Question Type Strategy: Multiple Choice


Hey guys.

In this lesson we will talk about the most difficult question type on the IELTS Listening Test: multiple choice. We’ll talk about why they’re difficult, and I’ll give you a strategy you can use. Finally, I’ll show you an example video of someone using this strategy to complete multiple choice questions on the IELTS listening test.


Two Types of Multiple Choice Questions:

Single Answer (one right answer):

single answer multiple choice

Multi-Answer (two or three right answers):

multi-answer multiple choice


What Makes Multiple Choice so Difficult?


There are a few reasons why these question types are hard:

  • Prediction strategy doesn’t work. It is not a good idea to try to guess the answers for multiple choice questions. Don’t try.
  • The audio is heavily paraphrased… the words in the questions will not be the same as the words in the audio. This means you cannot simply listen for specific words!

The answer for Question 2 above is B hear clearly. But in the audio for the test, it says “I think that if you sit at the back you can actually hear the whole thing better.”

It is up to you to understand that “hear better” means the same as “hear clearly”.  

  • The audio in the test will often mention many (or all) of the possible answers in the question… even incorrect ones! This means you have to listen carefully for the context to understand the correct answer, and again, you cannot simply listen for specific words.

In the multi-answer IELTS question above, there is a list of seven things to take to a museum. The question asks for three, but the audio mentions all seven!

The audio says: “When the students come into the museum foyer we ask them to check in their backpacks with their books, lunch boxes, etc, at the cloakroom before they enter…”

It is up to you to understand that the audio is mentioning bags, books and food as examples of things that students cannot bring into the museum, so these are not correct answers.


All of this means you have to listen carefully, and trust your ears.


What Strategies Can Help Us?


Multiple choice questions are difficult, and to be honest, there are no tricks. You just have to trust your ears.

When you get to a multiple choice question, just remember these two things:


Don't listen for specific words.

  • Remember: most of the words in the answers will be paraphrased in the audio. For example, in the question above, when the audio mentions answer B: Watch Films, it says that they allow "continuous screenings of short documentaries". The audio doesn't say the words "watch films" at all, and yet, this is a correct answer! You really just have to trust your ears and listen carefully, just like any normal conversation.

Don't write answers just because you heard a key word.

  • While you listen you need to stay focused... but don’t write down answers as soon as you hear a key word! There may be more context coming that changes your answer. The best way is to simply mark answers off as you hear them, then cross them off if you’re sure they’re wrong, and circle them if you’re sure they’re right.


Most importantly, just trust yourself! Trust your ears to understand the conversations naturally... and keep practicing!


Let’s Watch Someone Use Multiple Choice Strategy on an IELTS Listening Test:

Multiple choice listening questions on the IELTS are tricky, as you saw in the video. Many of the answers are paraphrased, and the test often mentions some or even ALL of the possible answers!

But don’t worry if you find them difficult… many people do! If you understand how they work, you can give yourself the best chance. Just remember:

  • Don't listen for specific words. You should read and understand the possible answers, but remember that you're not going to hear those words in the audio!
  • Don't answer too quickly; don't answer just because you heard a key word. Stay focused and realize that your answers might change.


To be honest, in the end, the best multiple choice strategy is just to trust yourself and relax. Trust your ears and your understanding of the question and you will do well!

Now it’s up to you to try some multiple choice in a practice test. Remember, learning strategies won’t help unless you practice them! Don’t worry, with some practice, multiple choice questions on the IELTS become much easier.

Good luck.