ‘house prices are stable’, a direct contradiction to losing money.
Show answer A – ‘This is not a reflection of financial pressures’ which indirectly means ‘do not have the money’ is not correct.
Show answer B – ‘there is no need to worry’ is not an exact match for ‘fewer worries’
Now test your skills with this complete practice exercise