Top tips for note completion questions in IELTS Listening
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Tips for note completion questions in IELTS Listening

IELTS Listening Note Completion Questions

In the IELTS Listening test, there are questions where you need to complete gaps in a form, a table or notes. These types of questions usually appear in Parts 1 and 4 of the Listening section. This means, there are very high chances you can get them in your test, and it is important to know how to deal with them in order to get a higher score.

They can appear in many different forms but will always be a gap fill activity of some sort where you have to fill in missing words. Today, we will look closer at notes, sample questions, and give you some strategies and tips for note completion questions in IELTS Listening.

What are notes?

In real life, we often take notes to remember information, which is important to us. Talking about the IELTS Listening section, if you take notes you will know what the speakers have discussed and you will be able to provide the right answers. So, what kind of things should we write down? Notes contain such things as:

  • key words / phrases
  • lists
  • headings / subheadings
  • numbers / bullet points
  • names / surnames
  • places/times/prices
  • addresses, telephone numbers
  • stages etc.

What they do not contain is full sentences. Often, notes are grammatically incorrect or awkward as they do not conform to the rules or principles of grammar or accepted usage.

In the IELTS Listening section, the note/table is usually about the main points discussed in the conversations or monologues. For example, in part 4, the main points are often important academic concepts and details.

READ ABOUR: Key facts you need to know about IELTS Listening

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How to complete notes

Step 1. Read the title, the form (table, notes) and the instructions. Understand the general idea and how many words to write.

This is the very first thing you have to do in order to complete this type of task. Look at the title, the information in the form, and the instructions. You will learn many things by doing so. You should read the instructions very carefully as the number of words or numbers you should write might vary. For example:

  • ‘ONE WORD ONLY’ means that you have to write only one word. If you write ‘a professor’ your answer is wrong; write ‘professor’.
  • ‘ONE WORD AND / OR A NUMBER’ means that your answer can be a number, a word or a number and a word. For example: ‘December’, or ‘15th’, or ‘15th December’.
  • ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS’ requires you to write one word, two words or three words.

Let us have a look at the Listening sample task below and think what we can learn from the form:

Taken from

From the title of the form, we know that the conversation is going to be between a customer and a manager, and the customer probably wants to send something in the container. In the form, we also read about details such as name, address, size of the container and cost. The instructions say that we can write up to three words and / or a number. Can we write 4 words in the gap? The answer is ‘No’.

READ ABOUT: IELTS Academic Writing topics in 2020 

Step 2. Read around the gaps. Predict what kinds of words or numbers are missing.

After you have got the general idea about the conversation, it is time to look closer at the gaps you have to fill. Look at the words on the left and on the right, and try to predict the answer. This will help you stay more focused while listening and select the appropriate information.

For example:

  • Question 1. There is a name of the customer. So, probably, you will have to fill in the gap with the surname, won’t you?
  • Question 2. We can see the address of the college, but we don’t know its name. Shall we listen for it?
  • Question 3. It is a postcode. There can be only numbers, letters or combinations of both.
  • Questions 4 and 5. We know the length of the container. It is 1.5 m. This means that the height and the width can be given in the same measurement. You will have to write numbers and letters/words here.
  • Questions 6 and 7 are the items of the list of things in the container. These will probably be nouns or noun phrases up to three words.
  • Question 8 is the price of the shipping. Write the amount of money the customer will have to pay to the company.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

READ ABOUT: Get ready for IELTS Listening

Step 3. Listen and fill in the gaps.

Listen carefully to the conversation and complete the gaps. Remember, in such type of task you have to write the exact words or numbers you hear. Don’t forget to check that they fit the gap: the right meaning and the right grammar. Here are some tips to help you.

  • Pay attention to the way letters are pronounced. Names of people, streets, companies will be spelt letter by letter, but only once. Some candidates often confuse such letters as A and R, E and I, C and S in spelling.
  • Speakers often paraphrase information in the recording or use synonyms. That is why you should listen for the same meaning, not only the same words. For example:

width → 0.75 metres wide

height → 0.5 metres high or deep

If you have time before the recording starts, identify key words or phrases in the question that are likely to be replaced by synonyms and think of some that might be used.

  • Watch out for distractors. A distractor is a word or a phrase that changes or corrects the original piece of information given. For example, when the customer is talking about the size of the box, he mentions the length first: ‘it’s 1.5 m long’. If you haven’t read the notes, you may well write this number into gap 4 or 5.
  • Use capital and small letters appropriately. In the English language, there are many words which start with capital letters, such as names, surnames, days of the week, or names of months etc. If you’re in doubt about all the rules, write all words in all capitals:

June — JUNE


  • Write numbers and digits properly:

Thousands are written with a comma: 1,000.

Fractions are used with a full stop: 0.5 / 0.75.

Dates can be written in many ways, but we recommend that you choose the easiest correct format: day month year, for example, 15 July 2003, without ‘th’ at the end of fifteen.

Measurements can be written in short: ‘m’ for metres, km for kilometres, kg for kilograms.

  • Use visual aids to your advantage. If there is a visual, use the information from it to answer the questions from the task.

In our course, we will provide you with all the necessary tips to complete this type of task and you will do a lot of listening practice. You will also save all the tips in a Knowledge Bank and will be able to return to them any time you want. Our experts will explain all the nuances of notes completion in video lessons, so you will be confident about scoring high at IELTS Listening.

Step 4. Quickly check that you have all answers. Move on to reading the next part of your listening test.

This is the shortest but the most important step. Do not leave blank answers. Even if the exam looks difficult, choose your best guess and maximize your chances of scoring high.

Recently, we have written about 8 strategies to achieve a perfect score in IELTS Listening.

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